Making Room: Five Ideal Spots for In-Law Suites

 In Additions, Basements & Mudrooms, Renovations

Whether they are being used for a lengthy visit with the grandkids or a more permanent situation, in-law suites are becoming one of the most requested remodels in the Boston area. (Interesting fact: Almost 20% of people in the US live with multiple generations under one roof).  While parents always have a special place in their children’s hearts, finding a special place in their children’s homes is another story—and one that requires careful consideration of the requirements for space, utility, privacy, and mobility.

“Today’s in-law suites go beyond aging parents,” says Jeff McLinden, owner of JM Construction. “A thoughtful design can add to a home’s value while serving as an independent space for in-home caregivers, college-aged children, visiting relatives, and more, as needs change. That’s why it’s so important to think about the project from several different angles—and ages.”

Here are five common areas for in-law suite renovations and the important factors to think about when choosing the best one for your home and your family.

Building Out the Basement

If you have one, a basement can be the perfect place for an in-law suite. Spacious and open by nature, the lowest level of a home is usually easy to convert to a functional living space due to its easy access to plumbing, electric, and HVAC. Private and well-insulated, basements can also provide a level of autonomy, especially if they feature a walk-out for separate access.

One of the biggest downsides to basement in-law suite renovations is the issue of mobility. If stairs are an issue, then a basement might not be the answer. While walk-out basements can relieve this, uncertain terrain can be equally hazardous.

Expanding Above the Garage

If your garage has available room, a garage loft can offer space, independence, and privacy, not to mention the possibility for balconies and views. Even if an existing garage doesn’t have an upper level, one can typically be added with no excessive costs. All it takes is a well thought-out design and a contractor who knows his or her way around a shed dormer.

Unfortunately, the top floor of a garage still means stairs, whether interior or exterior. Additionally, it may be tougher to tie into existing plumbing and electrical, especially if the garage is detached.

Converting the Garage

A common way to eliminate stairs while maximizing the available footprint is to convert an existing garage into a private, accessible, livable space. Since it already has a foundation, a roof, framing, and a separate entrance, a garage is a great start.

Of course, a garage was never intended for full-time living, so you’ll likely have to upgrade or install wiring, insulation, HVAC, plumbing, and appropriate doors and windows to keep it comfortable.

Repurposing Current Living Areas

Another ground-floor option is repurposing seldom-used rooms like a formal dining room, office, or spare bedroom. These first floor spaces can give aging parents a place to call their own without requiring a huge undertaking.

While less private, using existing rooms can increase accessibility to other parts of the home and people in the family, making this an ideal solution for parents with more complicated needs. In addition to reworking the room’s layout, you may also need to consider additional renovations to a nearby bathroom, such as installing handrails, to increase safety and independence.

Adding Onto Your Existing Home

With the cost of assisted living averaging around $43,000 per year, a full-scale renovation to make space for aging parents quickly becomes a viable option for those with the space to do it. Adding onto your current footprint means you can tailor the addition to your family’s specific needs, and include additional rooms above and around the in-law suite to give your family members the space they need.

“Homeowners have more choices than ever when it comes to caring for family members of multiple generations,” adds McLinden. “It’s important to start with what’s possible regarding building codes and budgets first, and then explore options from there.”

No matter which floor you choose for your in-law suite, living with aging parents can have its ups and downs. The more you consider the needs of everyone involved, the smoother the transition can be, and the more you can enjoy your time together.

Thinking about building an in-law suite or multi-generation home in one of Boston’s MetroWest neighborhoods? Our remodeling teams at JM Construction are happy to help you explore and expand options. Click here to get started!

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