In-Law Suites 101

in-law suiteWith today’s retirement facilities costing a small fortune, increasing numbers of families are adding in-law suites to their homes to cut down on costs and enjoy a more “integrated family life.”

Mother-in-law suites, also referred to as in-law apartments, are becoming more and more common in the U.S. These kinds of dwelling units are created when grown children build private space on their own property for their aging parents or in-laws.

Legally, an in-law suite is called an accessory dwelling unit – an additional, separate living space located on a property where only one unit would typically be located. These suites are typically not part of a home’s original design – they are added to existing portions of a home.

Types of In-law Apartments

An in-law apartment might be in the form of an apartment over a garage or a basement suite. Other varieties are units attached to a single-family home or a living space completely detached from the home (think small guest house).

Legally, mother-in-law suites are required to have their own entrance, kitchen, living space and bathroom. Generally, they are anywhere from 300 to 700 square feet.

Most professional contractors suggest two important basics to consider when planning a mother-in-law suite: privacy and integration of spaces.

Zoning Issues

Before forging ahead, it’s important to realize that in many areas, mother in-law suites are not legal because they violate the zoning ordinances of the community. And some towns that allow in-law units place restrictions on who can live there, limiting occupancy to direct relatives.

Questions to Ask When Designing Your Mother-In-Law Suite

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to designing these spaces. Here are some questions to ask before you move forward on your additional living unit:

  • Which areas of the home will be shared spaces? Some areas that can go either way are usually the kitchen, laundry and entrances. This can be challenging for the different ages residing in the home, especially because most parents don’t want to be an intrusion in their children’s lives. Bottom line: make sure everyone has a voice in the matter.
  • Is a kitchen allowed? Research your local municipality’s requirements and zoning laws for in-law suites and multifamily dwellings.

At Republic West Remodeling, we’re proud of the more than 17,000 home remodeling projects we’ve completed since 1995 – kitchen and bath remodels, whole house remodels, outdoor living spaces, as well as room additions and mother-in-law additions in Phoenix – all projects that added sophistication, style, value and function to our clients’ homes.

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