Considering that the senior population continues to grow, it’s no surprise that families are flexing their creative muscles in order for older folks to remain at home. In 2014, roughly 19% of Americans (or 60.6 million people) lived with multiple generations under the same roof. And one way to ensure that your aging relatives can live comfortably while maintaining their privacy and independence is to create an in-law suite in your home. But before you begin, you’ll want to know a bit more about what goes into this process and what you’ll want to prioritize during the renovations.
You’ll have a few different options to consider when choosing the space for your future in-law suite. While you could build a new addition or a standalone structure for this purpose, neither of those options is the most cost-effective. In most cases, you’ll end up converting a garage, an attic, a basement, or an unused room within the house. Garages will require HVAC setup, insulation, electrical outlets, plumbing, and other adjustments in order to meet residential building codes and to ensure comfortable and safe living will bee possible. For an attic conversion, you’ll need to assess the habitable space, the stairwell, lighting, HVAC, insulation, and flooring issues. And with a basement, you’ll need to ensure that it meets the legal egress requirements to prioritize safe escape or entry during an emergency, as well as dehumidification and flooding prevention. The space you choose will largely depend on your budget, the amount of square footage available, and the main priorities for these in-law suites (which we’ll discuss below).
Before you launch into any renovations, you’ll need to determine the features that must be included in the finished in-law suite. For one thing, privacy is a must. Certainly, you’ll want to invest in window treatments, which 15.88% of survey respondents aged 18 to 29 purchased in 2018, to add some extra privacy to windows (especially if your relatives will be on the ground floor). But you’ll also want to consider adding a separate entryway so that occupants can come and go without traipsing through the entire house. Ideally, the in-law suite should feel separate enough that no one feels overcrowded but connected enough that the entire family can feel free to spend time together when they want to.
Another important point to keep in mind is independence. An in-law suite needs to be a fully functional entity in and of itself. In other words, it needs its own bathroom and its own kitchen (or at least a kitchenette), as well as appliances and other conveniences, to ensure that people living there don’t need to rely too heavily on the other rooms outside the suite. Since homeowners remodel more than 10.2 million kitchens and 14.2 million bathrooms each year, you’ll need to add both of these rooms to your remodeling list.
When it comes time to remodel, you’ll also need to consider universal design and accessibility. While your relatives may not yet have any mobility issues or disabilities to be worried about, that may not always be the case. If they wish to age in place, you’ll need to make certain that the design concepts used throughout the in-law suite will remain functional even as physical or mental capacities deteriorate. That may mean adding in wider doorways, adjusting the height of toilets and bathtubs, choosing non-slip flooring, or opting for easy-to-handle hardware on doors and drawers. The better you can plan ahead for the future, the better this space will continue to serve your family as their needs change.
You may also want to consider the flexibility of this space before you start tearing walls down. It’s possible that your in-law suite may be only a short-term solution or that you’d like to be able to use this area for multiple purposes. An in-law suite can also be used to accommodate out-of-town guests or may even allow you to turn your home into an income property. If you plan on turning the space into one you can rent out or use as a guest haven, you won’t want to go too far overboard into aging-in-place design trends. It’s definitely possible to find a happy medium between universal design and modern concepts that will appeal to guests or tenants of all ages. That’s why it’s important to determine the purpose of your in-law suite before you begin; otherwise, you may have to spend more money later on if your needs change.
Adding an in-law suite is a great way to ensure your loved ones are safe and comfortable during a pivotal time of their lives. It can also be an option for families to earn extra income or ensure guests enjoy their stay. But before you break ground, you’ll want to put ample thought into your choice of space, the design, and the intended use. If you do that, you’ll end up with an area that will add value to your home and to your lives in general.