A Basement Conversion: ‘tiny house’ transformation in Miramar, Wellington

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basement conversion with kitchen and laundry inside

This Miramar homeowner affectionately refers to what was once an underutilised basement, as a ‘tiny house’ and is looking forward to renting out the completely transformed apartment. 

Before After
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Ready for a change

With her children leaving home, Jeena, the owner of this 1950s three-bedroom bungalow in Miramar, decided to reassess how her property was being used. The basement was previously a dedicated hobby area that already had its own exterior entrance as well as interior stairs and a private verandah and garden. But considering her children weren’t going to be home as often, she predicted the space would go largely unused. 
Thanks to Wellington’s robust film industry and her neighbourhood’s close proximity to it, Jeena knew there would always be interest if she had a rental unit; so she decided to convert her underutilised basement into a self-contained apartment. She engaged local Renovation Consultant Lia Boersma for her expertise in executing stunning transformations. 

Considering design options

Lia and Jeena discussed her vision for the rental; it had to be comfortable, fitted with desirable amenities, with a modern and easy-to-care-for design to attract the ideal tenants. Jeena also didn’t want to over-invest as she wanted to achieve a positive return with the rental. To come up with the perfect design, Lia brought her in-house interior designer Tina Daisley on board and the three of them worked through some options. 
The original budget sat around $200,000 which both Lia and Tina deemed realistic for what Jeena wanted to accomplish. After they finalised the design Lia arranged for the appropriate resource and building consents to be obtained before getting started. 

Unexpected obstacles

Mike Tatam, Lia’s in-house project manager, came on to oversee the day-to-day once construction began which unfortunately came to an abrupt halt not long after starting. Demolition exposed major structural issues with the foundation so the project had to be put on hold as the team worked to quickly identify a solution. 
Lia engaged an engineer who provided new plans to make the property structurally sound once again — a three-sided retaining wall to support the foundation and upper level. To accommodate the retaining wall, space had to be borrowed from the interior which meant Tina needed to revisit her design as well. The proposed changes required submitting amendments to the original council consent.

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Finding solutions
It’s never ideal having to navigate challenges during a renovation, but it’s worse when you’re on your own. Luckily, Jeena didn’t have to worry about that as Lia is a seasoned professional. Lia outlined what had to happen in order to move forward with the basement conversion. And the cost that came with it. With the engineering, amendments, additional excavation requirements, and re-ordering of materials, the re-scoped project now cost $300,000. 
Although it was considerably more than she initially anticipated spending, Jeena wanted to move forward. And considering Wellington is prone to earthquakes, structural reinforcement is always a wise investment.  

Back on track

With the council’s approval in hand, Mike got the ball rolling on site once again. Excavation started off this second round of construction with a significant amount of concrete and soil to be removed. Restricted site access posed a challenge, but a conveyor belt and a dedicated team of contractors got it done. 
Despite the myriad of obstacles the team faced — from the compromised foundation to the redesign and site access issues — Lia and Mike’s leadership culminated in a fantastic result that Jeena is thrilled with. 

Final Thoughts

Tina did an excellent job of utilising the space at hand to create an upscale and well-appointed apartment. In terms of practical amenities, Jeena’s studio apartment has a heat pump, full-sized fridge, microwave, dishwasher, and even a washer-dryer combo. The kitchen is compact but the blue cabinetry brings a bold pop of colour that brightens the space — and not to mention the French doors that open onto the private verandah! Lia, Mike, Tina and the extended team consider this transformation to be a success, but most importantly, Jeena does too and is looking forward to her first tenants. 
Supplies were sourced from Placemakers, Resene, Robertsons and Mitre10.

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This project was completed in
May 2023
Project description
Basement conversion
New Zealand
Project duration
9 months
Cost estimate
Actual cost
Site access and unexpected structural repairs
Interesting aspects
Clever use of space
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Lia Boersma is a Renovation Consultant of Silkworm Ltd, a franchisee of Renovation Franchise Ltd, doing business in Wellington.

Actual costs vary by project. Plan ahead to reduce the impact of industry changes or disruptions. For more information see here.

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