Basement with extra living space
Linda & Clive Parry Wadhurst, East Sussex
“A huge amount of work goes into a new build and we really appreciated the well-informed and experienced approach that Glatthaar took”.
Clive and Linda Parry had lived in a 1930’s house in Bromley for 30 years and over that time had seen the London borough become increasingly built up and busy. With their children grown up the couple decided it was time to make a move away from the hustle and bustle whilst still living within a short distance of a reasonable size town.
“We’d been drawn to Tunbridge Wells for a long time but when we started to look around at some of the premium standard new builds within a 5-8 mile radius of the town, we couldn’t find what we wanted. With family coming to visit on occasions we knew we wanted 3 decent bedrooms and a good size kitchen/diner. We started to look at some houses that may need some work and we did see some really interesting properties but it became apparent that to achieve the look we wanted; it was going to be prohibitively expensive. We started to consider self-build but we thought that the combined cost of the land and a new house would be out of our reach. We joined some plot search engines and spent the next 3 years looking at potential sites. Eventually we found this one in Wadhurst which had an existing cottage on it. Feeling both motivated and hopeful, we put a pre-planning application in to the council to make sure that the cottage could be knocked down and a rebuild would be permitted. To our delight, in February 2016, the site was approved for the development of a new single dwelling so we bought the plot and haven’t looked back”, says Linda.
Clive and Linda quickly started researching house builders and spoke to both UK and German, traditional and pre-manufactured builders. “Given that the existing cottage was small we knew we’d only get permission for up to 30% increase of the footprint of the existing dwelling so a basement provided opportunity for further living space. We particularly liked the German approach and the premanufactured build system so we settled on a German company to build the house.
We had a very clear vision for the design of the house and knew exactly the rooms we wanted. The house manufacturer then advised that we’d need a plant room for the boiler and the ventilation system, etc. We started to imagine how cluttered the space would feel if we integrated it into the ground floor living area, and we knew we didn’t want this. We’d vowed that each time we needed to make a decision which had extra financial implications, we’d carefully consider the compromise and how it would affect living in the house. It made sense to incorporate the plant room into a basement and we also liked the idea of a home gym, which a basement would allow for. Glatthaar were recommended to us by our chosen house manufacturer and we recognised how valuable it would be for the two companies to work together on the project.
We used an independent architect to come up with some drawings and continued discussions with the agents who worked with us to achieve what we wanted. The planning was approved, and then we reapplied to extend the basement. The final plans were passed with our second application”, says Clive.
The existing cottage was demolished in May 2017 and the groundworks started in October. “There was a bit of delay as although the soil survey we had done, which had included 5 bore holes being dug, said that we were on sand stone with a little bit of clay, when the groundworkers started it became clear that the opposite was in fact true. The site was mostly clay with a little bit of sand stone. It meant that the excavation took a bit longer than expected and was more costly. By early December though, everything was primed and the reinforced concrete base, which the basement would sit on, was in place.
The Glatthaar crew arrived on 11th December and quickly craned the basement structure into place. On the second day, 12th December, the ‘lid’, as we called it, went on the basement and we effectively had a concrete box which would be the foundation for the house. We then went away for Christmas, over which time, it rained a lot and we returned to find a water-filled trench, a bit like a moat, surrounding the basement. It took nearly 3 days to pump it all out, and although the water had been sitting there, against the outside walls of the basement there was no water damage at all and the crew showed no concern, which was testament to the Glatthaar product.
To save a bit of money, Linda and I, as well as our son, got involved over one weekend to do the backfilling. We devised a system whereby rainwater could be effectively drained by using old wooden billboards with holes drilled in, packed against gravel surrounding the basement walls, which were fully waterproofed. The water would seep through the ground into the soil, to then flow through the holes and drain away under the gravel before reaching the basement walls.
By mid-February the foundations were dug for the kitchen/diner which is the part of the house that doesn’t sit on top of the basement. Having had some atrocious weather, on 1st March we also had a good covering of snow. The Glatthaar crew were unfazed with the project manager showing great discipline and commitment. They just did what they needed to do with work continuing regardless of the weather”, says Clive.
On 9th March the concrete was poured to create the foundation slab. Glatthaar then coordinated seamlessly with the house manufacturer with the house then arriving from Germany on 4th April. The completed house was signed over in August.
We took a little time to set the house up as we wanted and as we’d been living in a rental property, we’d had plenty of time to sort out all of our old belongings including furniture. We really didn’t keep anything other than personal items. I knew for sure that I didn’t want to fill a new house with old furniture so we’d put a budget aside from the start for furniture and furnishings. It was all very exciting to take delivery of everything, including the equipment for our new home gym in the basement, and by the time we moved in, on 25th October, the house already felt very familiar”, says Linda.
“My experience of Glatthaar has been a totally positive one. The basement and structure of the house is incredibly solid and sound, and the basement, although it has no natural light, is really bright. It’ll be the perfect space for our cinema room and a large games room complete with full size snooker table.
There are a number of things that I might have done differently with the build though. Even though the floor to ceiling windows looks good and gives a fantastic outlook over the garden especially, they have caused a headache and have created extra expense as they require such precision and leave no margin for error. Also, I’ve had to sink the curtains/blinds into the ceiling, which has been a further unanticipated expense.
Also, if I’d thought of it, I might have left some walls with exposed concrete rather than plastering and painting everything. I’m really pleased with the ash cladding on the exterior. It’s a nice caramel color at the moment but I’m reliably advised that it’ll weather evenly to a nice silver tone in time.
It’s been a great deal of work, and I’ve learnt a lot, but on the whole I’m so happy with the house. I would potentially do a self-build again but unless I was using a pre-manufacturer for all of it, I’d go traditional rather than contemporary”, says Mark.
The basement provides extra living space for Linda and Clive to enjoy a home gym, as well as a laundry room, storage and sizeable plant room. The gym benefits from natural light through 2 light wells, which have been covered with reinforced glass at ground level to prevent rainwater, leaves and general debris from building up.
The basement is accessed via the main oak staircase, giving a free-flow feeling between the floors and meaning that the basement is incorporated within the main house. The stairwell also allows for borrowed light into the basement.
“The basement has underfloor heating although we hardly ever use it as we prefer to keep it cooler especially as it’s a gym and good to keep our stored wine cooler. When the rest of the house can get quite warm in summer, the basement stays nice and cool. It really is maintained with a year-round stable temperature. The gym is really nice and light and having the laundry room in the basement is very convenient meaning that the ground floor is quiet and peaceful”, says Clive.