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In Victorian and Edwardian times, it was commonplace to build two or three storeys of house above ground and have another level underground. Whether you call it a basement or a cellar, these below ground level spaces were used for a variety of tasks and came to serve as bomb shelters during World War II. While only a small number of UK houses have basements, there is a growing trend to add them or to include them in new build properties – but why?

Add Space Without Increasing FootprintCurrently around 2% of new build properties have a basement included in their design, although around 7% make use of a sloping site than include some underground levels, albeit partially rather than completely. Back in the 1920s and 30s, the need to include these basement spaces waned as there were more houses being built and the requirement for homes was met. But today, we are back in the position of desperately needing more homes and more space in the home so the basement is returning.From a construction viewpoint, one of the big benefits of a basement or cellar is that you can increase the space available in the house without increasing its footprint. While a loft conversion is a similar idea, a basement doesn’t have the complexities of the roof beams and shaping. Instead, it can use the same space as the main house, simply underground.

Advances In Damp Proofing

The advances in damp proofing, prevention and treatment and the understanding of the different types of damp is another area that has greatly benefited basements. At one time, these underground spaces were often damp, cold and had an unpleasant smell. Now, as we understand damp and its causes, these spaces can be treated to make them habitable, comfortable and no different to other parts of the house – apart from a lack of windows.

This means that basements are being used as living space by many homeowners or working space by businesses, rather than simply storage areas. Ideas range from extra office space or staff areas in businesses through to second living rooms, home offices or even a playroom or home cinema.

Finding A Professional

One of the problems with adding a basement or including one on a new build is that not all professionals are versed in them. Some architects, for example, may not want to design a house including a basement for fear that if something goes wrong, they will be held accountable. When basements are included, there can be the need for specialists in damp proofing services to help ensure the spaces are fit for purpose. Finally, if you live in a high water table area, you won’t get planning permission for one.

While a basement won’t work for everyone, it is definitely an option for some new build properties and even as an amendment to existing properties. The extra space gained is useable and comfortable with the right damp proofing and can have an infinity number of purposes.

Stuart Cooke is the Marketing Manager at SpecifiedBy, an online platform for specifiers, architects and construction professionals.