Basements have been in the London press quite a lot recently – an array of spats over billionaires getting planning permission to build subterranean palaces underground have certainly increased tension in the salubrious borough of Kensington and Chelsea. With no room to build outwards and no permission to build upwards it seems that down is the only way for those wanting more space.

Dubbed ‘iceberg homes’ these mega basements can include private cinemas, luxurious swimming pools and spas in their splendour. However, local residents have been outraged by the noise, dirt and disruption that underground digging has caused after some 800 basement extensions were approved by the council during the last few years. More recently, the council’s been attempting to quell resident dissent by limiting basements to a single storey and implementing stricter restrictions.

The pros and cons of subterranean living

Is building a basement a good option for you and your family?

It can depend on your needs but there are a sufficient number of advantages if you feel you need the extra space. Here’s a few of them:

  • Extra underground space would almost certainly increase the value of your property. However, whether the costs will exceed the additional costs in building or converting the basement depends on a number of factors such as local property prices, the quality of the work etc. If house prices in your area are high, work on the basement is more likely to be profitable. Whilst stamp duty remains expensive for many properties in sought after areas, this can make more sense than moving!
  • By adding a storey or two you can get as much as 50 percent more floor area but without having to sacrifice any garden.
  • If you have sloping land, a basement is a great idea – mainly because developers and self-builders can make very good use of it. Where foundations are required to be deeper than one metre, the marginal cost is greatly reduced as it provides the building with the deep foundations it needs.

A house with a basement is usually more energy efficient as ground temperature is higher than air temperature and of course it’s not windy. There is, after all, a reason why wine is stored in cellars – because they provide a stable temperature throughout the year. Also, building basements mean that there’s less requirement to build on Greenfield land, thus preserving the countryside.

And as with all positives there are negatives…

  • As mentioned in the first paragraph, basements can clearly cause numerous problems with neighbours. In order to ensure you don’t turn into enemy number one, it’s best to consult those in your immediate vicinity first to see what their thoughts are. Be very clear about how they’ll be affected so they don’t get any nasty surprises!
  • Make sure you are fully aware of what kind of structural damage can occur (and also how this could affect your neighbours in the worst case scenario!) It sounds obvious, but it’s best to employ construction firms with experience building basements so they understand all the specialist issues involved.
  • Basements have little or no natural light and can be a little dingy. Think carefully about what you will use this space for – probably best not to use it for an extra bedroom or two where light is important. A games room or playroom could be a better option for example.



About the author

Nicolas Holmes

Nick joined Robert Holmes to inject fresh ideas and help grow the New Homes department of Robert Holmes as well as helping to inject technology into the business and to grow its client base. Together with one of the Directors Nick is in charge of all Development opportunities that Robert Holmes deals with along with sales. Aged 40, he provides succession together with the two existing directors. Nick has always been focused on building client relationships and sales. He built up his own gallery in Chelsea, where he had a loyal following of customers and artists.

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