A guide to building a basement

Contemporary New Build

Building a basement really is an efficient and inspiring way of gaining more space. It’s a significant undertaking, however, so you need an architect whose building partner has the right skills and knowledge to create your vision safely and effectively. That’s why we’ve written this Guide To Building A Basement. Many of our projects involve renovating or building a basement, and turning the space into a variety of uses – from large kitchen and family room to home gym and entertainment area. Partially or completely below ground level, a basement must be properly planned to ensure the structural integrity of the whole property is maintained. Let’s explore what’s involved in making sure you have a basement that adds value to your living environment.

What are the benefits of having a basement?

A basement enables you to make economic and creative use of available space within the footprint of your property. This is a massive advantage in urban areas where space is at a premium or it’s difficult to obtain planning permission to extend your property. In-built energy efficiency, due to the lack of exposed external walls, is another important advantage of having a basement.

So what kind of basement could you have, and how could you use it?

What type of basement could you have?

Galower has created large, single family rooms as well as partitioned rooms for being productive, working out or simply relaxing. There are three structural options for your basement: 

  • Renovated basement: older properties often have a cellar or basement below ground which we can easily renovate to provide useful space. This might involve lowering the existing floor, to increase head room, and underpinning adjacent walls.
  • New basement: creating a new space directly underground, accessed by stairs or lift from the main property.
  • New garden basement: this can be a semi or full structure below ground, with access directly at garden level, maybe including a sloping (and planted) roof over a terrace.

How to use your basement

Basements offer the possibility of quiet, private spaces or single, social areas. Your architect is best placed to help you understand how you can make best use of a basement so that it works in harmony with the rest of your home. Working from home, for example, has become increasingly popular over recent years, enabled by improvements in technology and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some typical basement projects:

Rooms for families to come together

Basements are ideal for large spacious kitchens, complete with state-of-the-art wine cellar. Alternatively, create a ‘living / garden’ room that merges seamlessly with your outdoor space.

Wine Seller
This temperature-controlled wine cellar is constructed of wood, crafted on and off-site by our skilled carpenters
We built this spacious kitchen and family area leading seamlessly to the outside

Your very own leisure centre

Basements give you endless options for gyms, dance and yoga studios, saunas and dojos. Or you could create your own home cinema and play room for the children.

Galower created a private and luxurious wellness centre in the basement of this London property

Utility and accessible storage space

An underground space gives you the option of storing things that would otherwise go in the loft – from suitcases to winter wardrobes. Or, you can use your basement for laundry and outdoor gear, including a boot room for you and your dog returning muddy from a run. As you can see from the header image. we’ve even built an underground garage for a client’s classic cars…

Our spacious boot room is a welcoming sanctuary for pets, walkers and sporty types

Self contained accommodation

Accessed directly from the main house, your basement can become a private and self-contained suite or flat for family members and visiting guests.

Basement construction methods

Galower’s basement construction methods are as robust and effective as any other building project we undertake. Our experience and diligence means we plan our basement excavations so the build safeguards the structural integrity of the whole property. The following are important considerations when planning a basement:

  • Assessing the risk of flooding and any drainage difficulties. This means consulting the water table as well as the weather forecast
  • Understanding the soil and ground conditions, such as the likelihood of heave or subsidence
  • Awareness of hazards and obstructions, for instance tunnels, utilities or archaeological remains
  • Taking into account any boundary issues that may prove to be contentious, most commonly associated with the foundations of neighbouring properties, especially in urban areas
  • Calculating the effect of loads from adjacent structures and roads

Two of the above considerations, water management and structural load, are worthy of further explanation:

Water management and waterproofing

Water management and waterproofing are where expertise and knowledge are vital in basement construction.

There are three types of waterproofing system:

  • Barrier protection
  • Structurally integral watertight construction
  • Cavity drained protection

We design, plan and install the correct structural waterproofing system depending on the ground conditions, water table levels, soil type and drainage characteristics.

Structural load

Initial analysis of structural load is a very important part of ensuring buildability. A building, including the basement, must be able to withstand every kind of load that it’s likely to face during its lifecycle. Structural loads can cause stress, deformation and displacement resulting in serious consequences for the integrity of the build.

There are a number of different types of load that can impact on a structure’s integrity:

  • Dead loads: as in the structure’s self weight, which generally remains constant
  • Live loads: such as nearby traffic, which varies
  • Concentrated / point loads: single loads over a relatively small area, such as a column 
  • Line loads: like the weight of a partition
  • Distributed (or surface) loads: for example, the weight of floors and roofing materials 

Use a basement specialist to create your structurally safe and stunning space

Building or renovating a basement is ingenious, because it:

  • Allows additional space to be created within the footprint of your property where an extra storey above ground level is not possible or desirable due to planning and site constraints
  • Adds space with no or little effect on your garden area
  • Increases the value of your property

However, as this guide to building a basement proves, you need a basement specialist like Galower to create a structurally safe and stunning space. Read more about our approach and the different type of basements we’ve created: Renovating a basement in a Victorian property and Creating a car showroom and garage.

Building a basement?