Why Retrofit Basements in London Aren’t What You Think They Are


March 31st 2016 | Back to news

As house prices in London soar, it's making more and more sense to dig down instead of moving. Years ago, it was predominantly the particularly wealthy who were creating extravagant mega basements, but now, with property space at a premium, many of the more modest property owners in London are undertaking basement extensions. Here are a few reasons why:

Retrofit Basements are Actually Cost Effective

According to an article in the Financial Times, Ed Mead, director of estate agency Douglas and Gordon, said that “once property values get to £800 a square foot and upwards, it is worthwhile” to dig down, because the cost is exceeded by the value it adds to the property.'

He also went on to say that, in his experience the space created could be worth the same per square foot as that above ground. Additionally, there is another incentive when purchasing a house priced over £1m due to recent tax changes. The stamp duty land tax charged on a £1.5m house is now £94,000, meaning extending a house can actually make more financial sense than buying a bigger one.

Basements can be Stunning, Well-Lit Spaces

These days, the spaces you create underground can be even better than the spaces above. When retrofitting a basement to an existing house, there is a lot more margin for customisation of the space - whereas above ground, you're working within the predetermined parameters of the property, particularly in a terraced home, as most of London's homes are.

Gone as well, are the days of basements being a dark, damp storage space that children and adults avoid venturing into as well. Thanks to light wells, glass flooring and even fibre optic cables that can redirect daylight where it's needed most - making basements as bright and often, even roomier than the above ground spaces.

Moreover, the UK public are waking up to the value of good architecture and interior design in general, and are becoming more ambitious in their plans. This, coupled with the growing difficulty of finding affordable land in London, has created a demand for architects to come up with some creative solutions for digging down.

Basement Constructions are Environmentally Friendly

Building underground offers natural insulation from the ground itself, which cuts heating usage (and expenditure) dramatically, especially after being combined with the thick insulations in the foundation walls.

In addition, modern lighting options, such as light wells and underground windows mean enough natural light to leave the light bulbs switched off as long as there's daylight. Equally, by digging underneath, you are leaving the existing green spaces intact, as opposed to a traditional above ground extension which would destroy your garden and leave the natural inhabitants of the space searching for new homes.

Basement Conversions Don't Have to Be Inconsiderate Affairs

There are certain things that can be done to minimise any unnecessary strain on the local neighbourhood during a basement project. A community liaison strategy should be developed from the earliest stages of the basement project. This can be done by putting together a list of all the individuals and organisations in the immediate area who will be affected and making a concentrated effort to identify and engage with them, for the duration of the project.

Some effective ways to show this willing engagement with the local community, is through periodic newsletters (highlighting relevant updates regarding the project), creating a project website, or liaising with specific groups such as schools, hospitals, local businesses and other local authorities with regular updates.

Also, hiring a Considerate Constructors affiliated basement construction firm has added assurance that the contractor will be professional and sympathetic to the local community at all times.

If you want to add a basement extension to your own London home, contact Knowles to arrange a site visit and quotation.

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