8 Things to Consider Before Adding an In-Law Suite

In-law suite additions have been a growing trend in the United States. However, moving in with family is nothing new. That trend began in the US during and after World War II, to help ease some of the housing issues created by the war. Fast forward to 2014, and a record 60.6 million people live with multiple generations under one roof (according to a recent analysis of Census data by the Pew Research Center). Adding space for family members, particularly aging parents, does come with an upfront investment. However, homeowners are able to see the long-term benefits, both financial and familial. 

An in-law suite addition is a private space for in-laws and parents that is attached to or located on the same lot as their grown child’s house. Most in-law suites are custom-built home additions, though basements, converted garages, and stand-alone guest houses are also common. These types of additions are also known as “mother-in-law suites” or “granny apartments.”

Are you thinking about adding a space like this to your home? While we can’t help you with any potential in-law strife, we do have a lot of expertise regarding the actual construction of an in-law suite. Here are eight things to consider:


1.    Cost. Of course the bottom line is important, but the cost is going to vary greatly based upon your needs. Renovating a basement can be a fairly inexpensive option, and building a totally new structure with high end finishes is much more. Ideally, your in-law suite should include everything needed for independent living, such as a separate bedroom, living area, bathroom, and kitchen. Adding all of these elements will put your cost somewhere between $40,000 and $125,000 on average. Because this could add significant value to your house, there are a few different ways to approach it financially, and having a conversation with your home mortgage company would be a good start. 

2.    Local Building Codes. Your typical in-law suite design would include utilities and space needed for a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. Your local zoning rules will have specific requirements for these additions, and may put restrictions on exactly what type of kitchen you can add because in some areas a full kitchen turns the property into a “rentable space.” We have much experience with these laws and can advise you in this arena if it’s something you are unsure about. 

3.    Septic Systems. If you are on a septic system, you will need to check your septic permit as well. You will want to understand the capacity and location of your existing system, in order to assess whether or not it can handle the addition without any work. 

4.    Location, location, location. Are you wanting the new suite attached to your home or would you prefer that it be designed as a guest house? If attached, consider how the addition will be accessed and how it will affect the flow of your floor plan. If detached, consider ease of access for the resident from the main house as well as from the parking area. Depending on proximity to the house, a detached unit can be connected by a covered walkway.

5.    Independent Power. You may want to consider keeping your addition on its own source of power, heat and air conditioning. This would allow you to shut off the power if the unit is unoccupied for an extended period of time, and it would also allow you to keep track of usage if you or a future homeowner chooses to rent out that space. 

6.    Universal Design. Do your parents have special needs that need to be met, such as wheelchair accessibility or grab bars for the bath? They may not now, but your in-laws probably plan on aging in a place once they move in. Be proactive and make sure their new accommodations are made to age with them. This includes installing pull-out drawers, shower seats, adjustable sinks, and other appropriate amenities. Having a space that is accessible to people with a wide range of abilities may help you in unknown ways down the road. There may be a day when you are very glad you considered this before breaking ground.

7.    Design for the Future. Maybe your parents aren’t ready to move in with you now, but you’d like to keep the option open in the future. Are there other things you could do with the space in the meantime? Are you able to rent it out? Use it as an office or simply a guest room? Could it work as an apartment for your own adult children in a few years? 

8.    Financial Sense. Adding on is a significant investment, but it can also be a wise one. It may be a more affordable option than long-term nursing care, for one thing. In a 2017 report, it was found that the national average cost for semi-private and private nursing home rooms has continued to grow in recent years, with private rooms costing nearly $8,500 a month. It may also increase the value of your house or property. There are many factors to consider when determining the financial viability of the endeavor. 

Retrofitting your home for a loved one is no small task. You will need space and specific design elements. But take note that in-law suites don’t necessarily have to be big in size. And in many cases, the benefits of having parents close by far outweighs the costs. 

At WHC, we have experienced contractors who can help you wade through these issues and more to maximize your space and budget. We have the necessary construction knowledge and a passion for helping our customers reach their specific construction goals. If you have just started thinking about an addition on your house and want to talk with an expert about your space, or you have thought it all out in your head already and want to relay your vision to someone who can make it happen – or somewhere in between – we are here to help. Contact us today for a free estimate!

How to Choose the Best Countertops for Your Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart and soul of a home.  Initially, the idea of renovating this space is exhilarating.  However, once you are faced with seemingly endless choices - cabinets, countertops, lighting, hardware, and appliances - the exhilaration can turn to panic.

Taken element by element, your kitchen renovation can be managed to produce beautiful results.  Let’s start with countertops.

Countertops are available in a vast array of material, colors, finishes and price ranges.  Many of us remember laminate counters from our childhoods. Granite seems to be everywhere these days.  But those are only the beginning of the available options.

Before choosing your new countertop, carefully and honestly assess your household and lifestyle.  You might adore a marble countertop you have seen on a baking show, but unless you are willing to meticulously maintain it, marble may not be a great choice for you.  Read on to learn more about what might work in your new kitchen.


  • Granite is the most popular countertop choice in new kitchens today.  It’s natural, unique, durable, and impressive. Because granite is a naturally occurring material, each slab is completely unique.  The advantage to this is that your countertop won’t look like anyone else’s; the disadvantage is that a sample piece at a store will not accurately represent what might be installed in your home.  If you choose granite, go to a granite yard or warehouse to choose your specific slab.

  • As with any natural stone material, granite must be sealed to prevent water from seeping into the surface.  Beyond this, however, granite is virtually indestructible. It stands up to knives and hot pots like a pro.

  • Granite comes in dozens of colors.  The price varies greatly depending upon the availability of your color choice.  Expect to pay between $75 - $250 per square foot installed.

Other Natural Stone

  • While granite is the most popular natural stone for countertops, it is not the only one.  Marble, limestone, soapstone, sandstone, and slate are a few slightly lesser known options.  

  • While all natural stone must be sealed periodically, these stones are softer than granite and therefore require more care in regards to heat and knives.

  • Soapstone is sometimes preferred by homeowners who want natural stone but like a less polished appearance.  Soapstone gains a patina over time, and water marks are common unless the stone is consistently oiled.

  • Slate is a sturdy and low maintenance option.  It has a more subdued appearance than granite and is ideal when using lots of color or texture elsewhere in the kitchen.  Just beware of sharp corners: a rounded edge should solve this issue.

  • The cost of these natural stones can vary from $70 - $200 per square foot installed.

** A special note about marble **

  • Marble is beautiful and classic.  It is coveted by many homeowners for its natural veining.  Marble is also an ideal surface for baking: it stays cool allowing for beautifully rolled out pastry dough.

  • Because it is a calcium based stone, marble can stain, chip, and be etched by acids like lemon juice.  This makes it among the most high maintenance choices for countertops.

  • Should you choose marble, have it factory sealed as this greatly increases its stain resistance.


  • Also known as engineered stone or engineered quartz, quartz countertops are made of approximately 90% crushed quartz and 10% polymers.  This combination creates a virtually indestructible surface making quartz extremely low maintenance.

  • Quartz counters come in a variety of colors and patterns, but they don’t have the same level of natural veining as natural stone.

  • Quartz counters have very few downsides, but one might be that they cost about the same as granite.  Many consumers struggle with paying the same price for an engineered product as they do for natural stone.

  • Quartz counters cost around $150-$250 per square foot installed

Solid Surface

  • Solid surface counters, often referred to by the name brand Corian, are manufactured of 100% acrylic, 100% polyester, or a combination of both.

  • They come in virtually endless colors and patterns and are manufactured for your specific kitchen, so they are seamless.

  • Solid surface counters do not have the same natural pores that stone does, so there is no concern regarding the harboring of bacteria if not properly sealed.

  • They are not as resistant to scratches or heat as natural stone, though the cost for solid surface is often comparable to natural stone.

  • Solid surface counters cost around $50 - $120 per square foot installed.


  • While not widely used, concrete counters are increasing in popularity.  A few decades ago, concrete counters were poured on the job site making for a mess and a major inconvenience for homeowners.  Now, they are poured off site and installed after the fact.

  • Many people love concrete’s industrial style.  It can be inlaid with glass, rocks, or shell for unending design options.

  • Though it seems that concrete would be extremely durable, it is susceptible to warping from excess heat, discoloration from water, and etching from acidic spills.

  • Concrete countertop pricing starts around $80 - $100 per square foot installed

Butcher Block

  • Butcher block is perhaps the oldest countertop surface around.  It has been used in some form for centuries in kitchens around the world.

  • It can be made of teak, maple, walnut, cherry, oak, or even bamboo

  • Consumers love butcher block’s warm, natural beauty.  While certainly susceptible to knicks and scratches, many believe these imperfections only add to the wood’s character.  These knicks and scratches can always been sanded out if preferred.

  • All natural wood expands and contracts with moisture and humidity, so butcher block must be oiled regularly to maintain its beauty and luster.

  • While it was once believed that the surface of wood was difficult to keep clean, it has been recently found that wood is actually more sanitary than plastic for food preparation.

  • Butcher block is rarely used in the whole kitchen, but it is very popular for use on islands or other smaller prep areas.

  • Butcher block runs around $40 - $60 per square foot installed making it an affordable option.

Stainless Steel

  • While most commonly seen in commercial kitchens, stainless steel has been showing up in private home kitchens over the past decade.  It’s sleek style appeals to those who enjoy a modern sensibility in their homes.

  • Stainless steel is extremely durable and easily cleaned as it resists heat and bacteria.

  • The downsides of stainless are that it shows fingerprints and can be very noisy with metal pots and pans.

  • Stainless steel counters will cost around $50 - $150 per square foot installed.


  • Laminate countertops have come a long way since the 1980’s.  Sold under the brand name Formica, laminate countertops were the standard in most middle class homes for decades.

  • While laminate gained a reputation for being prone to peeling and cracking, with proper care, laminate can stand up in the kitchen.  It is, however, susceptible to scratches from sharp objects and burns from high heat.

  • Laminate now comes in a tremendous variety of styles and patterns that are designed to look like much more expensive counters.  Rounded edges easily disguise the telltale laminate seam around the perimeter of the kitchen.

  • Homeowners should be aware that laminate countertops do limit kitchen sink options.  Because laminate is particle board at its core, it cannot support an under-mount sink.

  • Best of all, laminate is an excellent choice for those on a tight budget.  Expect to pay between $15 - $25 per square foot installed.

Choosing a new countertop for your kitchen remodel or new home build is bound to be daunting, but with a little knowledge, you can make a great choice for you and your family.  Natural stone, engineered quartz, butcher block, and even concrete are among the options, so you are certain to find a surface that is the right fit for you. Relax and enjoy the kitchen remodeling process with Welcome Home Repairs.  Remember: a beautiful new kitchen is in your future.

Contact our team of kitchen and bathroom renovation experts to build your dream home today.

7 Design Tips for a Small Kitchen

While most magazines and catalogs are filled with glossy photos of enormous kitchens complete with an industrial sized refrigerator and an island large enough to seat twelve, many of us simply don’t have that much space in our home kitchens.  Perhaps you live in an older home built before the days when huge kitchens became the norm. Perhaps you live in a loft space or a condo that is streamlined for efficiency. Perhaps you’re an empty nester and just don’t need quite as large a home anymore.  

Whatever the cause of your cramped kitchen woes, take heart: there are plenty of tips from designers to help you make the most of your small kitchen remodel.  From storage solutions to illusions to trick the eye, you may just end up loving your small kitchen more than you ever imagined.

Look at Your Layout

Before beginning any kitchen remodel, it’s important to take a step back and thoughtfully assess your space.  While not an option for every situation, consider opening up the room to gain some square footage simply by taking down a wall.  Especially consider this if you have a galley kitchen. Removing a wall and adding an island with storage, a sink, or a range may one way to have a larger kitchen.  Wall removal not an option? No problem. There are plenty of other ways to maximize your limited space.

Function First

While today’s large kitchens often include a homework station, desk, or mail collection area, these are extras you cannot well afford in your small kitchen.  Above all else, plan for meal prep: counter space for cutting and mixing, accessibility of all necessary utensils, and efficiency in appliance choices should be the first priorities.

Consider Color

It’s no secret that lighter colored spaces feel larger.  In your small kitchen, choose light colored cabinets, countertops, backsplash tile, and paint.  

  • “Light” does not have to equal white, but your color choices should be on the lightest end of the spectrum.  

  • If you had your heart set on a deep shade of peacock, pull that color in with accessories and linens.  

  • Small kitchens are a perfect opportunity for a beautiful and showy backsplash.  Gorgeous wall tile can be pricey, but less square footage means less tile making that spurge choice reasonable.  Choose a tile that will reflect light for an appearance of openness.

Storage Solutions

Lack of storage is perhaps one of the biggest woes of the small kitchen owner.  A remodel is the perfect opportunity to address this problem.

  • Have cabinets installed all the way to the ceiling to maximize space.  In addition to providing more room for your stuff, ceiling height cabinets draw the eye upward giving the illusion of a larger space.

  • Consider open shelving for your most used plates and mugs.  While you certainly don’t want to put plastic sippy cups on display, a neat stack of pretty everyday plates or a row of clean drinking glasses looks attractive while the lack of bulky cabinets at eye level makes the kitchen feel more open.  In addition, open shelving makes those everyday items easy to access and put away.

  • Glass front cabinet doors act similarly to open shelving in that they create an illusion of more open space.  The advantage of glass fronted cabinets over open shelving is protection from dust.

  • When designing a new cabinet layout, leave no space unused.  Lazy susans make the most of often wasted corner spaces. Pull out racks in lower cabinets make buried pots and bowls easy to reach.

  • Shallow drawers can be installed in the toe kick of your cabinets, and a niche between wall studs over the range is the perfect spot for olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Leverage Light

Light colors reflect light, but you need light in your space to reflect.  In a small kitchen, don’t skimp on lighting.

  • Recessed lights, pendants lights, and under-cabinet lights work together to significantly brighten up your room.  A lighting designer can help you make appropriate choices.

  • If your home’s layout allows it, add a skylight to bring in more natural light.

  • Similarly, consider adding windows or expanding existing windows.  

  • If your kitchen windows are dated, look into upgrading to a single pane window that will flood your kitchen with sunlight making it appear bright and airy.

Appliance Awareness

Your choice of kitchen appliances can also help your kitchen feel larger.

  • Paneled appliances blend in seamlessly with the kitchen cabinets giving the appearance of a larger space.  

  • If your kitchen is very small, research alternative appliances.  An internet search for apartment sized appliances will turn up refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers in narrower than standard dimensions.  

  • Small footprint appliances come in all of the trendiest finishes and colors, including stainless steel.  Shrinking your appliances will open up much needed counter space in the most space challenged kitchens.

Don’t Miss the Details

Hidden details can often make the biggest differences in small kitchen design.  

  • Specialized drawers for frequently used appliances clear these bulky items off of precious counterspace.

  • A slide out cutting board just under the countertop utilizes what is often wasted space.

  • Under counter soap dispensers installed next to the sink clear the clutter of bottles off your counters.

A small kitchen undoubtedly presents design challenges, but with careful planning, you can utilize every available space in your home’s center of activity.  And you never know: that small space you currently loathe may become your favorite spot in your house.

Are you looking to invest in a kitchen remodel? Contact our team of Richmond kitchen design and remodeling experts today!