What lies beneath

Extra space is something that many home owners desire but often that means adding a conservatory or a loft conversion. David Symes of Delta Membrane Systems looks at the basement alternative

cious and comfortable solution to space demands, and it is easier to achieve than many imagine. Basements fall into three categories: those


that exist within the structure, those designed-in to a new-build property and those created as a retro-fit to an existing house. What all three have in common is that they can provide inviting liv- ing areas that deliver the extra space required by a household. The most common impression people have of basements is the dark, damp-prone space that perhaps houses the boiler, the Christmas decorations or a plethora of creepy-crawly wildlife. Not particularly inviting. In refurbishment projects, the main problem to

solve is damp. The solution in such projects is not so much preventing the damp, but manag- ing it. Damp proofing a basement area can be an involved and expensive process. The alter- native ‘management’ option is much simpler. Here, damp is allowed to penetrate the walls

and floor, where it then meets a barrier that directs the moisture to a drainage channel which – in turn – sends it to a sump. This unwanted water is then pumped away to a suitable drainage outlet. The damp will not penetrate the water-proof barriers, allowing the room side to be plastered on the walls and floor screeded prior to decoration. This results in the ability to create a warm, inviting living space that

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While it may not be the most obvious option, basements can be a cost-effective, spacious and comfortable solution to those space demands

hile it may not be the most obvious option for extending a home, base- ments can be a cost-effective, spa-

can be used for a variety of applications – bedrooms, living room, personal cinema or even a home gymnasium. Converting a cellar into habitable

accommodation may need a ‘change of use’ planning application. Basements that have been designed into a new-build will have been approved if the rest of the plans are approved. Retro-fitting basements to existing properties (excavating and creating new rooms under the house) will often be covered by permitted development rights, as the basement is unlikely to alter the building’s appearance. It is worth speaking to the local planning authority for advice. Building Regulations approval, on the other

hand, is 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 is a useful source of information, along with fully qualified CSSW staff (a recognised industry qualification) at relevant product companies.

Terraced houses have their own particular challenges with party walls, but they are not unsurmountable, and should not put anyone off a project. Neighbours and landlords need to be consulted, but it is worth referring to the Party Wall etc. Act 1966 which provides a frame- work for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. A building owner proposing to start work

covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions, and this is set down in the Act. If the neighbours disagree with what is proposed, the Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes. Once all the legislation has been assessed,

and the necessary permissions obtained, it is then down to the construction and the selection of the right materials for the job. Obviously there is far more construction work involved with a new-build basement compared with the refurbishment of a cellar – however, that may be an advantage as the area will be designed and built for purpose. Once the structure has been created, the work is much the same in either situation. Tanking below ground level commonly

involves the application of a layer of cementitious waterproof render system on the walls, linked to a waterproof screed on the floor. Tanking can also be carried out using a sheet

] selfbuilder & homemaker

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