Thinking about building and accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or having one built? Here are a few things you should know before building an ADU.

Over the last few years, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have made a significant comeback. ADUs were once a common addition to houses and various types of properties, but they became less common in the later part of the 20th century. For a variety of reasons they have made a comeback, however, and if you are considering one for your house, we have a few recommendations for things you should know before building an ADU.

ADUs – also known as secondary suites, granny flats, in-law units, laneway houses, secondary dwelling units, and by many other names – are defined as a “room or set of rooms in a single-family home in a single-family zone that has been designed or configured to be used as a separate dwelling unit and has been established by permit.” They are a self-contained building or structure in an owner-occupied single-family lot that is either attached to the principal building or on the property, built on a foundation. It cannot be sold as a separate unit, although they can be rented out.

There are countless reasons why a property owner might choose to build (or more likely hire a contractor to build) an ADU. To begin with, an ADU is a great way to expand your livable property without having to do a major remodeling of the entire structure of the existing home. While building an ADU can be a complicated process, it’s significantly easier than tearing down a wall or a portion of an existing structure.

ADUs can serve nearly endless functions, just depending on the needs of the home owner. It can be something as simple as a storage structure, or as complex as a second livable unit complete with a functioning bathroom and kitchen. It can be attached to something like a garage, or be a standalone unit.

Before you consider an ADU, you should double check the zoning laws for your county. Depending on where you live, you will almost certainly need a building permit before you begin. Other permits may also be required based on the purpose of the ADU; you may need electrical, plumbing, and mechanical permits, for instance.

If you are planning on building the ADU yourself, your first step should be to check with your local regulatory body to see what permits you need and what steps it requires. This can be a demanding and complicated process, and missing any steps along the way can lead to fines and countless other headaches. For this portion, even if you are set on building the ADU yourself, you may want to speak to a local contractor like Fleschner Construction.

Before you work on the permits, however, you’ll need to design your ADU. This is an intricate process and should be undertaken by a professional with architectural or design experience. You’ll need plans, which means you should talk to someone that knows exactly what they are doing. A single miscalculation, even one that isn’t immediately apparent, can cause serious problems.

Building an ADU is a job for a professional, and navigating the red tape can be nearly as difficult. The results, however, can be more than worth it.