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Turn your cellar into a home office

2
Jun

Turn your cellar into a home office

Following on from our first blog on home office spaces, when we discussed converting your garage, in this blog we look at creating a home office space in your cellar.

A home-based office may now seem like a necessity for many of us, but they can also be a way of attempting to restore the precious work/home life balance.  If you are fortunate enough to have a cellar, you could turn it into your home office with the added advantage that you won’t lose any garden space unlike installing a garden building.

Think about how you want to use the space?  If you want to make sure that the cellar is free from disturbances and is a truly private work space, consider adding a toilet or small kitchen area or even a separate entrance so that your time is spent working without distractions, enabling you to get back to family life quicker.

Damp proofing solutions
Ensuring your cellar is watertight is key to your conversion, as without a suitable accredited waterproofing solution your cellar will not be considered habitable and will not get building regulations approval.  You also won’t want all your hard work ruined or your health to suffer due to damp conditions.

We would recommend you use a builder experienced in this type of work or a basement conversion company as this is specialist work which has the potential to fail if carried out incorrectly. Damp proofing solutions for cellars work a bit like a fish tank so no water can get out and more importantly none can get in. By leaving a gap between the wall and a waterproof membrane this allows any water to drain through the gap and be pumped away. Waterproofing materials can include cementitious render systems for walls, sheet membranes, asphalt or other liquid waterproofing solutions.

Tanking - the application of an approved waterproof material or liquid directly onto the cellar walls, floor and sometimes ceiling, is also needed to create a moisture barrier and withstand the external water pressure around the cellar.  This is because if water pressure from the surrounding water table becomes very high and your cellar wasn’t tanked correctly, it would become water logged.  

Other things to consider
There are many factors which can influence the cost of your conversion and some to bear in mind include; moving utility services, adding a new entrance or having to lower the floor level to increase ceiling height. Stairs need to have a 42 degree pitch with sufficient headroom and handrails so you will need to check any existing ones comply.

Fire safety is paramount because of the risk that a single stairway may be blocked by smoke from a fire in the basement or ground floor storey. If the basement storey contains a habitable room, the dwelling should be provided with either an external door or window suitable for escape purposes, or a fully fire protected stairway leading from the basement to a final exit. The ceilings should also be suitably fireproofed to prevent fire spread to the house itself.

Your cellar will need mains operated fire alarms interlinked to your house and if you are including a kitchen will also need a heat detector.

Ensuring you have sufficient heat and ventilation is simple by use of extractor fans and radiators linked to you main central heating system. If you are thinking of including a toilet and there is no existing drainage a pump system can be used instead. 

Thermal Insulation in your cellar conversion will also be important with the floors and walls requiring suitable insulation.

Cellars are traditionally dark spaces so ensuring you have enough lighting will be key to making sure your office is a conducive environment to work in.  As well as windows, you can add downlighters and light wells which allow sunlight in through them.

Planning
Cellar conversions don’t usually need planning permission, but we would always advise you liaise with your local planning department to ensure any work you do is legal.  (There are times when you will need to apply for full planning permission for example if you alter the external appearance of your home,  live in a listed building or conservation area.)

Building control
A cellar conversion will need a building regulations application and fee to be submitted to building control before you start the work to ensure you meet the rules around energy efficiency and damp.

In order to do this, you may want to first employ an architect or architectural technician to suggest and draw up some ideas for the layout of your new office space. You will then need to employ a builder experienced in this type of work or a specialist conversion company. Ask neighbours and friends for any recommendations and once you have decided on your chosen contractor, ask whether the company has an insurance backed guarantee that will pay for repair work if they were to go out of business.

Once you have submitted your application building control will check and approve your calculations and any plans. Your builder should then contact us so that we can make inspections at various stages to ensure your conversion is structurally sound, properly insulated, damp and fire proof and well ventilated.  We work with you and your builder offering on-going advice and helping to ensure your finished project is compliant, safe and well-built. 

If you’d like to discuss the building regulations in relation to your own basement conversion project, please get in contact. You may also find the chapter on basement conversions in our Guide to Extending your Home a useful read too.

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