The Dug Out Basement – A New Trend

The Trendy Dug Out Basement

Dug Out BasementAt a time when housing prices have failed to recover to pre-recession levels, many UK homeowners have been forced to add-on rather than sell their existing residence and buy a larger home. These owners know that in the current market they may not get their investment out of their residence and are unwilling to accept a loss.

The dug out basement rehabilitation project has proven an appealing way to add space after the loft has been finished and there is no other direction to go. This basement trend is prevalent in the UK’s urban areas but is not confined to cities.

However, London celebrities, like Nicole Kidman, have anxiously departed on vertical projects below the ground. These projects are not inexpensive but if you like your digs and the location is special, space below the ground adds many practical and creative possibilities.

Some of the more interesting uses of these dig outs include swimming pools, fitness centers, family rooms, high tech office space and rooms for fine art. Practical applications include additional bedrooms, added closet space, utility rooms and workshops.

With more and more UK residents working at home, the home office is a popular use of this space. Such is the case for Rachel and Anthony Faretras and their three boys. The Faretras’ both work at home. Anthony’s office is in their new cellar. He explains their decision to go vertical; “A lot of people never make use of their cellars, but it has really worked for us. My office is next to the playroom so I can keep an eye on Milo and Max, and at the end of the day we can all go back upstairs without having to clear up.”

Damp Proofing: The Critical Component

Faretras adds; “The most important thing with any basement project is getting the damp proofing right. If it isn’t done properly you’ve wasted your money – the damp will be back no matter how much you spend.”

The basement trend is so popular that a new sector of the construction industry has evolved. Basement specialist companies can do the entire job, including excavation or can concentrate on damp proofing for do-it-yourselfers. In a sense, the success of the entire undertaking rides on the success of the damp proofing.

Experts recommend using a proven, reputable provider for this element of the project. If the contractor does not have experience, the gamble is too high. Buyers should not be afraid to ask for references and, if possible, view some completed projects. There are a surprising number around.

Two Methods of Damp Proofing

There are two methods. The traditional damp proofing system involves a chemically treated waterproof rendering system. The second solution deploys the increasingly popular textured membrane. Basically, this system resembles using a “lining to surround the basement in a giant bubble wrap.”

Most contractors have had better experiences with the textured membrane, but installation is tedious and time-consuming. The membrane covers the floors and walls and seals them in a special waterproof tape.

The Cost of Basement Dig Outs

These projects are fairly expensive. The work is detailed and must be precise. Michael Homes, editor-in-chief of Real Homes magazine, reports that the cost of a 50sq metre area into two or three rooms could cost approximately £50,000.

Approximate costs of basement conversions typically follow the following price standards:

  • £850-£1,150 per square metre for homes with an existing cellar.
  • £1,650-£2,200 per square metre if the existing cellar floor needs lowering.
  • £3,000-£4,000 per square metre if an entire new basement must be dug out.

However, Maggie Smith, marketing manager of the London Basement Company, indicates that demand is strong. In the past five years, the company’s workload has increased by a robust 70%.

Industry experts suggest that these projects make sense for upscale markets where the owner has simply run out of space. The property must have the capability of providing a good return. Some locations just do not merit it but in the areas that do, residents are turning to this possibility rather than pack up and leave.

In high end urban locations, investors tend to think long-term. Before going to a basement dig out, it is recommended to perform a little due diligence. The client should be aware of the value of similar properties in the area as well as the trend in prices.

In one Fulham property, a basement dig out by The London Basement Company cost £250,000. The property value before the project was £950,000. After the new basement was completed, that property value increased to £1.4 million.


In urban areas where the walls are shared, owners must comply with the Party Wall Act. This means that the neighbours sharing the walls must be consulted and sign off on the project. Neighbours can request a written report addressing all their general and specific questions.

Building regulations will require making the space habitable, including ventilation, fire escape routes and increasing ceiling heights.

In instances where the exteriors will not be modified, planning permission is not required. If the exterior will be “substantially altered,” or if the property is listed, planning permission will be necessary.

Bright décor, bright lights and pen spaces usually work best in finished basements. This is a great way to add space to a valuable property.

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