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Cellar's nightmare for home owners who dig trendy basements

Cellar's nightmare for home owners who dig trendy basements

Householders who dig basements to give more space to their homes could be heading for a cellar’s nightmare.
 
Claims on basements built since 2005 have cost the industry a total of nearly £21m on nearly 890 homes, new NHBC figures show. The rate of claims is mounting, as digging downwards becomes trendier.

Changing weather patterns, a growth in the popularity of basements and a push for more sustainable urban drainage mean that basements present an ongoing risk which needs to be effectively managed, the organisation warned.
 
NHBC figures show that large loss claims – those costing over £250,000 – have risen from £400,000 in 2010 to £1.5m in 2011 and £1.7m in 2012. When combined with other smaller claims, the total costs have risen from around £3m in both 2010 and 2011 to £4.8m in 2012.

These figures are expected to rise further as some claims are still ongoing.
 
The vast majority of new basements (72%) are registered in London and 93% are registered in England.
 
As the UK’s leading insurance and warranty provider for new homes, NHBC has undertaken two recent surveys of around 1,700 sites which highlighted serious problems surrounding the construction of basements.
 
The research found that tanking defects leading to dampness and flooding were the main cause of claims – accounting for 62% of basement claims since 2006. These related mainly to the detailing of joints at ground level, floor level finishes and openings for services, pipes and cables.
 
The majority of the large claims from 2012 were as a result of water ingress and incorrect installation of the damp-proof membrane.
 
NHBC is now looking to revise its standards and guidance on basements, working closely with the industry to help improve basement design and construction.
 
It has advised the housing industry to carry out suitable desk studies and ground investigation reports before construction as water levels are critical to the structural design of basements. The surveys also highlighted the importance of adopting the correct water-proofing system and water stops to provide enhanced resistance in joints.
 
Mark Jones, NHBC’s group head of house-building standards, said: “In recent times, we have seen basements once again become a relevant and attractive addition to many houses. But as our claims figures and experience show, basement claims by their very nature are difficult to investigate and costly to repair, which can result in significant disruption to homeowners.
 
“This new guidance, as a result of surveying hundreds of live sites, will hopefully inform the industry and help reduce the risk for home owners having to endure problematic basements and inconvenience – at a significant financial cost to the sector.”