Basements vs loft conversions

Basements vs loft conversions: what are the pros and cons?

There has been a lot in the news lately about basement conversions and extensions because a second wave of subterranean development is set to hit London’s most expensive streets and pit even more neighbours against each other.

We’ve done some digging of our own and have identified the main pros and cons associated with loft conversions and basements so that you can make an informed decision about how best to increase the size, liveability and value of your biggest asset.

Let’s start with loft conversions, which have grown in popularity in recent years to become one of the most popular type of home improvement undertaken by UK homeowners. Loft conversions are a great way of increasing the size and liveability of a home – most allow for the addition of two bedrooms and a bathroom, or a living area or retreat and a bathroom, which is sufficient additional space for the average growing family.

Loft conversions are considerably cheaper than basements, which can cost up to £2,200 per m² plus VAT if you’re constructing one from scratch and having the walls underpinned. They are also much easier to construct, which means that in most cases they can be completed in a short time frame of only 6-8 weeks, and planning permission is generally not needed. Under permitted development, loft conversions can be erected provided that the additional roof space created doesn’t exceed 40 cubic metres for terraced houses or 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached house.

The main drawback associated with loft conversions is that the achievable head height can be limited by planning restrictions and the roof height of neighbouring homes. However, this can be overcome by reducing the ceiling height of the room underneath.

Basement conversions and extensions have come to be associated with millionaires and billionaires who want to add gyms, staff quarters, home cinemas, vaults and third kitchens to their mansions’ already impressive portfolios.

The main benefit of basement extensions is that you can dig down as deep as you want, meaning that you can create any number of different spaces if money and time are on your side. Generally speaking they don’t require planning permission, especially if you’re just converting an existing cellar into a habitable space, but Building Regulations must be complied with and all structural work needs to be passed by a building inspector.

Lately, a lot of prominent figures, including Jonnie Irwin and Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture, have been very vocal in voicing their concerns about basements, condemning them as a last resort for homeowners wanting to increase the size of their homes. These figures have argued that basement conversions are unsafe because they can cause subsidence and damp issues, particularly when built beneath terraced homes because the balance between houses is altered and the path of underground water services disrupted.

If you still can’t decide which type of extension or conversion would best suit your home and requirements, or if you would like to know what planning regulations are in place in your borough, contact us.

22 March 2014.

This blog is written by Jacqui Henderson and managed by Lucy Lonsdale.


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