The probability that an in-law or parent will live in your household someday is very real. Nearly 70% of people 65 and older will eventually need long-term care, but nursing home care is expensive. Many families choose to keep loved ones at home, but space can be cramped and privacy can be sparse. That’s why in-law suites are becoming more and more popular.
Creating an in-law suite takes a good deal of planning, money, and creativity, but it can be a rewarding and successful endeavor.
In-Law Suites Defined
In-law suites (also called granny pods or granny suites) are private living spaces for family members that are separate from the rest of the household. They come in all shapes and forms, from basement suites to separate on-property buildings. Because they often contain private bathrooms, eating areas, and other amenities, elderly family members can live a somewhat private life while staying close to family for care. But these suites aren’t just created for elderly people. They can also be used by college students back from school or guest residences.
Benefits of an In-Law Suite
Creating an in-law suite in your home or on your property comes with some great benefits, including:
- Ability for family members to stay close. Your loved one can enjoy being close to family while still maintaining the dignity of privacy.
- Higher home resale value. Homes with separate living add-ons are highly valuable on the housing market.
- Long-term savings. Creating an in-law suite may initially be pricey, but it may end up being cheaper than keeping your loved one in a nursing home indefinitely.
- Reduced home crowding. If your in-law or parent already lives in the home with your family, giving them their own space will make everyone’s life easier.
Now that you understand the definitions and benefits of in-law suites, you might be interested in creating one yourself. Here are some steps you’ll want to take.
Make a Plan
If you’ve decided that an in-law suite is the best step for your family, don’t begin doing anything until you have a solid plan in place. Call a family meeting and talk to family members about their wants and needs. Most importantly, consult with the person who will be staying in the suite to learn what their needs and desires are. It’s important to give them a say in their new home. Your family will also need to discuss where you want to put the in-law suite and how much you’re willing to spend on the project.
Choose an Area to Transform
Decide as a family where you want to create your in-law suite. Here are some examples of spaces where people build in-law suites, what they might require, and how much you should plan on spending:
These can make excellent in-law suites but need lots of modification to be suitable for living. Plan on installing wiring, plumbing, and HVAC access (either a separate system or one attached to your home’s system). The total cost for turning your garage into an in-law suite may run you $20,000 to $50,000, depending on what’s needed. Add an extra $15,000 to $25,000 to your budget if you plan on installing a bathroom.
Basements are an easy go-to choice for creating an in-law suite, especially when the basement is already finished. These spaces simply need furniture, appliances, and any necessary fixtures or accessibility aids like railings. Unfinished basements take much more work. You may need to install a sump pump to avoid flooding and use dehumidifiers to avoid excess moisture.
Some building codes require above-grade windows, window wells, and a separate entrance. It would be wise to install ramps or a basement-level entrance door for accessibility. With so many considerations, turning your basement into an in-law suite may cost $10,000 to $27,000.
Zoning laws are a little stricter for attic in-law suites, but it’s completely possible to create a mini-home in this area. Most codes require that an attic must have adequate space, meaning at least 70 square feet of space with a ceiling of at least five feet. Stairways must be at least 36 inches wide. Like basements, you’ll need to install plumbing, insulation, and HVAC systems. It’s a smart idea to also reinforce and sound-proof the floor. Attics cost a bit more to renovate, ranging from $41,000 to $90,000.
To save on expensive renovations, you may just want to build an in-law suite in a spare household room or two. Formal rooms that are rarely used, like dining rooms and sitting rooms, can become in-law suites. You can install small bathrooms, kitchenette or “wet bar” areas, and laundry areas.
Keep Privacy Considerations in Mind
Give your loved one some dignity and privacy. Some important amenities you may want to include are:
- A private full-sized bathroom for privacy and to eliminate fights over the family bathroom.
- A laundry area with a stackable washer and dryer so they don’t have to carry loads of laundry through the house.
- A kitchenette or “wet bar” area for food preparation (zoning laws often don’t allow a house to have a second kitchen).
- A private entrance to their living space (like their own door) so they can come and go as they please without having to walk through your home.
- Wheelchair accessibility
- No steps or a removable ramp
- Shower stall with no curb
- Wall-mounted sinks
- Guardrails and grab bars
- Easy-to-reach cupboards and shelves
- Plenty of lighting
Take the Leap
Creating an in-law suite is a large, yet rewarding project. It will undoubtedly comfort your loved one knowing you care enough to give them their own space. Your family will be thankful to have privacy and your home’s value could increase. Although energy use is doubling every 20 years in the U.S., the costs of utilizing more electricity at home could be off-set on what you’ll save on long-term care or make by renting out the unit. But before you begin putting money into your in-law suite, do your research on zoning laws and communicate clearly with all family members involved. Then, get to work and have fun creating a safe space for your in-laws.