When you have a basement, it can often just be there, unused. That’s because basements can be a little like a loft – a bit awkward and uncomfortable to use, so it just ends up as a place to store things and little more. But what if you want your basement to be a really useful, livable part of your home? Converting a basement is definitely a really good thing to do, but do you need planning permission?
Basement conversions and planning permission
The current rules around planning permission and basements are under review as an increasing number of people want to make theirs into a useful space. At the moment, the majority of conversion to an existing basement won’t require any planning permission, unless it is a completely separate project or there is a significant change of use. You may need planning permission if you are adding a light well or an extra entrance as this changes the appearance of the building.
Excavating under your home to add a new basement is obviously a much bigger project and this requires extensive planning permission before you can start. You may also need it if the property is a listed building or in a conservation area as these are not covered by the Permitted Development system.
It is always best to contact your local planning department if you are unsure about the work you want to do. They will be able to talk you through it and ensure you are complying with the relevant rules.
The other factor to consider is building regulations. These apply to all projects, whether they need planning permission or not. They cover a wide range of areas including:
Fire escape routes
The height of the ceiling
You can visit the government’s Planning Portal where there is a general guidance on the expected performance of materials and building work to ensure that it complies with the relevant parts of the building regulations. There is also a range of practical examples to help you better understand the requirements.
You will also need to consider the Party Wall Act 1996 if you share any of the walls with another property. This is where you need to get permission from the other owner of the wall before you do work because it also affects their property.
One of the key considerations when looking to convert your basement is the matter of Basement Damp Proofing. Because a basement is below ground, it is vulnerable to damp where water is absorbed by brickwork and makes internal areas damp. Most regulations will advise that you need to have basement damp proofing carried out and tanking is one of the techniques used to waterproof it. If you want to convert the basement into a living space or dry storage, then you will definitely need this work doing. It can also help ease any damp problems in the rest of the house as these conditions have a way of spreading humidity throughout the property. So by converting your disused basement, you not only gain new space, you also remove other damp from your home.