curb appeal

The Importance Of Outdoor Space for Second Suites

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Unless you’re a perennial snowbird, most Canadians only enjoy about 2 months of real summer in any given year. That means we truly value the warmer weather when it finally does arrive, and soak it in for all it’s worth however fleeting it is.

This is why it’s super important to consider the outdoor amenity space for ALL occupants of a home - including those living in a second suite. Even if it’s in a basement!

Most investors and homeowners don’t give much thought on the exterior space available for basement suite tenants, but I can assure you that it’s worth considering. 

Having a decent outdoor space, even if it’s just a tiny patch of grass and a few 2’ x 2’ paver stones to park a grill and a small table will do wonders. 

Great exterior space not only attracts more prospective tenants, create a sense of pride for the occupant, and foster healthier and happier tenants, it might even possibly fetch you a higher monthly rent!

Who doesn’t want that?!

A couple of months ago when I was in Portland for the Accessory Dwelling Academy training, fellow Designers and Architects have explained to me that the single most important factor with the design of their detached units is the “site planning”. This means the layout of their buildings relative to each other and to the rest of the property. 

Exterior site planning is not only important to ensure a good amount of outdoor space for everyone living on the property, it also creates a sense of privacy between occupants and makes the property feel uniquely its own.

Here’s a quick and dirty example of what a separated rear yard may look like for a 2 unit conversion

Here’s a quick and dirty example of what a separated rear yard may look like for a 2 unit conversion

The following are a few tips to create this separation for both privacy and to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy a piece of that oh so valuable summer air.

1). Position vehicle parking near the entrance for that particular unit (see below for 3 common house configurations). Having the car closer to the door of their unit or along the same path creates a natural separation.

2). Have a fence or plants (shrubs, bushes, etc) to separate the yard space for both units (also see below). Where possible, allow more yard space for the larger unit, since that unit is typically higher in rent. The separation doesn’t have to be rigidly defined, but it should provide some perceive demarcation between the properties.

3). Create a new door for main unit access to yard (also see below). Often the side or rear door that was once the access for the main unit into the rear yard now becomes the entrance for the new unit. It makes sense to try to create a new one for the main unit. Often that can be easily accomplished by turning an existing window into a hinged or sliding door.

Here are some examples of common arrangements for mid-century type bungalows that are good candidates for basement second suite conversions. Other homes have difference configurations but share the same principle

 
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Example #1

  • Existing side door for 2nd suite entrance w/ parking nearby - widened driveway contains car for main unit occupant

  • Straight fence (or bushes) to create separation at rear yard

  • New rear door created from existing window to allow main unit to access yard

Example #2

  • Existing rear door for 2nd suite entrance - same parking arrangements

  • Staggered fence (or bushes) to create separation at rear yard

  • Also new rear door created from existing window for main unit to access yard

Example #3

  • New door created to access 2nd suite from existing window. Staircase to basement created inside to avoid construction of exterior walkout

  • Straight fence (or bushes) to create separation at rear yard

  • Existing rear door created to allow main unit to access yard

4). Separate the 2 units inside with a laundry area. This is a common strategy among the majority of our projects, where a short staircase leading to the main unit of the house is easily transformed to do double duty as a stacked laundry facility and an effective separation between units.

Sample common stacked laundry arrangement where stairs leading to main unit previously resided

Sample common stacked laundry arrangement where stairs leading to main unit previously resided

5.) Have both hard and soft landscaping for outdoor amenity space. Hard landscaping can be a deck or just a concrete pad, but it should allow for some small patio furniture. Some soft landscaping (grass, shrubs, or even artificial turf makes the space more appealing)

In one of my duplexes, we had a very small outdoor space for the 2nd suite tenant, but it did the job! Most of it was a concrete pad, with just small patch of grass. Only thing missing was a front gate, which was added in later on. This takes us to point 6 below, which is street privacy.

In one of my duplexes, we had a very small outdoor space for the 2nd suite tenant, but it did the job! Most of it was a concrete pad, with just small patch of grass. Only thing missing was a front gate, which was added in later on. This takes us to point 6 below, which is street privacy.

6.) Ensure outdoor space has privacy from the street. This one is obvious - neither the person walking the dog on the sidewalk or the tenant barbecuing wants to see each other. 

These are just a few quick tips to make your second suite conversion just that much more appealing for anyone who wants to gain a bit more privacy and feel like they have a place to themselves…

And have a chance to enjoy THE GREAT OUTDOORS!

OK - This is a little too much outdoors!

OK - This is a little too much outdoors!