What is an In-Law Suite?

May 12, 2023

Building an in-law suite is becoming an increasingly popular choice for individuals and couples as they approach retirement age, allowing aging family members to maintain their independence while still being close to loved ones.

When considering building an in-law suite, there are several options available, including converting existing space, building an attached addition, or constructing a detached unit, each with its own unique advantages and considerations. We will explore the different options for building an in-law suite and the additional considerations to keep in mind when planning and constructing one.

Independent Living Costs in VA – $3656/mo*
Average figured from 2023 cost data provided by senior living communities in Virginia Beach and compiled by Caring.com

Why is it called an in-law suite?

The term “in-law suite” refers to a self-contained living space within a home that is typically designed for one or two people and includes a bedroom, bathroom, and often a small kitchen and living area. This type of living space is often used for parents or other family members who need to live with their adult children and their families.

Alternative Names for an In-Law Suite

  • Mother-in-Law Suite
  • Granny Flat
  • Guest Dwelling
  • Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU)

In-Law Suite Options

There are many options available when building an in-law suite, including space conversions, attached additions, and detached additions. Each option has its own unique benefits and considerations, making it important to carefully evaluate your specific needs and preferences before deciding on a build option. Consulting with a professional contractor or designer can help ensure that you choose the best option for your situation.

Building Options

When considering the addition of an in-law suite to your home, the main decision to make is what type of build option you want to pursue. There are several options available, including converting existing space, such as a garage or basement, into a living area, building an attached addition that blends seamlessly with your home’s existing design, or constructing a detached unit on your property. Each option has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and the available space on your property.

Garage Conversion
Converting a garage into an in-law suite can be a cost-effective way to create a separate living space. This option can be particularly attractive if the garage is attached to the house and can be easily accessed.
Unused Space

If you’re considering utilizing unused space in your home for an in-law addition, you’ll want to be sure it is on a main level and has enough space to include a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette. If it’s not large enough, you may need to consider adding square footage to your home with an attached addition.

Garrett Addition | In-Law Suite

Attached Suite Addition | Remodel: Garrett Addition

Attached Addition

Adding an addition to the home could be a more expensive option than a space conversion but can provide more flexibility in terms of the size and layout of the in-law suite.

After Hatchett remodeled their home in Hampton Roads, the Morgans hired our team again to renovate their vacation home.
Detached Addition with Breezeway | Remodel: Morgan River Addition
Free Standing Addition
If space and zoning regulations allow, it may be possible to build a separate, detached unit on the property to serve as an in-law suite.

Add convenience with a breezeway to connect the main house with the in-law addition.

Additional Things to Consider Before Building an In-Law Suite

There are many additional things to consider before building an in-law suite, such as zoning regulations, building codes, and permits. However, with Hatchett Design Remodel, you can trust that our experienced team will handle all these details for you, making the process seamless and stress-free. We will work closely with you to ensure that your in-law suite is designed and built to meet your specific needs and preferences, while also adhering to all necessary regulations and requirements.

Kitchenette in Bass In-Law Suite Addition

Kitchenette with Shaker Cabinets & Easy-to-Grab Handles | Remodel: Bass In-Law Suite Addition

Building Codes
A typical in-law suite design includes a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. But some cities only allow a kitchenette for a single-family home addition. If you build an addition with a full kitchen or build the addition as a free-standing unit, it may be zoned as an “affordable dwelling unit” which requires a separate permit. Every city is different, so check with your city on its building codes.
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Ultracraft Stickley Pepper Vanity and Kohler Corbelle Comfort Height® Toilet| Remodel: Threat Farmhouse Bathroom
Septic Considerations
If you are on a septic system, you will need to check your septic permit as well. Many times, the plumbing for a septic system is designed for and limited to a three-bathroom dwelling. Building a new bathroom in your addition may require you to increase the size of your septic system.
Lipcius kitchen complete - transitional, mid century modern, shaker, two tone, peninsula, Dekton countertops
Mid-Century Modern Kitchen with Dekton Countertops | Remodel: Lipcius Kitchen Remodel
Independent Power
Consider installing a separate power and heating & air conditioning system for your in-law suite addition, as this would enable you to easily turn off the utilities when the space is unoccupied and monitor usage if you choose to rent it out or sell the property in the future.
Bass In-Law Suite Bathroom with Universal Design Elements

Universal Design Elements in Bathroom | Remodel: Bass In-Law Suite Addition

Universal Design
When building an in-law suite addition, it is important to incorporate universal design principles, including accessibility features such as wider doorways, threshold-free showers, shower benches, and grab bars, while ensuring the overall design is aesthetically appealing to a wide range of people.

7 Key Features for a Universal Design Bathroom

One of the main places where universal design is important is in the bathroom.


If you’re considering adding an in-law suite to your home, our design team at Hatchett Design Remodel can help. Our certified aging-in-place specialists have the expertise needed to create a mother-in-law suite that meets your unique needs and preferences.

Contact us to schedule a consultation with our design team. Remember, it costs nothing to ask, and we’d love to help you create a home that’s beautiful, safe, and accessible for your multigenerational family.

The Hatchetts - Michael, Don, and Meghan

FAQs About Aging-In-Place and Suite Additions

What does it mean to be a Certified Aging in Place Specialist?

Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) can help you create a safer and more comfortable living environment in your home using universal design principles. Their expertise goes beyond design considerations to include common remodeling projects, accessibility issues, product recommendations, codes and standards, and the process and resources needed to provide a complete aging in place solution. With a CAPS professional by your side, you can trust that your unique needs as a senior will be met with reliable and effective solutions.

Learn more about what a Certified Aging in Place Specialist can do. 

How much does an in-law suite cost?

The cost of building an in-law suite can vary widely depending on several factors such as the size and complexity of the project, the materials used, and the location. In general, building an in-law suite can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 or more, depending on these and other factors.

Financing options can make the cost of building an in-law suite more affordable, allowing homeowners to create a comfortable and functional living space for their loved ones without breaking the bank.

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