Basements are great space gaining solutions... if you can’t go out, a great alternative is to go down

I suspect that many who will read this will not have a clue who UK rapper Tinie Tempah is, but he is now the host of a new channel 4 programme – “Extraordinary extensions” – and looks set to be the next Kevin McCloud.

The show follows a similar format to other more familiar shows such as Grand Designs, with episode two focusing on basements. The quotes in the title of this blog were taken directly from the show and this episode was rather refreshing. Rather than portray basements in a bad light, it provided a showcase of what is achievable with subterranean structures.

Has basement conversions become as normal as loft conversions?

In the last decade, 4500 basements have been granted planning permission and in London, they are now seen as normal as a loft conversion. Don’t get me wrong, on a few occasions the show highlights common concerns around basement projects, including complaints of dust, noise and vibrations and also points out that basement extensions are a budget busting way to extend. But let’s be honest, what building works don’t involve a few inconveniences – the old adage about ‘eggs and omelettes’ springs to mind…


The show features two projects: a Grade II listed gate lodge, and a mega-basement in Knightsbridge, London. Neither are low budget and probably not relatable to most, after all not everyone has a budget of 28 million pound to renovate their properties. But that’s not the point. This is about what is possible – pushing boundaries and maximizing and reaching the full potential.

How else would you create the extra space to incorporate a gym, sauna, swimming pool, spa, treatment room, salon, kitchen/family room, club/cinema room, laundry room, wine store and pantry, in a single extension? And all within the restricted confines of an inner-city area where land is scare and land values extortionate?. The sheer scale of this project in Knightsbridge really was something to behold.

The Listed Gate

The Listed gatehouse was an interesting case study. The owners had tried numerous times to get planning permission for an extension which had been knocked back every time by the conservation officer, who did not want the external appearance altered. The answer was to build the extension underground, minimising the impact to the original structure and allowing it to retain its character.

Few would be able to question the results these projects have delivered. They go a long way to prove that basements don’t have to be dark damp spaces, but a great alternative to maximizing the potential space available. The spaces created are exceptional and you cannot help but be amazed and impressed by what is achievable.

PCA members made it all possible

What is most impressive is that it is PCA members who helped facilitate and make it possible. Without their knowledge and skills none of this would have been achieved.

What is the point in creating these amazing spaces if it is ruined the first time water comes to bare against the structure? Whilst both projects featured in the show had exceptionally high finishes, it wouldn’t have been the case if corners were cut at the earliest stages and water was able to get in!

This is where experts within the structural waterproofing industry come in…

No one has done more to raise the bar when it comes to ensuring that below ground structures remain dry, and that is why PCA members are the go to specialists. We have improved the standards of below ground waterproofing to an unimaginable extent, which is not only beneficial to the warranty providers, but also for those that live in the building too.

The consequences of water ingress into a basement can have a devastating impact on those that occupy the building, including loss of personal possessions and a huge psychological impact.

The work that the PCA and its members have done to raise the bar in this area is unrivalled and I for one believe we should be applauded for this. As an industry we have a right to be proud about what we can make happen and this show proves it perfectly. Who knew, maybe we are down with the kids…

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