How to Add an Affordable In-Law Suite to Your Home

How to Add an Affordable In-Law Suite to Your Home
  • Opening Intro -

    As our parents age, we face big decisions.

    One decision may be to invite your mom or dad to move in.


The lifestyle transition can be challenging, but creating a great environment doesn’t have to be.

First, start with a conversation and an understanding

You need to understand the needs of all those involved before you start construction. Your home modifications will have to accommodate all the family members, not just your loved one.

This conversation should be an open and collaborative process. You, your children and your new house mate should work together to build a wish list.

At the same time, you should also consider how permanent the renovation will be. Future buyers may value well-constructed universal designs. They may not like do-it-yourself ‘on the cheap’ jobs.

Then, select size and location

You are not going to buy a new home for this, so you have to use what you’ve got. Home size, local building codes, and family budget will dictate the location and the size of the in-law suite. Bigger houses can accommodate larger in-law suites.

In most cases, a garage, formal dining room or basement will serve as a great starting point. As a general rule, a single car garage can fit a bedroom and a bathroom; a two-car garage can also fit a small kitchen or kitchenette.

Regardless of what you choose, most in-law suites will have a bedroom, private full bath, and street access. Err on the side of creating too much privacy for your loved one.

Also, remember to check local regulations before starting a build. Many municipalities limit the number of bathrooms or kitchens in homes zoned for single family use.

Next, adapt the suite and your home to age in place

As you adapt the new suite for ease of use, remember to convert the entire home, not just one part. You want your new resident to be a welcome part of your entire life.

The bathroom is an area where a little money goes a long way. Safe bathroom tiles are affordable and can be bolstered by non-slip strips to add extra traction. Add a height-adjustable toilet to help your loved one feel more comfortable aboard the throne. Also, move the toilet paper dispenser to a convenient one hand operable location. Bidet toilets are helpful for seniors who may be losing flexibility. Finally, add a flush handle or flush sensor to limit awkward body twists and turns.

Aging eyes need more light. You will want to place more lighting in all hallways, closets, showers, and stairs. For increased ease of use, add rocker light switches instead of traditional toggle switches in the suite and throughout the home. On the same note, make sure the suite and the rest of the home use lever handles instead of conventional knobs.

You will need to install separate HVAC controls for the in-law suite. Use push buttons and easy to read and see thermostats. Also, remember to include separate smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well. Modern senior friendly versions are widely available and will include both visual and audible warnings.


Bringing a new family member into your home is a deliberate process. But, building a functional in-law suite doesn’t have to be. Follow the tips in this article and say hello to three generations under the same roof.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide.



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