There are a number of different types of in-law quarter conversions than can be done in your home or around your property. While there are a number of different types of in-law quarter conversions, you will want choose the one that meets everyone’s needs and will also work with your existing home.
Creating a separate in-law quarters-style area in an existing home can be as simple as remodeling the basement, attic, or a seldom used part of the house. Renovate the garage or another type of outbuilding into an apartment. Also, build an addition either adjoined to the house or as freestanding structure. Depending on the scale of work, the job can cost anywhere from $5,000 up to $100,000.
There are several things to check before doing any types of in-law quarter conversions. You will want to check the local zoning regulations to see what the city, township, or homeowner’s association will and will not allow. Some places will not allow building a detached unit or will allow for one if there is not a bathroom in it. In other places, occupancy may be limited to direct relatives. This will restrict renting to someone who is unrelated.
Basement In-law Conversion
Because they are usually a spacious area and already close to the home’s plumbing and electrical systems, basements are the perfect location/area of the house to convert into in-law quarters. The interior staircase will provide access to the rest of the house—though climbing and descending stairs may be an issue for elderly relatives with mobility issues.
Converting it into an apartment-style area can be quite simple. If the basement is already finished, the area just needs to be divided into rooms. As well, you’ll need to add a kitchenette and bathroom. It will be a bigger project if the basement is unfinished. The walls will need to be framed, insulated, and drywalled. Then you’ll need to install flooring and lighting.
If your home is built into a slope and has a walk-out basement, the in-law quarters can have a private entrance and windows. If the basement is entirely below ground level, add egress windows to allow for natural lighting as well as warm electrical lights. Just because it is the basement does not mean it needs to feel/look like a basement.
The main downfall of converting the basement into in-law quarters is the loss of storage space, office, family room, playroom, or whatever else you were using the basement for.
Attic or Area Above The Garage
You can also convert the attic or above the garage if you have space. To do so, the attic must have enough habitable space. In most places this is 70 square feet where the ceiling is over 5 feet high.
Converting the attic will be more difficult than converting the basement. The space will need to be insulated. Also, you will most likely need to reinforce the floor joists. If needed, add windows or skylights. This will provide more natural lighting. Furthermore, you’ll have to extend plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Stairs, whether an interior staircase that provides access to the rest of the house or an exterior staircase that provides a private entrance, may be an issue for elderly relatives with mobility issues.
Converting the attic or space above the garage will also result in losing that area for storage.
Whether the garage is attached or detached, it can be converted into a living space. A two-bay garage will make a nice sized apartment space. A one-bay garage will only be big enough for a bedroom and small bathroom. If there is attic space above the garage, this can also be incorporated into the apartment area. The garage bay door can be framed into a solid wall. As well, you can add doors and windows.
Garages already have the basics: foundation, walls, and a roof. Most garages are already tied into the home’s electric. Although, you’ll need to add additional lighting. Plumbing will need to be extended into the garage for the bathroom and kitchen sink. Heating and cooling systems will also need to be installed.
Because garages are on the ground level, stairs will not be an issue for elderly relatives with mobility issues.
The main downfall of this in-law conversion is that it will take away much needed parking spaces and storage area.
Unused Interior Space
If the basement, garage, or attic is unavailable, you may need to convert an area of the main living quarters. This in-law conversion works better if you have a larger house that has unused or seldom used rooms such as a dining room or an extra bedroom. Also, you can combine two or more rooms.
The upside to using an area in the main living quarters is that it is already framed and insulated. If necessary, it’s easy to extend electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. This is because of the close proximity.
The downside of converting an unused interior space is that it can cause privacy issues. Also, tight spaces can lead to stressful living situations.
External Property Structure
Another type of in-law conversion is to use external structures, such as sheds or workshops. It is not always an easy conversation though. These structures, which are usually just a shell with an unfinished interior, already have a foundation, walls, and a roof. The interior will need to be framed, insulated, and drywalled. Take into consideration safety and code compliance. This is because there may be plumbing, electrical, or HVAC issues. Some places will not allow plumbing to be installed in a detached space because that makes it a secondary dwelling on the property.
If converting an external structure into an apartment will not work because of plumbing issues, the structure can be converted in a home office, Man Cave, or She Shed to free up a room or rooms in the house that can then be used as an in-law quarters.
The upside of converting an external structure into in-law quarters is that it is on ground level. It also provides privacy and independence. The downside is losing the external structure for storage or as a workspace.
Built To Suite In-law Conversion
The most expensive, but also the easiest to design, is to build an addition or a separate structure. Either will have the advantage of the first-floor access.
An addition will share at least one wall with the existing house. Also, it can be tied into the home’s HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. A detached structure will need to be built from scratch. It will also require plumbing and heating that is separate from the existing house. The plumbing, electrical, and HVAC will also need to be installed separately from the existing house. A detached unit can be connected to the main house through a mudroom or covered walkway.
An addition or secondary structure will provide the most privacy and independence. But it will also result in the loss yard space.