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7 Essential Tips to Remember When Starting an ADU Project

July 27, 2023

Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an excellent way to enhance your property's value, create extra living space, and generate rental income. Whether you plan to construct a backyard cottage, a basement apartment, or convert an existing structure, starting an ADU project requires careful planning and consideration.

To help ensure a smooth and successful endeavor, here are seven essential tips to remember when embarking on your ADU project.

1. Check Local Regulations and Permits:

Before diving into the design and construction process, familiarize yourself with your local zoning laws and building codes. ADU regulations can vary significantly from one city to another, so it's crucial to verify the requirements for size, setbacks, height, and parking. Additionally, research any necessary permits or approvals you'll need to obtain before starting construction to avoid potential delays or legal issues down the line.

2. Establish a Realistic Budget:

Create a detailed budget that encompasses all aspects of the ADU project, including design fees, construction costs, permits, materials, and labor. Set aside a contingency fund for unexpected expenses that may arise during the building process. Being financially prepared will help you make informed decisions and avoid financial strain as the project progresses.

3.Hire Qualified Professionals:

Selecting the right team of professionals is paramount to the success of your ADU project. Engage an experienced architect or designer who specializes in ADU construction to create a functional and efficient layout that adheres to local regulations. When it comes to builders and contractors, choose reputable individuals or companies with a proven track record in ADU construction.

4. Prioritize Functionality and Efficiency:

ADUs are typically smaller than primary residences, making efficient use of space crucial. Focus on functional design elements and opt for space-saving features, such as built-in storage solutions and multi-functional furniture. Additionally, consider energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and insulation to reduce utility costs and create an eco-friendly living space.

5. Maximize Natural Light and Ventilation:

A well-lit and ventilated ADU not only enhances its aesthetics but also contributes to the comfort and well-being of its occupants. When planning the layout and selecting windows, aim to maximize natural light and airflow. Proper ventilation helps maintain a healthy indoor environment and reduces the risk of mold and mildew growth.

6. Balance Aesthetics with Compatibility:

While designing your ADU, ensure that its architectural style and materials complement your existing property. Strive for a harmonious blend between the ADU and the main dwelling, especially if the unit is located in the backyard or attached to the primary residence. Aesthetically pleasing ADUs tend to have better curb appeal and may attract higher-quality tenants or potential buyers in the future.

7. Plan for Accessibility and Universal Design:

Consider the long-term usage of your ADU and plan for accessibility and universal design principles. Incorporating features like a step-free entry, wider doorways, lever-style handles, and grab bars in bathrooms will ensure that your ADU remains functional and welcoming for residents of all ages and abilities.


Starting an ADU project can be a rewarding investment, but it requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following these seven essential tips - checking local regulations, establishing a realistic budget, hiring qualified professionals, prioritizing functionality and efficiency, maximizing natural light and ventilation, balancing aesthetics, and planning for accessibility - you'll be well-prepared to create a successful ADU that adds value to your property for years to come. Happy building!