Add an In-law Suite to Your Home

by Jane VanOsdol on February 21, 2011

According to US Census Bureau projections, the elderly population will more than double between 2000 and 2030, growing from 35 million to over 70 million. What this means is that many Americans will be facing decisions on how to care for their aging parents, often at the same time that they are raising their children. While nursing homes and extended living facilities remain popular choices, some families are opting to bring their parents into their own homes. One way you can do this is by adding an in-law suite on to your house. This home improvement option still allows both families to maintain some privacy, while providing for the needs of the parents.

Depending upon the health of your parents, an in-law suite can be a perfect solution. A general contractor can design the suite to include the necessary features for your family. Typically, in-law suites contain a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette and a private entrance.

First of all, you’ll need to check to see if there are any neighborhood, city or county restrictions regarding additions. Next, discuss with your general contractor what is the most economical way to build the addition. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to finish off your garage into the in-law suite and build a new garage than it is to build the addition on to a different area of your home. Remember that unless you’re adding chair lifts or an elevator, it’s best to locate the addition on the main level.

It’s important to discuss with your contractor what, if any, safety features you will need to incorporate into the design. Depending upon the health of your loved one, your contractor will need to know if you need to plan for any of the following features:

  • Video monitoring
  • Medical alarm
  • Personal help buttons
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • Roll-in shower or tub
  • Wheelchair accessible vanity and kitchen sink
  • Accessible light switches
  • Chair lift
  • Wheel chair ramps
  • Grab bars and railings
  • Medical equipment/furniture/machines

If your parents are in good health, it’s nice to have a separate kitchenette so that they can prepare their own meals and entertain their friends without having to use the kitchen in the main house. According to, one point to keep in mind when designing the bathroom is that if possible, choose a Jack-and-Jill style bathroom so that your parents’ visitors can have access to the bathroom without having to go through the bedroom to get to it.

A final reminder is to plan for any pets your parents will be bringing with them. You may want to install a doggy door on the front door for easy access.

By researching carefully and planning for any future needs, you and your contractor will be able to design a home addition that will make a comfortable, safe home for your parents for the next phase of their lives.

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