Architecture + Expediting MICHAEL ZENREICH ARCHITECT, PC

Architecture and Expediting

Cellars and Basements

Let’s start off by agreeing that the English language is ambiguous.


That being said, there are some words and definitions that are clear, but are constantly used incorrectly. The best example of this is the misuse of the words “cellar” and “basement”.


In the world or Architecture there is a major difference between a “cellar” and a “basement”. The New York City Zoning Resolution, The New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, The New York City Housing Maintenance Code, and the New York City Building Code all use both of these terms differently.


All of these Codes draw a distinction between a “cellar” and a ”basement’.  I would like to break down the different definitions and discuss why it is important be clear in labeling a sub grade floor either a cellar or basement.


According to the New York City Zoning Resolution, a “cellar” is a space wholly or partly below curb level with more than one-half its height (measured floor to ceiling) below curb level. A “basement” is a story (or portion of a story) partly below curb level, with at least one-half its height(measured from floor to ceiling) above curb level.


Why does this matter?  Generally “cellar” space is not counted as “floor area” and does not count towards the amount of ‘floor area” that the zoning district permits once to build. A ‘basement” on the other hand is “floor area” and counts as a “story”.  The zoning resolution sometimes limits the maximum number of stories and therefore a ‘basement” is considered like any other “story” above grade.


Comments are closed.