An in-law suite has many potential benefits. It can bring a family closer together or be a comfortable, private place for out of town guests to stay.
Also known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU), guest rooms, or granny flats in-law suites are stand-alone, private living spaces. Their size and layout can vary but they usually contain a living space, bedroom, and bathroom. Many also include a kitchen.
Planning the in-law suite
It is important to decide on the purpose of the suite. If it is to bring a family closer together an attached dwelling can be the best choice. If the goal is to accommodate visitors then a stand-alone property could be best. There will inevitably be compromises on the desired layout versus costs.
Before making a final commitment to an in-law suite project there are several hurdles to clear. Each area has its city and municipal zoning ordinances and permits requirements. These cover maximum dimensions, positioning, parking requirements, lot size, and construction standards.
Fit for purpose?
In-law suites can be an extension to an existing home, a cellar, or a loft conversion. They can also be a stand-alone building but this option does present several challenges.
Depending on the location and the climate an in-law suite situated away from the main property could be too hot in summer and too cold to use in winter. if the intention is to occupy the property full time this would make the entire project a waste of time and money
Of course, it is important to strive for the best possible build quality for the lowest viable cost but take care. Choosing a supplier and/or material based on cost alone could be regretted in the long term. Insulate the property to ensure it is comfortable whatever the conditions.
An in-law suite for all climates
At one extreme if heating costs were of no concern then the type and efficiency of insulation would be of little interest. The opposite is true if the aim is to keep heating or cooling costs at an acceptable level. Many take an eco-minded approach to in-law suite construction and try to minimize wasted energy.
The BTU (British thermal unit) is widely used in the United States. The larger the room (its cubic area) the more BTU required to heat that room for a given insulation factor. The lower the insulation factor the higher the number of BTU. As BTU increase heating costs increase.
The insulation factor depends on the wall, roof, floor, and window materials and the type and thickness of any insulation. There are a variety of insulation materials available. Most are man-made but more eco-friendly alternatives can be sourced including wool and recycled paper.
Building materials have U and R values. The U value of a material is a measure of heat loss through that material. The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance. Local building regulations may require materials to have a minimum U Value.
Air must be able to circulate around insulation or it can cause dampness and condensation. Too little insulation is a problem but trying to cram in too much is a waste of material and money.
Building an in-law suite can solve family issues and potentially add value to a home but it must be fit for purpose. Insulating the property correctly can be overlooked or discarded as a non-essential cost. The implications of this decision may not be recognized until it is too late.