Building a Versatile Mother-in-Law Suite: Consider Your Long-Term Plans
Multi-generational living is becoming increasingly common, as more homes now have dedicated spaces to accommodate family members of different ages. One option to meet this need, often called a “mother-in-law" (MIL) suite, granny flat, or accessory dwelling unit (ADU), makes a lot of sense. Planning and execution for this space may not be straightforward though. What happens to the space when the mother-in-law no longer needs it? Can it be designed and built to serve flexibly for years? Yes, it can.
When building a mother-in-law suite, professional design and construction is paramount. The space should incorporate appropriate accessibility and usability features, known as “Universal design,” and these are best included from the start. Universal design can enable truly independent living for seniors and other people with mobility challenges while keeping the space perfectly useable for everyone. Bathroom features such as curbless showers, shower seats, grab bars, vanities with knee space, and comfort-height toilets, for example, enable independent living for seniors and can be useful for other people, as well.
In the kitchen, base cabinets with drawers keep all items easily visible and accessible, so there’s no need to bend over and peer into a dark cabinet. Including features like touchless faucets, ranges with front-mounted controls, variable-height countertops, and sink cabinets with knee spaces make for a kitchen anyone can use.
Other desirable features of a mother-in-law suite include casement and awning windows that crank open rather than single or double-hung windows that can be difficult to use. Lever door handles are much easier to use than knobs for people with limited grip strength, as are electric dead bolt locks.
Design elements such as wide doorways are helpful for folks in wheelchairs as well as when moving furniture in and out. A front-loading washer and dryer are easier to use than standard units and don’t require reaching into a deep tub. Well-designed lighting makes tasks more pleasant and is an important safety feature in preventing trips and falls. Motion-sensing light switches simplify daily life, and open plans and step less entries are friendly to people with mobility challenges, either walking or using a wheelchair or scooter. Covered entries are desirable on all home types and gentle site grading ensures that people of all abilities can move about safely. People with limited mobility can do well and remain independent when their home accommodates their needs.
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One of the great benefits of adding a mother-in-law space is the potential flexibility: when it’s no longer needed by an aging parent it can be re-used by a college student or other family member. It could also be used as a guest suite, long-term rental, home studio, or home office. Flexible spaces can be a great asset to your home that provides enduring value and functionality as your family changes.
Some MIL projects can be fairly simple, such as a garage remodel. Others, especially ground-up builds, are just like building a small house. No matter the scope of your project, enlisting the help of a professional will dramatically simplify details like complying with zoning, and building codes, and setting up separate utility services. When you’re ready to create the space you need for your family, request service online or call Mr. Handyman today. We have the expertise to design and build the project that meets your needs, now and for the future.