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The Top Mistakes in Building an In-Law Suite and How to Avoid Them

Though it's never fun to think about in advance, more and more families are now taking care of an elderly parent or relative at some point in time. This phenomenon is often referred to as joining the sandwich generation—caring for both aging parents and boomerang kids.

As a result, granny or mother-in-law suites additions have now become a common part of the modern home's layout. These suites are very popular for multi-generational homes because they allow older persons to have their own space and independence, while still being able to get assistance from their families when they need it.


In-law Suite Ideas

Each of the concerns mentioned below can have a significant impact on how your new or remodeled home looks and feels for you and your family. What you don’t want to do is discover how important these issues are after you’ve completed your project. That’s why it’s so important to work with a builder who can help you get it right the first time—so you don’t have to address these issues later (when it’s disruptive and more expensive).

Related: 4 Places In the Home For a Mother-in-Law Addition


Protecting Privacy in In-law Quarters

Togetherness is a wonderful thing—until it’s not. When you share your home with additional family members you’ll want to plan ahead so that everyone can protect his or her privacy. Many multi-generational homes have separate entryways for different family members. But even inside the home you’ll want to think about who has constant access to which spaces to avoid unwanted interruptions.



Often adding household members also means adding automobiles. Who gets to park in the garage? Will you need to add a parking bay? Where will additional vehicles go? Some neighborhoods don’t allow parking on the street, so you’ll have to take that into consideration. You might want to add a parking “pad” next to the garage to ensure that everyone can get in and out.


Adequate Utility Access

You may plan on adding an additional bathroom (for privacy and convenience) but you’ll want to make sure that your plumbing will handle it. Will you have enough water pressure if multiple people are showering at the same time? And you’ll also want to ensure that your electrical system can handle the extra load—particularly if you have multiple refrigerators, ranges, and air conditioning units running.


Make Sure Doorways Are Wide

Making room for mom in a mother-in-law suite. Doorways in the area that the older person will be living in should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or a walker. Even if the person using the mother-in-law suite does not need a wheelchair or walker at the time when they are moving in, it is important to consider that they might need one in the future. It is much easier to update the doorways in the suite prior to a relative needing a medical device to assist them with walking, than trying to do renovations after the relative has already moved in.


Roll-In Shower Or Walk-In Tub

The suite's bathroom should include a tub or a shower that will be able to accommodate someone with limited mobility, while minimizing the risk of falling. The bathtub is one of the most likely places to have an accident and aging seniors are much more likely to have severe injuries following a fall in their mother-in-law suite. Roll-in showers and walk-in tubs are also made to accommodate aging people who are using wheelchairs or walkers and want to be able to bathe without having to ask their family members for assistance.


Linoleum Or Vinyl Flooring With Rounded Corners

Though carpet might seem like a good idea when deciding on the appropriate flooring for a mother-in-law suite, it can actually have a negative impact on mobility. Shoes, canes and walkers usually cannot grip the floor as well on carpet, which increases the chances of a fall taking place. Furthermore, it is more difficult for people in wheelchairs to get around on carpeted flooring. The less accessible a suite is, the less independence its occupant will have, because they will have to ask for assistance with simple tasks like getting out of bed more often.


Raise The Toilet

In order to improve the accessibility of the bathroom, the toilet should be raised, which will make getting on and off less strenuous. This will reduce the chance of falls and make it easier for people using the mother-in-law suite that have to use a walker to use the toilet by themselves. Seniors and caregivers alike benefit from having an environment where the senior can move around independently and see to their needs with minimal dangers to their well-being.


Grab Bars In the Bathroom

Every bathroom in a mother-in-law suite should have grab bars in both the tub and next to the toilet. These bars will not only assist with getting in and out of the tub and using the toilet, but will also provide additional security in the event of a fall. Having grab bars in appropriate locations will allow both seniors and caregivers to feel more comfortable with the level of safety provided by the suite.


If creating a multi-generational home is something you’re thinking about, but you aren’t sure where to start, you might want to begin by talking to one of our Home Advisors. Set up a 10-minute phone consultation where you’ll hear about design trends, what other people in your situation are doing, and come away with a budget range that will let you know if your plan is feasible. You’ll also get answers to your questions and concerns. Creating a home for multiple generations can be a really good idea—if you plan carefully and take a few steps to keep things on the tracks!