Basements: why are they uncommon in the UK?

Having a basement in your home may seem like a given if you are from most parts of the United States. However, if you are from England, you probably don’t know that much about having a basement. 

When were basements common?  

Although, you may have not seen many, basements/ cellars actually are pretty common in some places in the UK. The Victorians and Georgians loved them. So, any town with lots of Georgian and Victorian housing like Leeds, Manchester or Edinburgh will have lots of basements. As for the places that don’t, you can break them down into a few reasons: 

Age of home. While the technology required to build underground spaces has existed for thousands of years. However, the requirement to do so has not. Before mass urbanisation began in the early 1800s, 60% of people lived in small, communities where land was pretty cheap. The cost of digging a basement for your house compared poorly to the cost of just buying a field out back and building a bigger house. 

Ground conditions. Unlike Scotland, Wales and the west of England, much of eastern and central England is quite low lying, and a lot of the east coast was reclaimed from salt marshes by the Georgians. This means that the ground was too wet and muddy to build a basement in, especially when it’s expensive and impractical to pump the water out every time it rains heavily and the water table rises. 

The weather. One of the main reasons that basements became very common in America is the weather. Both the intense cold in some parts and the risk of adverse weather in others. Foundations have to be built far below the ground to stop them being damaged by frost, so you might as well fill all that space with an extra room or two. Similarly, a basement doubles up as a tornado shelter in other places. The UK has little extreme weather, so basements weren’t as functional in the past as they are in North America. 

Why did the UK stop making basements? 

However, nowadays almost all new build homes have no cellar or basement. This is due to the extra cost of digging down further into the sub-soil and a requirement for much deeper foundations and waterproof tanking.  

How much would It cost to build a basement? 

If you are thinking of building an entirely new basement under your home, you should expect the starting costs to be around £2000 – £3,500 per square meter. On top of this you would need to pay for the contractors to complete the job. So, it’s not often a cheap project.  

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