6 Common ADU Building Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


This year, Americans will spend more than $400 billion on home renovations and upgrades. Many of these renovations are meant to make homes cozier, now that people are spending more time at home since the onset of COVID-19.

Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are becoming a preferred home upgrade for an increasing number of homeowners. An ADU refers to a secondary housing unit sharing the same lot as your larger primary home. It’s the perfect solution for creating additional living space in your home.

But too often, homeowners make certain ADU building mistakes that lead to all kinds of problems. The fact is, building an ADU is a huge and complex project, and it’s easy to err if you’re not careful. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at six common top mistakes to make your ADU project a successful one.

Let’s get started.

1. Failing to Do Research

So, you’ve found out you have enough space for an ADU in your yard and can’t wait to start building it. It’s easy to think that you can jump into the project right away and transform your single-family residence into a multi-family home.

But that’s not how it should go. If this is the first time you’re undertaking such a project, the best way to prepare for it is to research ADUs.

As part of your research, find out what types of ADUs there are and which options suit your needs the best. Do your research on what to expect during the project and whether or not the project is feasible. Get to know the latest ADU trends and what ideas to incorporate into your project.

2. Failing to Make a Budget 

Given that an ADU is one of the biggest home upgrades a homeowner can undertake, it doesn’t come cheap. That’s why you need to create an ADU construction budget so everything goes smoothly. ADUs cost from $30,000 to over $300,000 to build, so get ready.

Take note of potential hidden costs to avoid ending up with a half-finished project. Many homeowners opt for turn-key solutions. That involves creating a budget and getting a team of ADU builders to execute the project.

While creating your budget, there are many different things you’ll need to take into account. Experts charge fees for drawing designs for ADUs, including the floor plans, so set aside money for this. You’ll also need to budget for:

  • Permit fees
  • Inspection fees
  • Material expenses
  • Construction costs

Your budget will help ensure that you don’t overspend during the project. If you plan to get financing for your ADU, a budget will also be required while applying for the loan.

3. Ignoring Local and State Regulations

You’re going to need approval and permits to proceed with your ADU project. But some homeowners never bother to find out what the local and state regulations are when it comes to ADUs. Note that violating these regulations could land you in serious trouble with the authorities.

Even if you were involved in an ADU project in a previous home, it still helps to go through the regulations once again before you undertake another similar project. That’s because ADU laws and regulations keep changing as states seek to make housing more affordable.

Keep in mind that actual regulations that govern ADU building may vary from city to city. Visit the local authorities in your area just to make sure you understand the regulations.

4. Hiring the Wrong Construction Team 

The ADU construction team you pick will play one of the biggest roles in how successful your project is. Any mistakes made while hiring an ADU contractor will come back to haunt you. A substandard structure can prove extremely dangerous to the occupants of an ADU.

Beware of contractors who charge rock-bottom prices for their services. It could be a sign that their services are of low quality. Sometimes, suspiciously low quotes harbor hidden costs.

Take the time to find a reputable contractor. Recommendations from people you trust who’ve undertaken similar projects before can prove helpful in locating a top-notch builder. You can also read online reviews to see which contractors in your area provide the most satisfying results.

5. Not Understanding the Project 

Many homeowners underestimate the magnitude of the project that is constructing an ADU unit. Regardless of the amount of money you throw at the project, it’s still going to take time. From planning to designing to construction, it’s likely you’ll spend several weeks completing the project.

When you understand the scope of your project, it becomes easier to prepare for it. You can know when the best time to undertake the project is, based on your family and work schedule. You also get to set aside enough money for the project.

6. Failing to Optimize Available Space

An ADU is meant to be a completely functional living unit. Common ADU features, including a living area, kitchen, bathroom facility, and separate entrance, help provide a certain level of independence from the primary house.

Given that ADUs are much smaller than ordinary single-family homes, it’s vital to make the best use of the little space available. This happens during the designing stage. Work with a designer who helps you get the most use out of the space you have for the unit.

Avoid ADU Building Mistakes

An ADU is an excellent home upgrade, but only if you get it right when building one. Steer clear of potential ADU building mistakes that can negatively impact your project. This helps you stay compliant with the local code and complete your project within the set timeframe and budget.

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