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10 September 2007

Dig deep for extra living space

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by Kay Mitchell

Dig deep for extra living space

In the UK, an astounding £40 billion is spent on home improvements every year. However, home improvement used to be considered a little DIY during the weekends but it now suggests major alterations and the latest trend is digging out a cellar.

Cellar conversions have become increasingly popular in the UK in the last decade despite them costing more than other forms of home improvement. The main reason is that they are much more practical. If your home does not already have a cellar, the area underneath the house can still usually be dug out, producing a whole new floor.

This latest trend has been enhanced by government policy, which has made local authorities more receptive to these alterations. New cellars or cellar conversions are viewed positively because they are environmentally friendly. As well as providing extra space without using up land, they also reduce energy demands as they soak up heat from the ground.

Compared to a loft conversion, cellars can actually provide more space. Problems related to restricted head height are avoided as well as problems with neighbours.

Many cellar conversions come with high-tech home cinema and games areas, or suites with a master bedroom and bespoke bathroom. Others really go to town with a gym, Jacuzzi, sauna a swimming pool! They can also be useful as a home office or as a self-contained granny flat. Furthermore, a modest conversion can do much to relieve space on the rest of your home. A cellar could serve as a utility area.

Cellar conversions are usually best handled by specialist firms. Their services tend to include carrying out feasibility studies, design and negotiating official permissions, as well as doing the actual building work and fitting out.

However, new cellars are costly, new excavation costs more than enlarging or deepening an existing basement or cellar, you will need to take maintenance costs into consideration. The London Basement Company estimates that a conversion will cost about £300-£325 per sq ft in London: a cellar 20ft x 20ft would cost around £100,000-£120,000. Outside London, Beautiful Basements estimates that a conversion in a small terraced house would cost £15,000-£40,000.

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