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AT HOME: Things to consider when building an in-law suite
Perhaps thanks to a struggling economy and an unpredictable stock market that has resulted in many retirement nest eggs being decimated, more and more adult children are welcoming their aging parents into their homes. Such living situations have led to a growth in in-law suites. In fact, in 2010 the National Association of Home Builders found that 62 per cent of builders surveyed were working on home modifications related to aging.
In-law suites are often created by converting a room in the house, such as the basement or even a garage, into a livable suite. Such suites can benefit elderly relatives who might have been dealt an unforeseen financial blow. But in-law suites can also benefit younger homeowners who want to see their parents more. In addition, when older men and women move in with their adult children, they can provide some necessary relief from the escalating cost of daycare.
But before building an in-law suite in their home, homeowners might want to heed the following tips.
• Be certain it is legal. Making changes to your home may require a permit, particularly if your in-law suite will be an entirely new addition to your property and not just a strict room remodel. Contact your local zoning board to ensure the project is within your rights as a homeowner.
• Consider the health of your in-laws when making plans. Many in-law suites are occupied by aging relatives who might not be able to get up and down stairs as easily as they used to. That makes accessibility of the suite a top priority. Typically, it’s best to locate in-law suites on the first floor, so relatives won’t find it difficult to get in and out of the suite.
• Don’t overlook privacy. Just because your parents or in-laws will be moving in doesn’t mean they don’t still value their privacy. Chances are your relatives will initially feel as though they are invading your space and your privacy, so be sure the suite affords adequate privacy to all members of the household. It might be best to build the suite so it has its own separate entrance from the rest of the home. The suite should also have its own full bathroom and, if possible, its own kitchen area so your in-laws can cook for themselves and entertain their own guests without feeling like a burden. A second kitchen is also something to discuss with a zoning board, as some locales prohibit having two complete kitchens in a single residence.
• Tailor certain amenities to the elderly. If your in-laws are older, install certain amenities, such as grab bars in the shower and bathroom, during the initial construction so you won’t have to make changes down the road. Install easy-open drawers and make sure the suite has ample lighting.
• Remember to install safety features. Safety features like fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a necessity. Make sure the alarms on each of these detectors are loud enough so elderly men and women who have hearing loss can hear them without issue. Make sure all walkways leading to the in-law suite have motion detecting lamps at night to reduce risk of falling. Also, if the suite will be a separate building from your house, such as a converted pool house or detached garage, install an intercom system that connects with the main house so your relatives can easily reach you in case of emergency.
In-law suites are becoming more popular as a greater number of older adults are moving in with their adult children. Such suites can bring families closer together and prove beneficial for all parties involved.