038 BP 1016

BP 10 October 2016

DAMP PROOFING DEEP IN THOUGHT While many might consider loft extensions as the ideal extension to a domestic property, Chris Burbridge argues that the refurbishment or creation of a basement area provides an alternative that deserves serious consideration. Drive along any of the ‘up market’ residential streets in London, and you will almost certainly find at least one house extension being undertaken ... under the ground. More and more home owners are finding the real benefits of basement creation or conversion, not only from an enhanced accommodation point of view, but also from the additional financial value it brings to their properties. They see it as an investment both in comfort and lifestyle, and financially. However, this should not be thought of as an option that is solely available to the rich and famous. Many of more modest means are recognising the short- and long-term benefits from such work being carried out on their properties. In the past most homeowners looking to extend their properties would focus either on the side of the house or by going upwards into the loft space. Many modern dwellings have very little surrounding land, so the option of extending sideways is eliminated. The natural thought is then to go up, 38 BUILDING PRODUCTS | OCTOBER 2016 but going down is another option which will often prove to be far more cost-effective, and easier to reconcile with many planning departments. Invariably, converting a cellar into habitable accommodation will only involve a ‘change of use’ planning application, and digging down for the creation of a brand new basement is often covered within the permitted development rights of a property. The fact that a basement is unlikely to alter a building’s appearance will be a factor with any planning authority. Each council may well have some particular planning restraints, so it is wise to consult with the individual planning department before starting any work. Building Regulations approval is, on the other hand, an essential requirement for both refurbishment and new construction, and the Basement Information Centre offers the Guidance Document – Basements for Dwellings. This is an essential read for those new to this type of work, as it provides practical guidance in helping to meet the relevant requirements in Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations. It also gives good practice advice for matters not directly or precisely covered by the Regulations. Indeed, the Basement Information Centre (www.basements.org.uk) should be a bookmark on your internet browser, as this site is a mine of information. If the work is being carried out on a terraced or semi-detached property, then the issue of party walls will come to the fore. Ideally, the neighbours (and, if applicable, their landlords) will be friendly towards your plans, and they should be consulted. There is an act of Parliament which, no doubt, you are probably well aware of – the Party Wall etc. Act 1966 which provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings (a little more ‘light’ night-time reading). It tells us that a building owner proposing to start work covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions, and this is set


BP 10 October 2016
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