Most of us are finding the need for more space around the house, especially during times we’ve found ourselves staying home more.
Face it, the pandemic has changed our lives and the way we live them. More time at home this year translated to more home renovation projects including, for many, the addition of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
So, what is an ADU and how does it work?
Up until a few years ago, ADU was a term used mostly by architects, as part of their professional jargon. The acronym has only become part of the regular English language in the last year or so. Now, it seems as if everyone is designing, building, or dreaming about an ADU.
The rise in popularity of ADUs started before the pandemic, but COVID-19 took this interest to a whole new level. After sheltering in place and working from home, we are all trying to fit a lot more functions into our homes.
The possibility of having an additional structure in the backyard that can house a home office, a gym, or a hangout place for the family has made ADUs hugely attractive to almost everyone.
Garages and attics are viable options
ADU is a very broad term and covers everything from temporary construction to backyard offices to converted garages. The intended use has a major design and planning impact because things like plumbing, square footage, and foundation requirements add significant time and expense.
If a user just wants a home office, they can probably get away without plumbing while staying under 120 square feet. If they want an in-law suite or something that is technically habitable it becomes an entirely different project.
Some homeowners have even brought their retail business home, such as hairstylists, tattoo artists, private practitioners, and others.
ADUs may be the conversion of existing spaces or new builds, depending on the space available and the needs of the homeowner. Often a project like converting a garage requires significant electrical work as well as new systems such as HVAC and plumbing.
A new build is typically the easiest to create, and renovating an existing external structure to an office/kids’ space can be just as fun and turn into a spectacular functional interior.
Garages and attics are viable options that have the potential of adding more usable square footage to your property. But if independent additions are what you’re looking for, there are some great build-it-yourself kits that can be added in a backyard.
Shipping containers are quite easy to move onto a property, and they make ideal tiny units if designed well.
ADUs as a money-making stream
ADUs are employed to carve out areas for work, play, learning, or additional living space such as in-law suites, nanny/caretaker’s dwellings, potential quarantine quarters for at-risk or sick family members, or rental apartment units.
One of the most popular reasons behind adding an ADU is many find the value of having family members close by, whether it be allowing aging parents to have their own place or a young graduate needing their own space.
While creating extra living space is certainly welcome the main motivation for creating some of these ADUs is a money-making stream in the form of a rental unit.
For some families, an ADU providing additional income can help ease the cost of a mortgage. ADUs increase the value of a home immediately and give the owner the opportunity to have a room outside the home that becomes a second dwelling on the property used as a place to rest and enjoy peace and quiet. It can serve as a guest house or place for teenage sleepovers.
It’s all about maximizing flexibility because life happens. Someone might build an ADU to use as a home office, a gym, or a pool house, but then they may need it as an in-law unit. ADUs can be very flexible like opening up to the pool for entertaining but also functioning as a private two-bedroom house for visiting parents.
Many design the space to be timeless rather than trendy, thereby reducing the need to renovate in the future. You can keep the color palette neutral to allow for easy accessorizing, and pay attention to lighting by increasing your use of natural light, layering lamps, or including wired fixtures.
This will give you options for activities that require more or less light so that the area feels more intentional and becomes a comfortable living environment.
Let your imagination take over
Spatial constraints on-site is typically the main issue. Unless you have a huge yard, then you are trading outdoor space for building footprint. Utilities and other logistics are also a factor, but space is typically the biggest issue.
You can simplify the process and minimize costs by keeping the structure small and without plumbing, but building a small space that is still inspiring and usable raises a whole different set of challenges.
One challenge that should be obvious but is sometimes not considered enough is the budget. Often people expect building a small space to be inexpensive, but it is actually quite the opposite.
A small structure costs more per square foot than a big one since there are many budget line-items that don’t change in proportion to the size.
A small structure still incurs the costs of engineering, permits, grading, and drainage, along with the actual construction of the structure. It often ends up being much more expensive than the homeowners anticipated.
To sum up, a lot of us were ahead of the times when we closed in a garage as living space. Now, there’s a fancy term for it called ADU. Who knew it would become trendy?
Let your imagination take over, and I’m sure an ADU would be a solution to your needs.