in-law suite

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Backyard In-Law Suite in San Jose

Keeping family close is always important, and there may come a time when you need to have a family member stay at your home. Maybe they want to spend time with their grandchildren, or they’re planning on staying long-term. However, not every home is built to accommodate a growing occupancy. 

If a family member wants to move onto your property, you’ll need to construct a backyard in-law suite for them. An in-law suite can be made out of a converted garage, a basement, or an unattached guest house. What matters is that it’s a livable and comfortable space for your family. 

Here are seven mistakes to avoid when building an in-law suite in California. 

1. Ignoring Building Area Codes

A private in-law suite built on your property unattached from your main home still needs to meet building area codes for it to serve as a legal residence. These codes will tell you the limit of the additions you can include. Ignoring these codes could result in a lawsuit and future expenses that could have been avoided. In fact, a city or county can fine a homeowner for thousands of dollars per day to correct the issue or even take down the structure.

Many of these codes relate to fire safety, structural safety, and access compliance. You can find the codes for San Jose on the California Department of General Services website. 

2. Inadequate Planning

You may be in a time crunch, but you can’t rush a backyard in-law suite.

First of all, gather some mother-in-law suite ideas and pitch them to the person that’ll be living there. You want to be sure it’s up to their standards since it could end up serving as their new home. 

If you’re building the suite for your own purposes, adjust the design accordingly. A big, open space in the kitchen may be necessary if you host guests often. You would also design a home office very differently than you would a family residence. 

Most importantly, make sure the designs and materials are adequate for your city’s climate and weather. The type of insulation you use in a San Jose home will differ from one built in a colder city. 

3. Going DIY

Some people are all about DIY jobs and think they can build whatever they want with the right materials and enough time. They may also want to avoid the cost of labor. However, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking you can build an in-law suite by yourself without the right experience. 

Most people who try to DIY an expansion end up having to spend more on re-designs and correcting construction errors.  When in doubt, reach out to your local contractor to do the work they’re paid to do. 

4. Cheaping Out

You should never strictly go for the inexpensive option when it comes to any build. It may be enticing to accept the lowest bid from constructors, but you want the job done right, even if it means spending a little more. 

The actual cost of your in-law suite will depend on the site condition, the building’s design, and the cost of materials among other factors. 

Some things to take into account are insulation, interior furnishings, and plumbing. Skimping on these costs may result in inadequate living conditions and problems developing later on.  Not to mention a poorly built or low quality ADU can reduce your property value.

5. Overspending

While you want to avoid cutting corners on your in-law suite spending, you also shouldn’t spend too much money on it. Don’t give your constructor free reign with your funds or they may overcharge you on improvements or changes you didn’t need. Keep checking in with them to maintain some control over your finances and customize the suite to your liking. Or better yet, make sure the contractor proposes a specific budget in line with your own.

On a similar note, budget carefully when it comes to your construction materials. The last thing you want is to run out of funds to pay your contractor when there’s still plenty of work to be done. 

6. Wrong Location

Pick the location of your backyard in-law suite carefully. Building a standalone suite in your yard will take a lot more time than making an addition to your home. In many cases a good ADU builder will tell you the locations that you can legally build on, since much of it is up to the site condition and building department in your city.

7. Not Personalized

One mistake to avoid when building an in-law suite for another person is designing it by your own standards. Unless you’re personally going to use it, you need to design the suite according to what the occupant will need, but also think long term. These are big investments afterall. 

Do they need some accessibility options? If so, you may need to install assisted baths with handles and a ramp instead of steps at the entryway. The hallways and doorways will also need to be widened if the occupant uses mobility devices to get around. 

Some of the basic features all backyard homes need are built-in storage, an open layout, and useable outdoor space. However, it all depends on who is moving in. They may prefer a larger entertainment room over an outdoor space. 

Build a Mother-In-Law Suite With Value

Building an in-law suite isn’t a project you should rush or try to do completely on your own. Even if you’re into DIY, you should always reach out to an expert for help with the more technical aspects like plumbing and wiring. As long as you keep these mistakes in mind, you shouldn’t have too many problems with your build. If you need help with your backyard home or remodeling job, reach out to Acton ADU. We have 30 years of experience and can manage the entire building process for you. Contact us to learn more.

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