What is an English Basement? Advantages, Disadvantages & Tips
If you have ever lived in a densely populated city such as New York, Toronto, or London, you’ve probably come across a dwelling or an apartment slightly below ground level, also known as an “English basement.” They have been extensively used in densely populated areas to increase a property’s square footage and provide shelter for young people at much more affordable rates.
English basements have been a part of London’s architecture design for decades, but they also made their way to the United States. They occur when extensive excavation takes place while digging a building’s foundation and are only partially exposed above the ground level. Property owners can either convert them into a building’s appliances spaces or a simple dwelling.
This article will look at English basements and everything you need to know about them. So keep reading to learn more.
What Are English Basements?
English basements are housing units located below the lowest level of a high-rise building. They are usually one or two-bedroomed, self-contained apartments, with their most notable feature being that they are partially buried underground.
They transpired out of London’s 19th-century building boom, allowing tenants to live comfortably below row houses. However, you can also find them under row houses in the United States and share the same characteristics as their counterparts, which include:
On the other hand, this space—which would virtually be unutilized basement space—acts as an added income source for the property owner. Furthermore, it acts as a high-quality subsidized rental unit for a tenant who doesn’t mind living in a partially buried apartment.
Where Are English Basements Mostly Found?
English basements are found in high population density areas in most large cities. Living spaces in these areas are hard to come by either because of construction codes that restrict the construction of supertall buildings. Or because of higher growths in population numbers than in residential premises.
Therefore, existing property owners get creative and utilize English basement spaces that would have otherwise gone unused for living.
The city of London was where they first made their appearance. However, this is not to say they are not popular in the United States. On the contrary, you can find English basements in cities like Chicago, the home of skyscrapers, Baltimore, and Brownstones in New York. In addition, they mostly acted as living quarters for house helpers but have since evolved into more prominent dwellings.
Life in an English Basement
Living in an English basement is not that different from living in the main building. Other than a few noticeable differences like higher-placed and often smaller windows than in most apartments. The fact that half the apartment is underground and obviously, lacks any kind of view.
However, they tend to be smaller than regular apartments, but they are also cheaper, so it’s an opportunity cost that might be worthwhile. If you’re a private person they can be an excellent choice as they are mostly separate from the main unit and have their own private entrance. They are also much quieter and cozy if they have heating and all the modern amenities you’re used to.
So depending on your unit, life can be comfortable, and you wouldn’t feel like you’re missing much from an apartment.
The Price of Building or Renovating an English Apartment
Even though only a specialist can determine the actual cost of constructing or renovating an English apartment, there are a few basic figures to help you out.
To start with, constructing an English basement under normal conditions happens when the building is under construction and budgeted as part of the larger building.
However, if you’re trying to renovate one, costs will run you anything from $50,000 to $100,000. Furthermore, if it’s one in a more high-end location, costs can run up to $150,000. In addition, the size of the English basement unit will highly influence the final costs of the renovations.
But if you’re the property owner, you can quickly recoup your investment in a few years of renting it out. Not to mention the market value of your property will soar.
However, every jurisdiction has different building codes, which will also play a big part in what type of renovations you can make. In addition, there are also renovations concerning safety mandated by authorities, which will ultimately affect the final cost.
Advantages and Disadvantages of English Basements
Design Tips for an English Basement
Living in an area where housing costs are high and affordable housing units are few and far between can be challenging. But if you’re adventurous a modest English basement can help you live decently in a convenient area. On the other hand, outfitting your property with one can help you increase your livable square footage, which can be advantageous in different ways. This can help you earn or have space to host an extra family member or worker.
English basements can go a long way in combating the housing shortage in many American cities and densely populated areas. What do you think about English basements, and have you ever had an experience in one? Let us know in the comment section below.
Featured Image Credit: Kdwk Leung, Unsplash