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Do you need to make modifications to your Des Moines home to accommodate your in-laws, a grandparent, or another family member or friend? Multi-generational living is becoming more popular in the United States. It could be to save some money, care for an aging loved one, or to give your children the benefit of forming a closer relationship with a relative. Whatever the case for you personally, creating an in-law space that meets the needs of all parties is the key to making the living situation a successful one. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Define Needs and Limitations
Prior to your remodel or new build, it is important to be clear on expectations and limitations. Privacy and independence are important factors to consider when designing for a multi-generational household so including a private entrance, bathroom and seating area should make the list of must haves. Depending on the situation, you may also want to consider adding a kitchenette with a cooktop, mini-fridge, microwave, and sink. Consider your in-laws’ mobility when choosing the space; will stairs be a challenge, do cabinets need to be at a specific level for easy access, will dimly lit areas be hazardous? By understanding their needs, wishes and limitations, neither party will be disappointed with the outcome.
Determine a location
Once you know your expectations and limitations you can more easily choose a location for your in-law space. If the budget and property allow, you can build a free-standing structure on the property that is unattached to the main house. This will be a more costly endeavor, but it will also provide more privacy as well as more independence for your relatives. If you’re looking for an easier or less expensive option, consider converting an underutilized space in the house like a garage, basement, attic, or extra bedroom. Here are some specifics about converting existing spaces:
Typically, a garage will already have the square footage you need, however, it may not be habitable as is. While you may already have a solid foundation, a private entrance, a functional roof, electricity, and finished drywall, you will need to add insulation, a heating and cooling unit, water and sewer hookups, additional outlets as well as windows. In addition to this, you will need to ensure that you are meeting the habitable building codes for kitchen equipment and a full bathroom. Lastly, you will need to replace the garage door with framing, insulation, and drywall for a finished look.
If your home currently has a finished basement, converting it into an in-law suite is fairly easy and affordable. You may need to frame out a wall to create separate spaces for a sitting area with a kitchen and a bedroom. Adding a kitchen and a bathroom can be done relatively easily as you can tap directly into the existing plumbing. If you have an unfinished basement, you will have a lot more work to do. Basements tend to collect a lot of moisture and be a risk for flooding, so it’s imperative that everything is sealed tightly and any existing moisture be ameliorated with a dehumidifier or sump pump. Basements also tend to be dimly lit which can be an issue for someone with failing eyesight. You may want to install some windows and additional recessed lighting to create a safer, well-lit environment.
If you decide to use your attic space, be sure that it’s easily accessible — narrow ladders and stairways can be dangerous, and as such, residential building code states that the stairway should be at least 36 inches wide. Additionally, the code for converting an attic space also stipulates that there should be at least 70 square feet of where the ceiling height is five feet or higher. Aside from abiding by the city codes, also take into consideration that heat rises so attics tend to get quite warm and stuffy. You may want to add additional vents, windows, and skylights to ensure decent airflow. Apart from that, be sure the space is insulated and vented for the existing HVAC system for the house.
A typical guest bedroom may not be enough space and privacy for someone who is living with you full time so look at the big picture. Take a long look at the blueprint of the home and imagine your unused space reconfigured. You may have a dining room that is never used that is near a guest bath and bedroom, by changing the layout and moving some existing walls, this can easily be transformed into a mini apartment for your in-laws. You may also want to consider adding an additional exterior door so that they have their own entrance.
If you’d like to talk more about creating an in-law space in your Des Moines home, or if there’s something else we can be of assistance with, please get in touch. We’re always happy to help.