Should You Build an In-Law Suite?

In-law suites are a great addition to any home, providing a new living space for parents, guests, or anybody else that needs to stay – either in the short or long term. However, it can also take some time to plan everything out, so you want to consider things carefully before rushing in without a plan.

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What does the suite need to be?

An in-law suite is often a completely private space attached to a home, usually custom-built if they are not converted from an existing space. Some can also be private standalone guest houses, which are often made from other buildings already on the same plot (but not always).

The suite itself basically has to be either an extension of your existing home or an entirely new building. In most cases, they are meant to be completely independent, meaning that they do not share anything in terms of kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. 

Personal preference also matters a lot here. Some people will love having easy access to the suite from the main house, and vice versa, while others will want them to be mostly isolated, like completely separate homes. Neither is the wrong choice, but it will influence the design.

Unfortunately, this tends to be expensive. Understanding the costs is an important part of getting the design ready, and it can be difficult to know how to start – since they are built around the original property, every single in-law suite will have a very different design, layout, and set of features.

How much does a suite cost?

The cost of a suite like this can vary, and it also heavily depends on the size and scope of the project. Since the space usually needs to be liveable on its own (i.e., operating as a separate space entirely), the costs can come from having to get this all set up properly and safely.

A space with all of the core elements, such as a kitchen and bathroom, will usually cost somewhere between $40,000 and $120,000 or more. Of course, this can sway in either direction quite dramatically depending on the project itself, so these are just average estimated figures.

If this seems high, remember that the cost of a room in a nursing home can be just as expensive, If not more so. This makes it a great investment for any family that worries about taking care of older relatives in the future and also gives them a new space to use for various purposes even before then.

Do building codes matter?

Building codes are always going to influence a space like this. Understanding how to build the addition properly is important since you need to be within local building codes to even get planning permission, let alone the go-ahead, to actually create the space.

It is important to look up your local building laws and restrictions since these will dramatically influence the kind of work that you end up doing and the kind of compromises that you have to make. Every state is different, and no two have exactly the same rules.

However, some are very common and shared between multiple states or even in other countries. For example, the suite will usually need an entrance so that the inhabitants can quickly leave the entire building and head outside if needed, rather than needing to head through the main house to leave.

In many places, you will also be legally required to have separate water and sewage connections for the two buildings that are intended to be used independently. This is to stop repair work or damage in one from impacting the other, meaning that you will have a backup connection if one set of pipes breaks.

How should utilities work?

It is often best to split utilities completely between the two spaces. This not only allows you to turn one building’s utilities off if it is not being used but also makes it much easier to calculate the total bill for anybody living there alongside you.

This also has the same benefit as the water supply issue mentioned earlier – if one fails, there is a high chance of the other working, meaning that you are not completely stuck and can still rely on the other building until the problem is fixed.

Doing this also means that repairs are easier to handle. For example, an electrical fault that requires a power shutoff to fix will not shut off power to both spaces, which would be incredibly disruptive, hard to manage, and possibly even dangerous for older family members.

What about guest needs?

Remember that guests, whether they are elderly family members or just friends staying over for a while, might have more needs than your own. Building your space correctly means planning ahead for the people who are going to be there: for example, installing elderly-friendly furniture and comfort aids.

Going beyond the bare minimum is always the best option because it prevents problems with the space not being reusable later on. On the other hand, you might want to stay away from making the area too specific. Otherwise, you might struggle to refit the space when its original purpose is no longer required.

Think ahead and take your time with the planning. The more thought you put into a space, the better it will suit your needs, so do not rush ahead to create something that just barely meets your requirements. You want to get value for your money, so you want something that you are happy with.

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