How do I make sure my basement is well ventilated?

Basement Ventilation

Ventilating your basement, whether you are in Fulham, Knightsbridge, Kensington, Wandsworth or anywhere in the London or the UK is one of the most important considerations when converting your basement into a habitable, living space.  

Basements, given their location in the property, are known to be damp, mouldy spaces, characterised by unpleasant odours and mildew and moisture problems.  

The science behind it is that moisture from the earth seeps into walls and floors. When this cold moisture collides with warmer basement air, condensation develops. Excessive condensation creates a musty smell and becomes a breeding ground for mould and mildew spores.  

According to the Basement Information Centre in the UK, building regulations require the provision of ventilation to all basements (heated or unheated) to adequately control moisture vapour, whether it is generated internally or brought through from the structure.  

Cross ventilation or passive stack ventilation are the most effective forms of natural ventilation although continuous mechanical ventilation may be required depending upon proposed use and internal arrangement of rooms. 

 

For spaces with anticipated high levels of humidity, such as utility rooms, bathrooms or gyms, mechanical ventilation is essential.  Ventilation should be directly applied to exposed external walls where possible i.e. not through the basement retaining walls.  

Stack ventilation is ventilation through a vertical vent duct and mechanical ventilation uses fresh, outdoor air. This type of system may be as simple as placing small window fans in opposite windows or as technical as installing an exhaust fan with ventilation pipe. Many homeowners opt for a mechanical ventilation because of the great flexibility and automation it provides.  

 

So, what are the key irritants that a good basement ventilation system combat? 

 

  1. Moisture 

Moisture in your basement air can be influenced by the outdoor air moisture, first-floor moisture, soil air moisture, and the HVAC systems connected to your house. 

You can generally tell if your basement has a high degree of moisture if it smells musky, damp, or just feels more humid than the rest of your home. If you are unsure, take a look at the walls, floors, and corners to check for moisture spots. You can also try to find any condensation on surfaces throughout the basement. 

A damp basement can lead to unpleasant smells and climate for mould growth. Moisture is the most common reason you should ventilate your basement, as nearly all homes in all climates are vulnerable to its effects. 

 

  1. Mould  

Mould can cause allergic reactions and pose a health hazard to the occupants of a home. 

The symptoms of mould can be hard to distinguish from common cold symptoms, so homeowners often don’t realise the extent of their mould problem until it has grown. 

 If anyone in your home has persistent congestion, throat irritation, coughing, or eye itchiness, it could be said mould might be the cause of the problem. 

 

Moisture solutions generally tend to work as mould solutions. It is important not only to clean up the current mould build-up but solve the moisture at the source. If the moisture is not resolved, this issue will keep on reappearing. Basement ventilation solves both moisture and mould problems at once by dispersing the air carrying them out of your home. 

 

  1. Radon 

Radon is a dangerous invisible toxic gas, and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United Kingdom. The gas is released from the decomposition of uranium in soil and rocks, meaning basements are particularly susceptible to it. 

Most people are exposed to small amounts of radon all throughout the day, and basements as well as other underground structures are more prone to higher radon levels. Although it is rare to take the uranium out of the soil around the house, you can minimise its effects through proper ventilation. 

 

We understand that this can all get very technical. As basement conversion specialists, we make sure that this is not your problem.  

We take care of  all things basements’ - Click on the link to download our Free Basement Conversion Guide where you’ll find some of our most inspired basement conversions and general advice and tips on what you could do for yours.  

Give us a call if you’d like to discuss your basement conversion plans. We can be contacted on 0208 191 7595 or email us at enquiries@sdabuildlondon.co.uk to discuss how we can help.  

30 Best House Design ideas for 2020

30 design ideas

We absolutely love some of the ideas in this article in Homebuilding and Renovating.  If you’ve got a house renovation project on the horizon, a read-through of this piece is a must. 

 

Our favourite ones are: 

 

No. 2 – Opt for statement fret work 

No. 6 – Opt for all in one floor 

No 11 – Bedrooms with balconies 

No 17 – Create a mezzanine 

 

And some others… 

Which one’s are your favourites? Have you used any of these design ideas in your home? We’d love to hear all about it. 

 

If you’d like some guidance on your home improvement project, give us a call on 02081917595. Or better still, book a FREE consultation with us and we’ll visit your property, discuss your ideas and share some o our recommendations with no obligation. 

Let there be light… in your basement

basement lighting

The word ‘basement’ often conjures up images of darkness, dinginess and fear… well, if you are a movie buff that is. However, in our world, basements are literally a dream come true.

They are a symbol of luxury with basements being converted into spaces such as cinema rooms, swimming pools, gyms and family rooms… a far cry from the images of darkness often depicted in the movies.

In London particularly, in areas such as Fulham, Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge, basement conversions are a source of pride and envy amongst friends and family; each one grander than the next.

One of the most important, but sometimes overlooked aspects about basement conversions is lighting. Given, it’s position within the home, both literally and figuratively, basement lighting needs to be a well-thought out plan.

If you are converting your basement, we recommend working with your lighting designer and builder to create a lighting plan that suits the purpose of the room, whether it’s a TV/Cinema room, gym or wine cellar.

Basements, by virtue of their location, do not get much natural light. One of the key factors when designing the lighting is to understand where there is, if at all, any natural light and how to best make use of it and maximise its impact within the space.

On a slightly technical note… although your lighting designer and builder will know this, it’s always good to know a little something yourself

Think about the ambient lighting. The ambient lighting is the overall lighting in the room. How bright do you want your space? If it’s a cinema room for example, you may want a more subdued form of lighting than if it’s a games room.

Ceiling lights are normally recommended to create enough light for a dark space. Explore ways of getting light into the ceiling through wall lights or coffer details. Often, washing the walls with light will help the space feel light and bright.

That leads on to the colour of the room. If your light is designed to reflect the walls, to “wash the room,” think about using lighter colours for the walls. Lighter colours reflect light better, especially if your basement does not get much natural light,

LED lights are usually the most commonly used as they are both energy efficient and bright.

One of the clever things many lighting designers do is to create fake skylights using artificial lights to replicate the colour temperature of the natural light. Check with your lighting designer if this is possible… you may not need it if you have some natural light coming through.

It’s important to think about making basement lighting flexible and this can be done through a combination of adjustable fittings, lighting tracks, spotlights and 5 amp sockets for floor and table lamps.

Discuss using multi lighting circuits with your electrician and lighting designer to ensure this flexibility.

Another way of being creative is to use coloured lighting to emphasise the main features of the room particularly a gym or cinema room. But be careful not to overdo it or your home can look like a seedy nightclub.

With limited ceiling heights, basement conversion lighting needs to be clever and well-designed. Whilst you may have a good idea of the lighting you want in your basement; we recommend you consult a building team (like us[Symbol]) who work with an experienced lighting designer to transform a dark space like a basement into something truly spectacular. You never know what clever solutions we can come up with.

Give us a call if you’d like to discuss your basement conversion plans and how lighting might work to enhance the look and feel of the space. . We can be contacted on 0208 191 7595 or email us at enquiries@sdabuildlondon.co.uk to discuss how we can help.

Does my extension fall under Permitted Development?

House extension permitted development

 

Does my extension fall under Permitted Development? 

 

We’ve talked about Permitted Development in our previous article on Planning Permission, but there have been some recent developments we thought we’d update you and explore Permitted Development in greater detail.  

In the first week of October 2019, the Government announced the scrapping of the need for planning permission for a two-storey extension. The measure was drawn up by Chancellor Sajid Javid and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick at the Conservative Party Conference.  

This has huge implications for homeowners and builders as it does away with a potential obstacle in a house extension project. The easing of planning permission would make it easier for homeowners to expand their homes upwards, with approval from neighbours no longer being a requirement. 

There have been a number of revisions of Permitted Development rights in recent years: one particularly key change occurred in May 2019 when it became possible to build larger rear single-storey extensions under Class A of Permitted Development. 

Certain home improvements fall within different classes within the Permitted Development rules. Under Class A, homeowners require prior notification for extensions (enlargement, improvement or alteration). Under Class B, homeowners can build additions to the roof; Class C is for other alterations to the roof; Class D is for porches; and Class E is for outbuildings. 

This implied consent of Permitted Development is granted in the form of General Development Planning Orders (GDPOs) which apply separately to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Just to recap.. 

According to the Planning Portal, “You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”. 

They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.” 

Types of Permitted Development Rights  

In an article in Homebuilding and Renovation, Permitted Development rights fall under several different categories.  

Class A – Extensions (enlargement, improvement or alteration) 

This allows a householder to build a single-storey side extension up to half the width of the existing dwelling; a single-storey rear extension up to 4m in length for a detached dwelling and 3m long for a semi or a terrace house; and, in certain circumstances, 3m two-storey rear extensions.  

The changes that took effect on 30 May 2019 now make permanent the decision that larger single-storey rear extensions of up to 8m (6m for semi or terrace) are permissible under Class A — but do require prior notification (see ‘Lawful Development Certificates are key’). 

Class B – Additions to the roof 

This allows for rear dormers and hip-to-gable extensions as long as the additional volume created does not exceed 50m3 (40m3 for semis and terraced homes). 

Class C – Other alterations to the roof 

Class D – Porches 

Class E – Buildings etc. (outbuildings) 

This allows for an outbuilding to be erected within a residential curtilage as long as it is sited behind the principal (often the front) elevation, does not cover more than 50% of the curtilage and is not more than 3m in height (4m for a dual-pitched roof; 2.5m where within 2m of a boundary). 

There are also specific regulations relating to Hard Surfaces (Class F), Chimneys & Flues (Class G) and Microwave antennas (Class H). 

 

How do I apply for Permitted Development? 

If you are completely sure your project is permitted development you can start your building work and you do NOT need to pay for Permitted Development. For proof that your building work is lawful you should apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.  

Lawful Development Certificate is a legal document regularising unauthorised or confirming permitted development building works when you don’t have to go through the process of obtaining planning permission.  

In other words, it essentially is a means of obtaining a decision from the planning authority that a proposed use or works do not require planning permission. To get a certificate of lawful development you need to make an application for one to your local planning authority, which you can do through the Planning Portal website and they usually take 8 weeks to obtain.  

To a apply for a lawful development certificate, you will need… 

  • An application form (from the planning portal) 
  • Evidence verifying the information within the application. 
  • Architectural plans and elevations 
  • A site location plan 
  • A fee 

Lawful development applications come with the following fees… 

£103 in England 

£85 in Wales 

£101 in Scotland 

Permitted Development for Home Extensions in London 

  • You can extend a detached dwelling by 8m to the rear if it’s single storey or 3m if it’s double 
  • Semi-detached and terraced homes can be extended up to 6m to the rear of the property if single storey 
  • There are height restrictions, but they boil down to a single storey extension not being higher than 4m in height to the ridge and the eaves, and ridge heights of any extension not being higher than the existing property 
  • Two storey extensions must not be closer than 7m to the rear boundary 
  • It must be built in the same or similar material to the existing dwelling 
  • Extensions must not go forward of the building line of the original dwelling 
  • Side extensions must be single storey, maximum height of 4m and a width no more than half of the original building 
  • In Designated Areas side extensions require planning permission and all rear extensions must be single storey 
  • An extension must not result in more than half the garden being covered 
  • You can only do it once and the original building is either as it was on 1st July 1948 or when it was built. In Northern Ireland it is as it was built or as it was on 1st October 1973 

** We recommend that you make an appointment with the planning officer at your local council to understand their specific requirements as each council has different standards.  

Confused? We don’t blame you. It’s a lot of information to digest and understand. But if you take it step by step, it will make the entire process much smoother.  

The first step to your home extension project is to appoint an architect. You cannot proceed if you do not have an architect. It is your architect who will submit your plans to the council. If you need help finding an Architect, why not download our FREE Architect Guide.  

At SDA Build London, we know how stressful and complex planning applications can be. Applications that are rejected often have to be revised over and over again and can cause delays to your extension project.  

As we have been working in the West London area for several years, we are well-versed with the do’s and don’ts in the area with regards to what the council will allow and what they won’t. We suggest you give us a call [Symbol] if you have any doubts or need to discuss whether your extension ideas… will get through planning. We can be contacted on 0208 191 7595 or email us at enquiries@sdabuildlondon.co.uk to discuss how we can help.  

How to get Planning Permission for a House Extension?

house extension plans

The first step to getting your house extension underway is to get planning permission from your local council. No work can or should commence before this has been received. In West London, where we primarily operate, in the Royal Boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster, typically planning applications take anywhere between 8-13 weeks depending on their complexity.

Type of Extension

Time in weeks

Simple Extension

8

Large or Complex Extensions

13

Environmental Impact Assessment Applications

16

We thought we’d answer some of your Frequently Asked Questions…

Do I need planning permission for my house extension?

You will need to submit a planning application if:

  • You are building something new
  • You are making a major change to the building by adding an extension
  • You are changing the use of the building
  • You are merging houses or flats that will reduce the overall number of homes

But the answer is not a simple yes or no. Lately, planning guidelines have been relaxed so now many extensions come under permitted development. Check the list below to find out if yours does.

What is permitted development?

According to the Planning Portal, “You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”.
They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.”

You do not need planning permission if…

  • No more than half the area of land around the original house would be covered by additions or other buildings.
  • No extension forward of the principal elevation or side elevation fronting a highway.
  • No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof.
  • Single-storey rear extensions must not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than eight metres if a detached house; or more than six metres for any other house.
  • If the house is in Article 2(3) designated land* or a Site of Special Scientific Interest, this limit is reduced to four metres if a detached house; or three metres for any other house.
These limits are now permanent and subject to the neighbour consultation scheme. This requires that the relevant Local Planning Authority is informed of the proposed work via a prior approval application.
  • Maximum height of a single-storey rear extension of four metres.
  • Extensions of more than one storey must not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than three metres.
  • Maximum eaves height of an extension within two metres of the boundary of three metres.
  • Maximum eaves and ridge height of extension no higher than existing house.
  • Side extensions to be single storey with maximum height of four metres and width no more than half that of the original house.
  • Two-storey extensions no closer than seven metres to rear boundary.
  • Roof pitch of extensions higher than one storey to match existing house.
  • Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house.
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
  • Upper-floor, side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor.

We know this sounds extremely confusing for anyone not part of the building industry. But if you appoint a qualified architect and building company, they should be aware of the latest rules and regulations.

There are lots of ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’ on whether you need planning permission or not. If your property is in one of the following areas, chances are that you will definitely need an OK from your local council to proceed with any house extensions.

These are:

  • a conservation area; or
  • an area of outstanding natural beauty; or
  • an area specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of enhancement and protection of the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside; or
    the Broads; or
  • a National Park; or
  • a World Heritage Site

** We recommend that you make an appointment with the planning officer at your local council to understand their specific requirements as each council has different standards.

How do I start the planning process?

The first step to any home renovation process is to appoint an architect. In most cases, it is your architect who will submit your plans to the council. If you need help finding an Architect, why not download our FREE Architect Guide.

What documents do I need when submitting a planning application?

In addition to the application form, you will need to submit a number of supporting documents along with the appropriate fee. We have compiled a list of links to “Local Validation Checklists” for some of the main West London Boroughs we operate in. This is a detailed list of documents you and your architect will need to submit to your council to obtain planning permission.

How much does a planning application cost?

Planning fees in England are set nationally by the government.

Costs for planning permission differ, depending on where you are in the UK. For a house extension, fees are:

£206 within England
£190 in Wales
£202 in Scotland

These costs apply to alterations / extensions to existing dwellings, and only for one household. So, whether you’re going for a classic rear extension, or converting your loft, these are the fees you’ll be paying.

At SDA Build London, we know how stressful and complex planning applications can be. Applications that are rejected often have to be revised over and over again and can cause delays to your extension project.

As we have been working in the West London area for several years, we are well-versed with the do’s and don’ts in the area with regards to what the council will allow and what they won’t. We suggest you give us a call ☺ if you have any doubts or need to discuss whether your extension ideas… will get through planning. We can be contacted on 0208 191 7595 or email us at enquiries@sdabuildlondon.co.uk to discuss how we can help.

To have a look at the kind of work we have done, why not download our free brochure? And if you need any help with managing your building project, our free project management checklist has been hugely popular.