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Beginner's guide to basement extensions

If you’re outgrowing your home, the best solution for adding space could be to extend down – Emily Smith explores what’s involved
Fraher Architects has added extra living area to this detached house in South West London by digging down. Sunpipes and rooflights bring natural brightness to the basement. The project’s joinery was completed by Shape

There are many reasons why people choose to dig down rather than extend horizontally. If you have a large garden in a rural location, then maybe a subterranean level isn’t right for you. But if you live on a tight plot in a built-up area that can’t accommodate a conventional extension, or one that already suffers from overlooking and privacy issues, excavating to create more space could be a surprisingly cost-effective option. Here are the main considerations for digging out a new storey.

Potential complications

The thought of excavating a large hole beneath your property might sound like a recipe for trouble, but the reality is that adding a basement could actually increase the structural stability of your home. “Many historic properties were built on poor ground, with badly designed foundations that aren’t in line with today’s standards,” says Neil Dusheiko from Neil Dusheiko Architects. “Some older dwellings might have suffered from damp and settlement because of their grounding.” Geological surveys and soil tests can be used to establish the conditions beneath the property, which should be fed into your structural engineer’s drawings.

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About Build It

The December edition of Build It magazine brings you a wealth of information to help make your self build, renovation, extension or conversion project a success – including: • A unique modular home (page 20) • How to get basement extensions right (page 62) • 15 renovation ideas to add value and kerb appeal (page 66) • Will smart heating save you money? (page 73) • The latest woodburner trends and costs (page83) … and much more!