When basements make bargains
By John Grainger, Property editor
Whatever happened to cellars? They were once the first layer to be built of every new house, but now are little more than a footnote in the house-builder’s manual.
And yet they’re so useful. By investing a little extra money at the construction stage – by digging a little deeper – you can add an area the same size as your house’s footplate, increasing your floor-space by a half or a third without having to build any higher.
Cellars tend to remain at a constant temperature all year round, cool but not freezing, and so for centuries before the invention of the fridge were used to store food, beer and wine.
In the 1940s they were even used as air-raid shelters, but nowadays are often home to little more than the gas meter and a few light-shy spiders.
This is probably because most old cellars are rather dank and musty (which is perhaps why the French word for cellar is “cave”), so if they’re to be used for anything other than coal storage (unlikely nowadays) or mushroom-farming, they will need to be damp-proofed, or “tanked”.
Making a cellar habitable in this way can cost as much as you’re willing to pay, from a few thousand quid for a modest office conversion to £100,000 and upwards for an underground swimming pool-cum-fairy grotto with spiral water-slide.
That’s something none of the following four properties have, but they do all have cellars.
The Fold, in Hampsthwaite, is a two-bedroom, stone-built cottage with many of its period features intact, including beams, stone fireplaces and hardwood floorboards throughout.
It has two bedrooms, landing study area and low-maintenance garden with shed.
It also has a converted basement, which increases the total floorspace by a sixth and has potential for further development as an extra bedroom, reception room, utility room or office.
In Knaresborough, 6 York Place is a three-bedroom Georgian terraced townhouse on the edge of the town centre, within easy walking distance of the bus and railway stations.
The current owners have installed brand-new wooden sash windows with double-glazed unit behind each, effectively sound-proofing the property with triple-glazing.
Like the Fold, it has many of its original features, including beams, stripped floorboards, tiled floors, deep skirtings and restored feature fireplaces.
It also has a useful cellar split into three rooms (currently used as office, laundry room, storage room), plus passage, with a tiled floor throughout.
Number 2 Caxton Street is a terraced house off Westgate in Wetherby, with back garden and off-street parking available.
It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and separate utility room, and because it’s on the end of the terrace, has windows on three sides.
In addition to its three above-ground floors, it also has a converted cellar providing an extra playroom or family room.
Finally, 5 Kent Road is a very spacious Arts and Crafts-inspired semi-detached house on the Duchy estate in Harrogate.
It has a lot of its original features, as well as some more recent ones, such as the light-flooded conservatory off its kitchen.
It also has gardens, two driveways and electric gates, and a large cellar, used partly as utility and storage room, but most of which forms the underground double garage.
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