What’s The Difference Between Cellars & Basements?

Cellars & Basements: What’s the difference? What can you do with this space, and how do you take care of them?

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Cellars and basements can be fantastic extra spaces in your home. It’s important to know the difference when buying a home, thinking about a home makeover, and being alert to the critical maintenance which protects these spaces and the rest of your property.

How do you know which is which? Why does it matter? What should you do with yours?

finished basement

Cellars Versus Basements: How Are They Different?

While similar in some ways, and with these terms often used interchangeably, it can be confusing. However, there are also some major differences in these spaces. You need to know them.

It matters because they can have very different legal standings. This makes a lot of difference when valuing a property. You want to know what you are really getting and how much it is worth. You need to know how you can legally use and advertise this space in the future. This difference also impacts how this part of the home is treated during a home inspection. You might think it has been tested and cleared when it hasn’t.

Some maintenance and repairs can be similar, such as foundation repairs, handling basement leaks, water intrusion and waterproofing. However, what you are able to see and the signs of foundation flaws and serious issues can be different based on how this space is finished.

How Do You Know Which You Have?

The one telltale difference is the level this space is on. A true basement is below grade and can be half a level above the street. A cellar, on the other hand, is below ground. A basement may have windows. A true cellar will not have any windows.

How these spaces are finished or not does not really define them. The level they are on is how they are defined legally. Someone may have put a wine cellar in the basement or finished a cellar to look like a furnished basement, that doesn’t change their value or classification.

Taking Care Of Your Space

Both cellars and basements have structural walls that help hold your house up. They are both areas that are very prone to leaks, dampness and water problems. If this part of your home fails, everything else can come crumbling down.

You may not go down there often. You may not care how pretty it is. Yet it is one of the most important parts of a property to inspect regularly, maintain and keep repaired. If you don’t, nothing else matters.

The top things to look out for in these spaces as signs of problems include:

  • Musty smells
  • Mildew and mold
  • Wet drywall
  • Condensation on block walls
  • Cracked floors
  • Cracked concrete block walls
  • Damp carpeting or warped flooring
  • Cracks and gaps appearing around windows and doors
  • Noisy or struggling sump pumps
  • No grated pipes or drains and interior gutters

Uses For Your Cellar

Cellars cannot be used as living space, bedrooms or rental apartments. There is probably no emergency exit.

However, you can still have a lot of fun with this space. Use them for:

  • Wine cellars
  • Cigar humidors
  • Making your own craft beer
  • Bomb shelters
  • Storage
  • Adding plumbing to old buildings

You can still make these spaces spectacular features that will wow guests and really add extra appeal when it comes time to sell your home.

Uses For Your Basement

There is a lot more you can do with a basement in Virginia than a cellar.

However, before you dig into any renovations, be sure to look for any signs of foundation problems or leaks and take care of those first. You don’t want to have to start over from scratch again.

One of the next steps you might take is to put in egress windows that can serve as exits and entryways. New windows will help with moisture and waterproofing and light. They can also help qualify this as a legal living space. A window well can be used to bring in even more light or create another garden and sitting space.

Potential uses include:

  • Extra bedrooms
  • Rental apartments
  • Home gyms
  • Game rooms
  • Additional living rooms
  • Home theaters
  • Home offices
  • Laundry rooms
  • Indoor swimming pools and home spas

Flex your creativity. Create something awesome with your space. What will you do with yours?

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