As the population of the United States continues to grow, more and more people are looking into having an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) constructed on their property. This can be a great way to add extra living space for a family member or friend or generate additional income by renting out the unit.
However, before you take the plunge and build an ADU, you should keep a few things in mind. In this article, Pedram Zohrevand, President of CES4, as well as a seasoned expert in the field of civil engineering, shares some factors to keep in mind before having an ADU constructed.
Understanding The Differences Between An Attached And Detached ADUs
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The attached units are typically less expensive to construct, as they share walls with the main house. They can also be a good option if you’re looking to add an ADU without changing the footprint of your property.
Detached units, on the other hand, will require their own foundation and utilities. They also tend to be more expensive than attached units. However, if you have extra space on your property, they can offer more privacy for both the unit’s occupants and the homeowners.
What To Keep In Mind Before Building An ADU
Before you start construction on an ADU, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
Separate Utility Meters
You’ll need to get separate utility meters installed for the ADU if it is detached. This includes water, gas, and electricity. This is important for both billing and safety purposes.
Building Codes And Zoning Regulations
You’ll also need to ensure you are familiar with your area’s building codes and zoning regulations. These regulations can vary from state to state and even city to city, so it’s essential to do your research before starting construction.
Of course, you’ll also need to factor in the construction cost. This includes the cost of materials, labor, and permits. Getting quotes from different contractors is a good idea to better understand what you can expect to pay.
Distance And Area Needed
You’ll need to ensure you have enough space on your property to construct an ADU. This includes the actual unit and any required setbacks from property lines, other buildings, and utilities. You’ll also need to make sure there is a clear path from the street to the unit. This means you’ll need enough space to construct a driveway or walkway.
You’ll need to be aware of setback requirements, which are the minimum distance your ADU must be from property lines and other structures on your property. Setback requirements vary from place to place, so be sure to check with your local municipality.
If you’re planning on having a detached ADU, you’ll need to ensure you have enough space on your property to meet parking requirements. This typically means having one off-street parking space for each bedroom in the unit.
Size Of An ADU
An ADU’s size is usually restricted to a specific percentage of the lot’s total square footage. This might differ based on location, so look into your local rules and regulations.
Where Can ADUs Be Built?
ADUs can be built in several different places:
- In the backyard: detached ADUs are often built in the backyard, as this offers more privacy for both the unit’s occupants and the homeowners.
- Above the carport: if you have a tuck-under parking space, you might be able to build an attached ADU above it.
- On top of an existing structure: if you have an existing structure on your property, such as a shed or workshop, you might be able to convert it into an ADU.
- As a stand-alone unit: detached ADUs can be built as stand-alone units, which means they’re not attached to the main house in any way.
Pedram Zohrevand is also a retrofitting expert and believes that the construction of an ADU can be merged with the seismic retrofit of the existing building if the ADU is attached to the main building,
What’s The Process For Building An ADU?
The process for building an ADU will vary depending on the unit you’re planning to construct and the municipality you live in. In general, though, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow:
Check local regulations: as we mentioned before, you’ll need to check with your local municipality to see if there are any restrictions on the size, height, or placement of an ADU on your property.
Get a permit: once you’ve checked local regulations and understand what you can and can’t do, you’ll need to get a permit from your municipality. This is important because it allows them to inspect the construction process to make sure everything is up to code.
Hire a contractor: you’ll need to hire a contractor to build your ADU. Be sure to research and get multiple bids before planning.
Get insurance: once construction is complete; you’ll need insurance for your ADU. This will protect you in case of any damage or accidents. If you live in an area where natural disasters are common, Zohrevand recommends that you ensure your new construction is stable and safe for years to come.
Building an ADU can be a great way to add extra living space to your property. However, it is essential to keep in mind several factors you’ll need to consider before starting construction. By following the tips above, you can help ensure the success of your ADU project. And by consulting a professional engineer like Pedram Zohrevand to help you with your project, you can be confident that your ADU will be built to last.