If you are a homeowner in the United States, you’ve probably heard of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). These are also known as DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit), MIL Suites (Mother-in-law suites), granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, or multigenerational homes, as these tiny homes have multiple uses. More and more people are turning to ADU’s as a housing solution due to the increasing housing demands. They can house aging parents, grown-up children, and generate rental income.
If you’re planning to build an ADU, this is a hot market! Most cities in the state of Washington recently relaxed some formerly strict requirements for building ADUs and banned local authorities from imposing certain new ones.
However, don’t assume building a tiny house on your property will be a cakewalk. There are a few things you need to think about before going ahead with building an ADU; that’s why we prepared the 5 tips below to help you with your ADU project successfully.
Check Local Regulations & Standards to Ensure Your Property Is Eligible for an ADU:
Before designing your ADU, you need to make sure that your lot is eligible according to local development standards. Consider ADU building limitations in your city such as:
- Maximum height – Your local regulations can limit the height of new buildings in your area. Most cities limit it to two stories which prevents you from building ADU as a 3rd floor addition to existing house.
- Density – This refers to the maximum number of dwelling units allowed to be built on a property.
- Floor area – Some city/county regulations limit the floor area of ADUs and even prevent building detached ADUs.
- Utility easements – These refer to public utilities that run over or under your property. Ensure that your proposed ADU does not limit access to these utility services.
- Setbacks – This refers to the distance between an adjacent property and a detached property. Your local authority can impose a set distance to be sufficient for fire safety. You can find the setback, height, and density parameters in the zoning guidelines of your jurisdiction. It is always a good idea to call or email building department under your local jurisdiction and check for any restrictions that can impact your project.
- HOA (Homeowner’s Association) – If you live in a neighborhood with HOA regulations you will need to find out if such construction is allowed as per your HOA rulebook. You might also have to get approval on your plans from HOA even before you submit it to the city/county for permitting. HOA can also govern where on your property this structure can be built and what exterior finishes are allowed.
- Once you have verified that your property is eligible for an ADU addition, you can then go ahead with the design process.
Additional Parking requirements:
It is possible that your city/county will require an additional off-street parking to be created if you are planning ADU to be a rental property. However, you may not need to worry about a new parking space if your property is within 0.5 miles of a public transport system, located in a historic or architecturally significant district, has a car share vehicle located within one block of the property, or possess on-street parking permits that are required but not offered to the ADU’s resident.
Plan Access to Your ADU
Your ADU needs to be easily accessible for the occupants to get to the street. You may need a walkway that connects from the unit to the street. The walkway to the unit needs to be clear, clutter-free, and unobstructed. Consider investing in natural stone tiles, a smooth concrete path or precast pavers are good options for this. The passage between your house and the unit should also be clutter-free.
Your requirement of privacy from the ADU/DADU will depend on who the future occupant will be. For example, if it’s your family member, the ADU may not need to be isolated and private from the main building. The front patio or front door can face your backyard entrance, providing a harmonious the living arrangement with personal connection. You could also make use of window blinds, trees, and plants to serve as subtle privacy screens.
On the other hand, if you plan to rent out the unit to strangers, privacy can be a deal-breaker. Imagine having a stranger live in your yard. Would you want them to have a view of what you do in your leisure time? I guess not, and the discomfort could be mutual.
Consider constructing the porch to face another direction other than your backyard entrance. You might want to install natural privacy screens such as shrubs, trees, and plants. Likewise, take additional steps like creating a fence, window blinds, and adding additional side or back entrances for an added sense of seclusion. These simple and inexpensive steps can go a long way in ensuring a comfortable living arrangement, and privacy for you and the ADU occupant.
Due to the small nature of ADUs, space is of utmost concern. People prefer to have a bathroom, kitchen, living, sleeping and sometimes even washer/dryer space in about 400-1200 sqft of area. For this reason, if each detail is not planned right, things can get quite cramped. The process of optimizing space starts from the designing step and goes all the way till the choice of color, placement of windows and even choice of paint color.
Wall-mounted storage, for example, is key to reducing clutter, and this works in every part of the unit. Consider hanging the TV on the wall, along with some shelves. Make use of wall-mounted shelves in the bathroom as the linen closet. You can also have furniture made that can also act as a storage unit, and bedroom furniture that can double as a settee (they make those now), or a Murphy bed if you are going for a ADU smaller than 300 sqft. The more wall-mounted storage options and space-saving features you give your ADU’s occupant, the freer space they’ll have on their floor. Opt for foldable chairs and tables to make more room when needed. The same goes for appliances. Use of smaller stoves, dishwashers, and stackable washer/dryer can help with space optimization as well.
Lolark Contractors Can Help
If you want to increase the value of your home with an ADU, gain extra space or hope to save time and money during construction, our five key tips can point you in the right direction.
However, don’t be mistaken, building a tiny home is not as easy as it sounds. If you want to get the keys to your dream ADU without breaking your bank, you’ll need a quality and affordable contractor to manage your project from start to finish.
Our team of skilled engineers, architects and construction crew has extensive experience in residential construction, including ADUs. Check out our recent ADU projects and estimates at https://lolarkcontractors.com/attached-detached-suites/
We know where the major and minor challenges lie and how to overcome them without breaking a sweat or the bank. We’re glad to give you the keys to your dream space on time and within budget. Contact us now for a FREE consultation and quote.