5 Tips for Making “Sandwich Living” Work

Did you know that sandwiches are trending these days? Not the delicious kind… we mean the “sandwich generation” – the group of adults who have both their children and their parents living in their home.

The number of families with children, parents and grandparents living together has risen from 3.6% of all U.S. households in 2006 to 4.3% in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This means that in 2014 a record 60.6 million people (19% of the U.S. population) lived in a multigenerational household. The reasons for this trend are pretty simple. Our population is aging, and our kids are growing up in a world where it’s harder to achieve and sustain financial independence.

You’ll be glad to know that there can be benefits, such as lower housing costs for all and sharing household chores. But to make this type of living arrangement work, you have to look at your home a bit differently. For example, you’ll have to take into account things like:

  • Privacy issues unique to multi-family living
  • Safety and accessibility for younger and older family members
  • Getting the best use of the space in your home now and in the future

Basement remodeling and finished basements

So, what can you do to get your house ready for multigenerational living?

1) Integrate Universal Design: Universal design focuses on making living areas accessible to all – young, old, and every age in between, as well as people with disabilities. Using universal design principles is a great idea, even if you just plan on living in your house as empty-nesters as long as possible. Consider making doorways wider to allow easier access for wheelchairs or baby strollers. Install faucets, door knobs, and drawer pulls that pass what’s referred to as the “closed fist test.” If you can open the door or drawer with your fist closed, it is likely that someone with arthritis will be able to use it. This might mean a lever-type handle for a door, or a single handle or touchless faucet.

2) Finish Your Basement: Finishing a basement is one of the most cost effective ways to increase the usable living space in your home. Not only will this give you more living space to use now, such as an entertainment room, play room, home office, or workout room, but it could double as a bedroom for your potential housemates. Include a full bathroom so there’s an extra shower. If you plan on using your basement as a bedroom, be sure to keep in mind building codes which require a door to the outside or an egress window that has built-in stairs.

3) Remodel Your Kitchen: In addition to integrating universal design principles into your kitchen, there are other ways you can make your kitchen more adaptable to multigenerational living.  Adding a second sink and more counter space, such as an island, makes it easier for multiple cooks to work at the same time. A second dishwasher or refrigerator also can help meet the needs of more people under one roof.

Kitchen design and remodeling for multigenerational homes

Photo courtesy Prévo Cabinetry. MBRG is a distributor of Prévo Cabinetry.

4) Build an Addition: If you are definitely planning a multigenerational household, consider putting on an addition. This will not only give everyone more room, but will give both you and your live-in family members more privacy. In addition to the necessities of a bedroom and full bathroom, having a private entrance and small kitchenette will go a long way towards making someone feel “at home” in their own space.

5) Think and Plan Ahead: If you would like to stay in your home for as long as possible, think ahead when modifying your home. If you are putting an addition on your home’s main level for other family members, consider designing it so that it can be used as your home office, exercise room or master bedroom suite in the future.

If you are thinking of remodeling your home to take advantage of a “sandwich” home living arrangement, let us know. We can help you figure out ways to modify your home so that the experience and the results are the best they can be…for everyone.

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