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Adding An In-Law Suite: 5 Steps To Opening Your Home The Right Way

by For Content

Do you want to move your parent or grandparent into your home but aren't sure if you can all live together in peace? In that case, an in-law suite might be just what the doctor ordered.

What is an in-law suite? There are no strict definitions, but it is generally a private living space within the main home that contains a bathroom, a kitchenette and is separated from the rest of the house. It may or may not have an outside entrance.

An in-law suite may be a better option than either using a spare room (lacking privacy) or adding a full apartment (a budget-buster). But before diving into such a project, keep in mind these 5 steps to success.

Check the Zoning

Before deciding on anything, check with your local city planning and zoning department to be certain what is – and is not – allowed. Some areas allow a kitchenette but not a full second kitchen. Others may not approve an outside entrance. Knowing what is permissible before making any changes to your home will help you save money and time.

Look for Space

Once you know what type of amenities you can build into your in-law suite, you can begin searching for ways to add it to the home. Some people can make use of a large basement, although this may not be ideal for anyone with mobility issues. Unused rooms in the home – such as a formal dining room, guest rooms or a family room – can sometimes be combined into a suite. The garage is another place you may be able to find space -- both in and above it. Think creatively and look at any less-used space as a possible location.

Understand Your Needs

How you design your suite will depend on the needs and priorities of both the aging parent and the rest of the family. Privacy is often a big concern for both parties, so be sure you consider how to increase privacy by adding separating doors, outside entrances or building the suite away from the busiest parts of the house. Meet with all family members to come up with a list of specific things that each wants from the new living arrangement so you can address any concerns up-front.

Make a Budget

Combining households by moving a parent or grandparent into your home should be a financial help. But if you stretch your budget too far building a space for them, you could make things worse. Once you know your space and your priorities, make a firm budget that you can meet comfortably. Look for ways to save money on less-important aspects so you can be sure to pay for the more vital elements.

Make it Safe and Accessible

Finally, when coming up with a final design, incorporate elements to keep your parent or grandparent safe and comfortable. This includes making rooms spacious for easy access as well as adding handrails, no-slip floors and walk-in showers or bathtubs. Keep floor level changes to a minimum and consider including ramps to any outside entrances if necessary. Remember that with a growing retirement population, an accessible in-law suite may be a big draw when selling the house later on. To make sure that your in-law suite is safe and accessible, read more about the laws in your area. 

A well-designed in-law suite can save your family from a lot of friction while protecting your older family members. For the best results, plan ahead long before you decide to break ground.