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Changing Traditions - Adding a Custom Suite to your Home

Changing Traditions - Adding a Custom Suite to your Home

In the past few years, many people have encountered a dilemma when trying to become home owners.  For some, it is a response to the new mortgage rules—they simply don’t qualify on their own.  For others, such as new parents or those with aging parents, they are trying to figure out how best to care for their loved ones, while maintaining their jobs/careers.   

Regardless of the cause, an incredible number of people are choosing to either invest together on a home or allow a nanny, child or children, siblings, or parents an opportunity to live in one’s home by adding on or renovating to create a separate living space, often referred to as the ‘in-law’ suite.  Unlike some other custom home renovations, there are a number of unique parameters to consider when planning a separate ‘suite’.  Here are just a few of many considerations:

  1. Permit/Plan Restrictions:  Municipalities may have specific restrictions (by-laws) regarding what elements can be included in an ‘in-law’ suite.  Contacting your local building department in advance of initiating a design is essential to determining whether elements such as a separate entrance, or kitchen, among other things can be included.  Depending on your home layout, another question may be whether bedrooms are permitted to be in your basement.  Knowing about restrictions (if any) is imperative prior to establishing a design.
  1. Kitchen:  If there are no by-law restrictions, one of the biggest decisions you will encounter is to determine if there will be a kitchen included in the new space.  Are you sharing some spaces, or will you establish an entirely independent unit within your home?  Will it be smaller or something of equal size to your own space?  That decision may be a reflection of whether the new resident(s) are investing equally in the home, or are moving in for other reasons - are they fully self-reliant or are they dependent in some ways?  Is a family member or nanny going to want or need to prepare his/her own meals and will they be able to entertain others in their new space?  Budget, the area available, and plumbing access to accommodate a separate kitchen or kitchenette will all be considerations for your decision.
  1. Space/Entry/Accessibility:  Independence, mobility, and privacy are considerations for a number of elements in the proposed new space.  If independence or accessibility is, or may become a factor, then an ‘accessible’ entrance needs to be considered along with a layout that will minimize obstacles.  Putting an ‘in-law’ suite on the main floor is the most practical option with regard to accessibility for everyone.  Having an additional interior shared entry for convenience and safety is certainly a benefit too.  If this space must be in a lower level (subject of course to possible by-law restrictions), keep in mind that access and egress windows must meet building codes.  It is also essential to consider sufficient and strategically placed lighting both inside and out for function and safety.  If this is a shared investment it is likely to mean that there will be conversations about equal space and access - how can the home best accommodate that?
  1. Style/Design:  Uniformity in style is essential to a harmonious transition between these spaces – keep this in mind for both inside and outside aesthetics.  Despite being separate units, consistency throughout will help you to maintain your homes’ charm and resale value.  Hard surfaces such as hardwood, tile, or laminate are better choices than carpet if mobility is, or will be a factor.  Whenever possible, choose easy to clean, high-quality, and durable products to maximize efficiency, longevity, and thus your investment.  Continuity in design is more appealing to a new buyer that may need to only make small changes to accommodate their own lifestyle.
  1. Privacy:  Equally important is the need for privacy for all parties.  After all, combining households or welcoming a nanny can be a big change for all; design this new space to accommodate an effective layout, sound reduction, and personal storage options, as just a few critical considerations.

While this new amalgamation of living space may be made out of necessity, it is crucial to design this space and make style choices that will make all family members or guests feel like they are truly at home. 

At Vanderzalm Construction Inc. we have significant experience in Niagara custom buliding, construction and renovations to accommodate separate suites.  We work closely with our clients to build spaces that reflect their personal tastes while meeting their new lifestyle needs. 

If you need a custom home renovation in the Niagara region – Call us today!

(905)562-4463 or (905)684-5823.