What’s the Difference Between a Cellar and a Basement?

By: ROS Team

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Cellars and basements can both add value to your home. With this in mind, it is essential to know the difference between the two so you can market your home correctly if you’re ready to sell or to maximize the space if you’re buying a home that includes one.


A basement is a space located underneath a building structure. Many basements have windows, and some basements even have outdoor entrances. You may sometimes find stairs or a ladder that goes down into the basement. Basements are often used as storage spaces, but they can also serve as another bedroom or living space.


With cellars, space is a little more enclosed than in a basement. Cellars are a bit deeper underground, often below a building’s curb line. Sometimes people build cellars adjacent to basements or attach them to an outside structure. A cellar can be accessed using a ladder or via a staircase.

The most common use for cellars is for wine storage, primarily because the spaces are void of direct sunlight and cooler, both of which are prime conditions for storing wine.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Cellar Vs Basement: What is the Difference?

Basement and cellar are often used interchangeably to describe lower-level spaces. But there are also some differences between the two of them that may prove important, especially when valuing a property.  The difference also impacts how this part of the home is treated during a home inspection.

1) Purpose

One key difference centers around purpose. People build basements as a game room or storage space, while cellars are usually built for more specific purposes like wine storage or a storm shelter.

2) Living Space

Basements are more comfortable and safe if converted into a living space because it has better finishing.  A cellar, on the other hand, may not be suitable as a living space because it’s not finished the same.

3) Size

Basements are usually larger spaces, while a cellar is usually a smaller, more confined space.

4) Ceilings

Cellars usually have lower ceilings than basements.  On average, the ceiling in a cellar is less than 7 feet high.

5) Accessibility

One key difference is that cellars tend to have entrances that are external to the home. If you can access the space without having to go outside to do so, it’s considered a basement.

6) Windows

In some parts of the world, an underground area that has a large window and that can be used as a living space is called a basement, while a similar space without windows is a cellar.

Best Uses For Your Cellar

It is less likely that you’ll use a cellar as a living space like a bedroom or rent it out as an apartment. Popular uses for cellars include:

  • General storage
  • Cigar humidors
  • Making a home-based brewery
  • Wine storage

Best Uses For Your Basement

 There is a lot that you can do with a basement–they can be used as:

  • Home offices
  • Home theaters
  • Apartments
  • Home gyms
  • Game rooms
  • Extra bedrooms
  • Additional living rooms
  • Indoor swimming pools
  • Home spas
  • Laundry rooms
Photo Credit: Elements Envato

Care Tips for Cellar Vs Basement

Regardless of whether you have a basement or a cellar, these spaces require periodic maintenance and regular housekeeping just like the rest of your home.

Here are a few maintenance tips for keeping that underground space inviting and usable:

  • Keep the area clear of debris.  If you have shelves and cabinets in your cellar, clear them at least once every six months.
  • Vacuum any exterior components leading to the basement or cellar, like condenser coils and compressors.   Examine the cellar door and seal regularly to help ensure it keeps the elements out and cool and heated air in.
  • Inspect the space for possible leaks regularly, and ensure that water can run freely from pipes and gutters away from your house.
  • Ideally, keep the humidity below 50% and use a dehumidifier to regulate moisture levels. Doing this will help control pests, eliminate dampness and odor and prevent mold growth. If you still feel your basement or cellar has moisture issues but cannot find the reason, you should contact basement repair professionals. They will inspect your basement and advise you on the appropriate measures to take.

Final Words

A basement or cellar is a great space that can be turned into anything you like. Always check for signs of foundation problems or leaks if you’re thinking of buying a property with a basement or cellar.  If you find issues, get them fixed before you finalize the sale.