How to Plan and Build an In-Law ADU

How to Plan and Build an In-Law ADU

Here’s everything you need to know about an In-Law ADU before you start building it!

Adding a mother-in-law apartment to your property may be the solution for many of your problems. If you have an aging parent or in-laws, you might have already considered having them move in with you. That way, they’d be close enough so you could help them in their twilight years.

But what of their independence?

Around 64 million Americans live in multigenerational households. So, having your parents or your spouse’s parents move in with you isn’t exactly a novel idea. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a massive adjustment for everyone involved. 

Both you and your parents or in-laws have grown accustomed to a certain level of privacy and independence. You have your own routines and habits that aren’t exactly easy to break. Moving in together might solve some of your issues, but it will be emotionally and physically straining.

Building an ADU in your backyard and moving your in-laws into it will effectively solve this issue. An ADU offers more independence to your in-laws (more than they’d have if they were to move into your single-family home) while keeping them close by.

What Is a Mother-In-Law Apartment? | In-Law ADU

in-law adu california

Mother-in-law suites or granny flats are accessory dwelling units that you can build in your back yard and use according to your wishes and needs. You can house a family member, friends, relatives, or rent out. 

It’s an additional space that’s separate from your primary residence, which ensures that anyone who stays in it will have their own space and privacy and won’t disrupt your day-to-day activities.

In-law apartments are essentially guest houses that are completely equipped. They have a full kitchen and bathroom as well as other living spaces (such as a living room and a bedroom or other sleeping arrangements). 

In other words, these types of ADUs are great both for long-term and short-term stays. If your in-laws are visiting, a mother-in-law suite will make their stay more comfortable. Considering that the average person can’t spend as much as four consecutive hours with their family over the holidays, having a separate space for everyone is a fantastic idea.

On the other hand, if you want them to move in with you, an ADU will ensure there’s as little adjustment as possible.

Pros and Cons of Building an In-Law ADU

The running joke about having your in-laws move in with you is that the most significant benefit is that they’ll live with you, but the biggest drawback is that they’ll actually live with you

However, if we look at it objectively (instead of through the lens of statistics), we’ll see that there are more pros than cons to living in a multigenerational household.

The Pros:

The beauty of ADUs is that they are a great benefit for everyone involved. You, your family members, and your kids will (probably) reap more benefits than you initially imagined. Plus, there’s also a substantial financial gain.

With an ADU in your backyard, you’ll be able to:

  • save money on senior housing
  • save money on childcare
  • have parents close to you
  • increase your property value
  • use the ADU for years, according to your needs

Senior living can cost anywhere between $2.765 and $9.000. In California, that cost is somewhere around $4.500, which is substantial (even though it falls in the middle of the average cost scale). 

Building an ADU is a bigger cost upfront (given its average price of $156.000), but once you make it, you’ll cut the living expenses of your parents or in-laws by quite a bit. Not to mention, as an investment, ADUs retain value and increase the overall value of your property

Aside from the financial benefit, you’ll also have your aging in-laws closer to you, and you’ll be able to take care of them or have them take care of the upcoming, younger generations.

in-law suite northern california

The Cons:

If you’re considering home additions, you have to look at the entire picture. ADUs have a myriad of benefits, but adding a mother-in-law apartment doesn’t come without drawbacks.

Generally speaking, the cons of ADUs are:

  • increase of the utility costs
  • the process of figuring out and abiding by the zoning laws
  • the drawbacks of renting

No matter who’s using the ADU, you’ll see a big jump in your electric and water bills. Even if your in-laws don’t move in full time, occasional use for extended visits will cost you when it comes to the utilities. Of course, that cost will be significantly lower than the cost of senior living, as mentioned.

Since you can use your ADU for more than just housing your in-laws, it’s also essential to think about potential renting. If you’re going to rent it out to strangers, it’s wise to get an additional insurance policy to protect your investment.

Planning the In-Law ADU Units

Once you’ve decided to bite the bullet and build an ADU for your in-laws, you’ll have to think about making a plan. We’ve already discussed that an ADU project takes great consideration. You have to think about making blueprints, budgeting, zoning laws, house plans, floor plans, etc. Not to mention, you need to find the right ADU builder.

In order to make a good plan for your mother-in-law apartment, ask yourself the following:

  • How much space do you need?
  • How much space can you afford?
  • Which type of ADU is the best choice for you?
  • Which floor plan works best for you — a studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom ADU?

These are the fundamental questions that you need to answer before you start the project.

Positioning and Space

Generally speaking, the positioning of your future ADU will depend on the layout of your property. You’ll probably build your in-laws’ suite in your backyard, but you’ll also have to check your area’s zoning laws before you actually make that decision.

Depending on the ADU requirements in your area, you’ll determine the size of your future ADU. Each area has minimal living area requirements, so, based on that, you’ll know which part of your property is the ideal spot for your project.

Alternatively, if your yard is big enough for any size of ADU, you’ll have to think about your budget. The bigger the ADU, the bigger the costs. Not to mention, you’ll also have to consider whether building a large secondary dwelling is a smart move. If you plan on using it to work from home later on or as a guest house, creating a large residence doesn’t make sense.

Types of ADUs

Another thing to consider is the type of ADU you need. You can opt for a:

  • detached ADU
  • attached ADU
  • interior conversion ADU (like a finished basement or an attic)
  • external conversion ADU (like a garage conversion)

Floor Plans

When it comes to floor plans, you have several options. You can pick between a:

  • studio
  • one-bedroom
  • two-bedroom apartment

Studios are the smallest versions of ADUs available. However, just because they are small doesn’t mean they aren’t practical. An open plan is beneficial for the elderly because it creates the sense of a bigger space, but it cuts down on cleaning and maintenance time.

A one-bedroom ADU is the most common layout because it’s an excellent choice for both a single in-law and a couple. A separate bedroom provides enough privacy and allows for a higher level of space personalization.

Two-bedroom ADUs aren’t that common, but they provide unique rental possibilities. They are easier to rent out and offer a potentially higher income. Of course, they do require that you have enough space to build them in the first place.

granny flat

Design Tips for Your Mother-In-Law Suite

Not all decisions about your future ADU are real estate-related. To ensure that your future mother-in-law apartment is a home and not just an impersonal backyard cottage, you’ll have to ensure that the overall design fits your in-laws’ needs.

The best way to do that is to:

  • think about orientation to allow enough natural light
  • prioritize safety with wide hallways, grab bars in the bathroom, a security system, etc.
  • ensure there’s enough storage space, so your in-laws don’t have to part with their belongings due to downsizing
  • maximize the kitchen area
  • ensure privacy with soundproofing and positioning

Build An In-Law ADU That Your Mother Will Adore — With Cedar!

Here at Cedar, we have strong family values and understand that building an ADU is often a family-driven decision. That’s why our team will do their best to provide you with a plan that:

  • takes into consideration all of your (and your in-laws’) needs
  • results in a fully functional ADU that has the optimal layout
  • provides enough privacy and independence to each of your family members

So, if you’re ready to embark on the adventure that is multigenerational living, give us a call! We’ll gladly help you every step of the way! Our turn-key solutions will ensure that you and your family build an ADU of your dreams and live together in harmony.