Basement conversion best practice


Basement conversions have received a lot of coverage recently – and not always for good reasons. Read on to find out how you can make a success of your basement renovation project.

To get around the issue of London’s shortage of building space, more and more residents are opting for renovating and extending their basements.

However, from the looks of these two news stories which have appeared in the last few weeks, it seems that certain residents (and their contractors) aren’t taking the necessary precautions – with many contractors seeming to cut corners when providing such basement conversion services.

Basement conversion horror stories in the press

First came the news as reported by the Mirror that a couple’s terraced home in north London had collapsed in on itself following a bungled basement conversion which greatly compromised the house’s stability.

Following hot on the heels of this was this news in the Guardian about how almost half of all ongoing basement renovation projects that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out unannounced spot checks on in March, failed these checks.

“Those new to basement construction work are often unaware of the risks associated with the technically challenging nature of the work or of the standards required to ensure the safety of their workforce” –  James Hickman, HSE inspector

In fact, at two construction sites, the working conditions were so dangerous that HSE inspectors took the decision to close them down there and then.

Reading this, it will come as no surprise to hear that some London councils (such as Camden, Kensington and Chelsea) have introduced rules limiting basement excavations to one-story and banned them under listed buildings.

Best practice basement conversion tactics

Basement conversions are understandably an enormous undertaking. To ensure you’re prepared and have the best insurance and contractors possible, take a look at our tips for a successful renovation project.

1. Get the right contractor for the job

As demand for basement renovation work has grown in the past few years, so too have the number contractors who’ve decided to take on basement conversion work – whether or not they have all the necessary skills and training for the job.

To make sure your basement conversion is done to the highest standard possible, make sure that you employ a professionals contractor with lots of experience of basement renovation projects.

Take a look at our partners page to see which professionals we’ve worked with and whose services we trust and would recommend to you.

2. The importance of party wall insurance

One of the best things that you can do (both for yourself and your property) is to take out adequate party wall insurance.

The Party Wall Act (1996) makes sure that you are protected against any non-negligent structural damage that may happen (either to yours or your neighbours’ properties) in the months following the completion of your renovation project – typically as a result of contractor negligence, thought his cannot always be clearly established.

“We provide buildings, liability and warranty insurance for these types of projects and consider them both safe and useful if undertaken properly.  Problem solving on the party wall negotiations is one of our specialisms” – Douglas Brown, Managing Partner

To find out more about party wall insurance for your renovation project, please get in touch with one of our insurance specialists.

3. Don’t forget subterranean liability

Another important type of insurance to consider for your basement renovation project is that of subterranean liability. Unlike party wall insurance (which only covers non-negligent acts by you or your contractor) this type of insurance doesn’t insure against situations where liability can be clearly established.

It’s for this reason that you need to double-check that your contractor and their subcontractors have adequate liability insurance to cope with any structural damage that they cause – to both you and your neighbours’ properties.

For more information on best practice basement conversions

To find out more about how to make your basement conversion a success, take a look at these tips on the technicalities of basement conversions – covering everything from waterproofing to lighting.

Otherwise, for more information on how to get the right insurance for your basement renovation project, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of renovation insurance experts will be happy to help.

You can also stay up to date with all the latest renovation and industry news by following us on LinkedIn or joining our Renovation Professionals group online.

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