Q&A: Basement living space

I am currently considering the possibilities of converting a sizeable basement area into a future ‘granny flat’ for my wife and myself, and handing over the home above it to one of our children. Leaving the social issues alone, the more I consider the virtues of doing this, the more it seems like a viable option.

Apart from the opportunity to design a space more suited to us in our twilight years, I see massive benefits in the area of energy efficiency. On the downside, there are technical issues of the structural, plumbing, drainage and electrical kind as well as those related to ventilation and natural light.

It is no doubt likely that all of these issues have been dealt with countless times before my engagement with them. In considering the best strategy to become better informed about the proposal, it came to mind that as a long time ATA member, I could do no better than start there.

My search in the ATA articles database has been unfruitful. Is it possible that in your library of things technical you have come across references on the subject and/or stories from others who have taken up this challenge?

Grahame Still

I would start with posting the request on the ATA and other forums, but there’s a lot of info out there on this already. I did a google for basement living and a lot came up, including companies that do conversions such as www.basement-living.co.uk (in the UK but there’s bound to be others), sites like www.bit.ly/YRJ8YC and www.bit.ly/XA04Tx and safety tips like www.bit.ly/YRJj64.

For individual problems, there are lots of ways to solve each one. For example, with lighting you can use regular fluoros or LEDs (my preference), you can pipe sunlight in from outside (can be expensive) or you can install false skylights (a solar panel outside that’s wired to a LED panel inside), so that the light indoors follows what’s happening outside—like a skylight, just simpler to install. After dark, the LED panel can also be powered from the mains as primary lighting.

For ventilation, you need a decent rate of air change as there will be few air leaks in a basement and you want to reduce moisture accumulation, so a proper HRV system (see www.bit.ly/UZnKnH) would be a good option, although they can also be expensive.

But there’s lots more to consider. Your first step might be to find an architect who has done this before, or you can take the DIY approach and just do a heap of research.

Lance Turner

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