Why are these basement conversions so bad? And, is there anything we can do about it?

Lately I have been looking at quite a few converted basements in and around Leeds.  Many are in terraced housing, back-to-backs, and such.  Conversions are attractive on these smaller dwellings, especially if the project adds an extra bedroom or two.

Add student letting into the equation and there is a real financial benefit in squeezing every extra student in.  These students are not always so picky so why not?

I’ll get to the point. A high proportion of these conversions are not just poorly done, they are absolute rubbish.

Five big problems, common in Leeds’s converted basements are:

  1. No ventilation, so condensation is rife and the cellars stink
  2. Plasterboard, dot and dabbed on salty walls, which also stinks and salts
  3. Illegal and potentially disease causing sewage disposal
  4. Cellars with no provision for fire exits – death traps.
  5. Cavity drain membrane systems without drainage, which leak
  6. No building regs or planning approval

I could go on but the above are enough for now.  The annoying thing is that basement waterproofing these types of domestic dwellings is not rocket science.  This means that the defects are not just due to keen amateurs lacking expertise. It is a case of cowboy contractors and cowboy landlords, who don’t give a damn.

It’s not good enough.  We live in England, not Somalia; sewage running on the path in Headingly, students dying in a fire – this is bad.

Is it because ‘investors’ want a balanced portfolio and can’t be arsed about how the books are balanced.

Is it the developers, who fleece the southern investors by doing a botched job?

Surveyors have a duty of care to anyone buying these houses so fair enough, we can spot these problems.  Who has the duty of care for the students or low income people already living in these conditions?

Of course, I have a conflict of interest because I run a waterproofing company. But I’d gladly give my advice for free, if it would help stop this sort of thing.  Trouble is, the people doing this work wont be asking, because waterproofing a basement properly costs money.

So the only thing I can do when I am called in to look at a basement is slam the door after the horse has bolted.  What a waste.

Dry Rot

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Copyright © 2010 Preservation Expert. Legal Stuff: All the advice and information in the posts on my blog is made in good faith and is based on my experience and knowledge at the time of writing. However, nobody is infallible and whilst I’m confident that most of what I write about preservation issues is accurate, there’s a good chance there’ll be an error or two somewhere. I do change my mind about stuff, as I gain more experience. In view of this you must make your own decisions on whether to follow any advice I write and think about this; I could be wrong. No responsibility will be accepted by the author for any losses anyone may suffer as a result of any mistake or for the consequence of any action you take as a result of reading this blog. If you do suffer a loss, resulting from anything I’ve written, a verbal heartfelt apology will be your only compensation.