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The Mother-in-Law Suite

The concept of multi-generational living has been on the rise for a number of years. Economically and emotionally, there is a big bonus for adding an area commonly known as a Mother-in-Law suite. It can be designed and be used for an older generation, who will stay at home in lieu of living in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. As a result, more Tulsa Homeowners are investigating the possibility of adding a special Mother-in-Law Suite to their Tulsa, OK home. This suite, when properly designed can offer as much independence as the individual desires while still meeting their security, comfort and care needs.

Mother-in-Law Suite Planning & Logistics

For the purposes of accessibility, the ideal mother-in-law suite should be located at ground level. Where finances and space allow, the suite should contain a separate entrance, a bedroom and bathroom, a small sitting area and even a small kitchenette. A doorway that provides access to the balance of the home, is the perfect way to have privacy while still allowing access to other members of a busy household. If getting from ground level to the first level of the home requires negotiating a set of stairs a custom inclined ramp can be added to accommodate an elderly parent that uses a wheelchair and/or a walker. In the event that Mother-in-Law suite can only be placed on a second level, a chair lift or elevator may be necessary to solve the problem of stairs for aging parents.

Technical Expertise

The Buckingham Group has the design and build services to create the ideal Mother in-Law suite for your home. We understand the needs of aging parents and how to best plan for future mobility and care concerns and/or the privacy needs of recent college graduates. Edward Kaplan, owner and design principle of The Buckingham Group has undergone special training through the National Association of Home Builders on how to deal with the special needs of an aging population. He is a graduate of their CAPS program and is recognized as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist.

1. Zoning and Permits

Permits for a Mother-in-Law suite can vary from city to city. Many cities require rezoning of the house to a house and a rental property if your in-law suite has a full kitchen and is considered a rentable addition to the house. To add a suite without rezoning, you may want to consider a wet bar kitchen without a cooktop or range. Using electrical appliances such as microwaves, tea kettles and toaster ovens may be adequate for your parent’s needs, or because of the economics involved you may eliminate the separate kitchen and create a communal kitchen wherein you share the existing kitchen with your parents.

If your home is not connected to a public sanitary sewer system, but is on a septic system you may have to modify the septic system in order to accommodate an additional bathroom. The Buckingham Group can help you determine what your system can support and what permits need to be considered.

2. Location

Since the Mother-in-Law suite needs to have the easiest access possible, you will want to carefully consider location. In addition, you will want to evaluate the dynamics of the multigenerational interface.

Some parents may want as much independence as possible and will want an attached but private space, or even a free-standing living area. Some families welcome the addition of a grandparent and will want to live more closely together. Depending on your parent’s needs and your situation, the location of the suite can be a very important factor.

One of the most common modifications that we have designed is to convert an existing garage into a welcoming living space and to add a new garage as the addition. The existing structure, utilities and foundation gives us a head start on the project. Adding a well-designed bathroom as well as a small kitchenette can be incorporated while simultaneously providing you the balance of space to develop into a bedroom, living room and storage. On occasion, we have been able to reallocate adjoining spaces to provided added flexibility to the design and function of the suite.

If your house has extra rooms that are not really needed, such as a formal dining room, four season porch or formal sitting room, it is possible to convert these rooms into an extra bedroom and a private bath for your parent. Another popular concept, is to convert surplus bedrooms into one suite. Often one or both of the bedrooms will have access to a bathroom which can be incorporated into the Mother-In-Law Suite potentially providing additional savings in construction costs.

Depending on both your parent’s needs and the layout of your existing home and property, the talented design team at The Buckingham Group can optimize the cost effective transformation of your home into the needed mother in law suite.

3. Utilities

Some homeowners have chosen to provide separate utilities for their in-law suite which makes it easier to rent in the future or to shut off the utilities when not in use. Unfortunately, in Tulsa proper, the individual metering of spaces can only be made effective when there are two separate buildings. As a result, most people have used existing utilities to feed both the original structure as well as the mother in law suite to comply with the power company’s regulations.

Another major convenience to consider, is the plan for installation of a clothes washer and drier. Where space is at a premium a stacked washer and drier may fit the bill. This installation, will allow an additional level of independence for your parent and provide you the added convenience of quickly cleaning bedding and clothes when care becomes more intensive. In-floor heating, or radiant heating, can be another welcome addition to an in-law suite. It keeps feet warmer and adds a level of luxury and comfort during the colder months. It is possible to add radiant heating to a pre-existing area, such as a bathroom, or plan to add it to the entire suite by using systems that are designed for retrofitting in an existing space.

Since aging adults have different temperature needs, you will want to make sure the suite has its own heating and air conditioning temperature controls. Giving the parent the controls to the lights and temperature of the suite can help him or her feel more comfortable.

In order to be in compliance with local building code requirements you will need to incorporate either a carbon monoxide detector or smoke detector A handy multi-purpose fire extinguisher will give an aging parent an additional element of security. While you are planning the wiring, think about where to add extra outlets, such as on both sides of the bed. And don’t forget to add a call button system or an intercom system.

4. Handicap access

Entryways need to be easily accessible to carports and garages, whenever possible, to make transportation easier. Handicapped ramps, wide sidewalks, extra railings and excellent lighting are important considerations. Wider doors and smooth thresholds allow for easy walker and wheelchair access.

It goes without saying that the in-law suite needs a bathroom built with handicap accessibility in mind. If you are utilizing an existing bathroom, remodeling it now before your parent moves in is the best idea for a smooth transition. Keep in mind future mobility issues to make life easier later on. The Buckingham Group can install low and no profile showers with no-slip tile, a built-in bench and shower grab bars for security. We can also recommend a raised toilet and additional grab bar positioning for added safety. Walk-in tubs with raised seating and hand-held shower wands can are an excellent option to consider.

Shelves and cabinets should have height considerations designed to accommodate an aging parent. You probably don’t want your parent to need a step stool to reach items that are out of reach from floor level. Drawers can be installed with easy-glide and easy-pull hardware.

5. Comfort and convenience

When designing your in-law apartment, you will want to consider what kind of flooring your parent would need. Soft, padded carpet would be ideal for someone prone to falling, but it can be difficult to walk steadily on. Hard floors are easy to clean and easy to glide a walker or wheelchair across, but they can look sterile. Throw rugs are tempting but are a tripping hazard. Discuss your options with your design expert at The Buckingham Group.

Storage is another important aspect to consider. Adding a walk-in closet will ensure your parent has room to bring important possessions and extra décor. A linen closet is necessary for the extra changes of clean linens and additional blankets and comfort throws needed in later life.

A comfortable sitting area and a nice window view will help your parent feel relaxed and healthy with a good daily dose of sunshine. Keeping all of these elements in mind, we can help you design your space for maximum efficiency for your in-law suite.


Get a free consultation today!

We’re here to help with these details as you consider improving your house with an additional suite. Call us today at (918) 624-2666 or email us to schedule a free consultation. We’re ready to provide you with the design build expertise that will create a beautiful space for your parent.