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The Basement as an In-Law-Suite

As assisted living costs continue to rise, many aging Canadians are choosing to live with their grown children. It’s an affordable option and contributes to a senior’s emotional well-being by allowing him/her to be surrounded by family. Rather than inhabiting the spare bedroom, these retirees are moving into private In-Law-Suites. Sometimes called a granny suite or a multigenerational unit, an In-Law- Suite is a small apartment (usually 300 to 700 square feet) located in a private home for the purpose of housing an aging family member. These living quarters allow aging parents to reside with their children while maintaining a modicum of privacy and independence. Your basement is the perfect location for an In-Law-Suite! Basement space is often underutilized and the costs for renovating a basement are approximately half that of building an above-grade addition. If you have aging parents that would benefit from the consistent presence and support of their family, a basement In-Law-Suite may be right for you.

There are many things to bear in mind when planning and developing a multigenerational unit in your basement.

  1. Consider your parent’s current and future needs: Make sure the accommodations are made to age with your parents. Install a curbless shower with a seat, grab bars and a handheld shower head. Choose wide doors with lever style handles and raised cabinets that can accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. It’s less expensive to incorporate these elements during construction than to retrofit them at a later date.
  2. Provide ample lighting: Enlarge existing windows and/or add more. Layer multiple light sources to make reading and computer tasks easier for your aging parent.
  3. Keep it warm: Make sure your relative is warm and cozy. Install a separate thermostat in the suite and consider supplemental heating. An electric baseboard heater, a gas fireplace, a space heater or an infrared heating unit are all good choices.
  4. Plan for independence: Include a bedroom, kitchenette, bathroom, dining and living area to help your parent maintain as much independence as possible.
  5. Maximize privacy: Utilize soundproofing to keep noise from travelling from one living space to another. To insure privacy, use a door to create an entry vestibule at the base of the basement stairs.
  6. Find a certified contractor: Look for a contractor who specializes in basement finishing and has built In-Law-Suites. They will provide advice and design ideas to help customize your basement suite to suit the needs of your relative. They will know the codes and regulations and help you apply for building permits.
  7. Relax and spend time with your family: After completing the planning and construction, take time to connect and bond with your aging parents. Help them to settle in their new home and establish privacy parameters.

With good planning and an experienced contractor, you can create a second residence in your basement that will assist your aging parents and add value to your home. When no longer needed, it will easily transition into a home office, guest quarters, a rental suite or a space for that 20 something offspring that is between graduation and the first job.

To transform your basement into a safe, comfortable In-Law-Suite, trust the Calgary basement experts, Econo Basements. Call them at (403) 768-0256 or email