Cellar ceiling height

26 Aug 2018
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United Kingdom
I've just bought a house with a very usable cellar - it's been insulated and has heat and light and fully decorated - all with planning permission. We bought it as a non-habitable room for storage as it didn't meet building control. I've looked at the regulations and I'm not sure why it hasn't been approved although I've heard that our council likes ceilings to be a certain height - but there doesn't appear to be any restriction in the regulations. Can I get a private inspector to come and confirm that it meets building control if I'm not doing any building work? I would like to be able to describe it as a study or bedroom in the agents details when we come to sell it.
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It probably has no separate means of escape which scuppers many cellar conversions. There is no minimum ceiling height in the regs.
It has a window that is 65cm wide x 63cm high which is big enough. There's a very large window sill that is 83cm high that you can easily climb onto and climb out of the window and it is then a easy step up into the front garden. So that should be OK?
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An estate agent would not lose commission on an extra room if they didn't have to.

If you want the room regularised, then you need to put in application. Don't think that any private inspector is going to be any more lenient than a council inspector in terms of fire safety and escape.
Cellar conversions in houses don't usually need planning permission - they only need Building Regulations approval. You say it's been insulated, but does the insulation meet the requirements? As above, there is no restriction on headroom, save for over the staircase; the window seems OK as long as it's fully openable.
Some inspectors will pull these conversions up on the staircase itself, on tread and rise dimensions, pitch and headroom, but if the staircase is original, it should be accepted.
I'm half-inclined to say apply for a regularization, but you might then be opening a can of worms.
The staircase is steep and has limited headroom - but it's the original. It is enclosed from the ground floor and has a door with a catch which again appears to be original. It was obviously a working cellar originally (1900s house) as there is an old blocked off fireplace. What could be the can of worms? Surely if they say no then we just say it's a storage room when we sell it. The council can't stop us using it a study can they?
You can do whatever you want in the cellar (eg lounge/extra bedroom/office/study/gym/massage parlour) but if you sell, you can't really call it other than 'useable cellar space'.
If you go for a regularization to get a certificate from the council so that you could have it classed as a proper habitable room, they will ask you to open parts up to check such things as insulation to the floor and walls, damp-proofing (was it tanked? probably not) etc. It can be an expensive and disruptive process.
You'll need to declare it on your insurance if you are using the cellar as a habitable room.

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