If you’re thinking about building a mother-in-law suite, then you’re not alone. Multi-generational households are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population, according to the 2016 census and the Vanier Institute of Family.

With senior living facilities costing between $2,000 and $5,000 per month, building a mother-in-law suite might make the most financial sense.

But you probably also want to make sure your mother-in-law enjoys living with you and your family. So before you make any decisions, here are six things you need to think about before you have those mother-in-law suite plans drawn up. 

But first…

What is a Mother-in-Law Suite?

A typical mother-in-law suite is an independent living space either:

  • connected to the main home, such as in the basement or a small home extension, or
  • in an external, separate structure, like a small cottage or a converted garage.

A basic mother-in-law suite has a bedroom and full bathroom. But of course, we encourage you to think about what would suit your family, your lifestyle and your mother-in-law. You can also design your suite to include additional rooms, such as a sitting room or a small kitchen, if it will make the living experience more enjoyable for you.

Now, let’s move onto our tips…

1. Plan For Current and Future Use(s)

Your building plans should reflect what will make your mother-in-law happy while she’s living with you and how you would like to use the space in future.

Would you like to rent it out one day?

You don’t have to rely on a resale to get a return on your in-law suite investment. How would you feel about renting it out before or after your mother-in-law moves in? AirBnB could bring you short-term paying guests, while a traditional rental agreement could bring you long-term tenants.

If either of those options appeal to you, you should also use the suite’s design and amenities to provide a great experience for your guests. For example, your mother-in-law may not need or want her own kitchen, but future tenants possibly would.

Pro Tip: Consider keeping the electricity separate if you plan to rent the space to other people, outside of your family. The tenant can be responsible for their own power, heat and A/C. You can also shut the unit down when it’s not being lived in.

Do you have small children that may grow up and want to live in the suite while at university?

1.9 million adult Canadian children still live with their parents. Would one of your children want to live in the suite later in their life? How would that affect the way you design the space?

Renovations are increasingly common, so you don’t need to have all the answers right now. You can always renovate the suite many years from now.

But it is helpful to talk about any future plans you have for the space (even if they feel vague), so that we future-proof the building process you’re going through now and maximize the results of your investment in the suite. 

2. Choose the Location of the Mother-in-Law Suite

Before you build, take a look around your home for the best place to build or convert. You may able to transform your porch or garage into an enclosed suite, for example. If you’re wanting a larger sized suite, it’s often possible to combine two rooms to make a suite such as the dining room and den. 

However, if you need to build a new addition, look for areas along the first floor next to a room you don’t utilize much. A space near an existing bathroom may work best and help keep your costs down. 

If you’re struggling to visualize the best location, talk to a renovation team that you trust. They do this kind of work everyday and can easily help you clarify what is possible with the existing layout of your home and your block.

3. Check Zoning Laws

Pro Tip: Your renovation team will take this off your hands, so you don’t need to worry about it.

Every city and municipality has its own set of zoning ordinances and permits requirements. Before you start, you must find out if you can legally build on your property, especially if you plan on building a separate residence rather than an attachment and/or converting part of your main home. 

It will be cheaper (and less frustrating) if you learn which laws and permits you must adhere to before you begin building. 

4. Consider Accessibility Issues

Your mother-in-law suite plans should also include ways to prevent potential home hazards and challenges. Many ways to increase the safety for an ageing relative are inexpensive such as:

  • Grab bars
  • Handrails
  • Reinforced walls
  • Mood-boosting paint colours
  • Non-slip flooring
  • Wide doorways and hallways

Even if your parent is still mobile, it’s easier to make these types of adjustments during the planning stages rather than having to install them after something happens. 

Plan to Make Life Easy for You

These safety-enhancements won’t just prevent slips and falls, they’ll also make cleaning up easy. If you’re going to be someone’s primary caretaker, the less work for you, the better. 

You may even consider installing an alarm if you have a loved one with cognitive memory problems. 

5. Get An Accurate Picture of How Much It Will Cost

It’s natural to want to know how much it will cost to build your mother-in-law suite, but the honest answer is that it depends.

It depends on:

  • the current layout of your home
  • the layout of your block of land
  • zoning regulations
  • the materials you want to use
  • how elaborate your design is, and more.

Most of the ballpark figures we see on the internet seem rather low. For example, if you’re someone who appreciates high-quality fixtures (like our customers), then those figures will probably not apply to you.

The best way to get an accurate picture of how much it will cost for you is to speak to a renovation team that can give you a personalized quote. 

Even if the price they quote is higher than you hoped or expected, it’s a one-time, up-front cost. However, monthly rent for a senior care facility often ranges between $24,000 and $60,000 annually. And those costs don’t include water, utilities, medical costs or care.  

6. Consider Future, Ongoing Expenses

It is common for us to plan for all the short-term expenses when building a mother-in-law suite. But there are a few ongoing expenses that you may want to keep in mind too. For example:

  • Your utility costs, especially for water and electricity will increase, when you have an additional person in the house.
  • You may have to pay additional insurance costs. Check with your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if it’ll cover an additional dwelling.
  • If you plan on renting out your suite, you may need to buy additional landlord insurance. 

We’d Love To Help You Build Your Mother-in-Law Suite

We know it can feel overwhelming to start any renovation project when there are so many options out there. But if you work with a good builder (like us), then they will take a lot of the stress and guesswork out of the process for you.

Are you in Calgary and want to build a mother-in-law suite? Please consider our HOME RENOVATIONS SERVICES. We help build on your vision to make it the best possible result. At the end of the project, we want you to say: “I knew what I wanted but it turned out so much better than expected.”