Accessory Dwellings

A one-stop source about accessory dwelling units, multigenerational homes, laneway houses, ADUs, granny flats, in-law units…

Getting started

Ten steps for planning, designing, and permitting an ADU
Building an ADU is daunting for many people. Here’s the chronological steps to get ready to build an ADU on your property.
The Design Phase
  1. Brainstorm project goals and scope with funders/partners
  2. Talk to municipal zoning office about the project to determine feasibility; try to uncover any major regulatory design/cost obstacles that you’ll have to overcome
  3. Rough sketch some ideas and think through your top design objectives with funders/partners
  4. Identify architects, builders and sub contractors (ideally, you want to have identified a general contractor, as well as your plumber, mechanical, electrical subcontractors)
  5. Architect  and homeowner draw up schematics for consideration based on your rough sketches and your objectives
  6. Meet with architect, builder, and subs to talk through objectives and schematics to get their input
  7. Architect refines schematics with homeowner and contractors. I’d recommend having your architect develop a 3D model in Sketchup.
  8. Develop permit-ready drawings for zoning and building office
  9. Sumbit plans for permit. Pay permit fees. Go back and forth with permit office until the plans pass their planning/zoning code and building code criteria.
  10. Permit issued and then you can break ground

This design phase can take as little as a week, or many years. My ADU took three months to design, going back and forth with my designer through fifteen schematic drawings. 1-5 months is an average time frame for this phase.

My advice: Take your time with the design. Go back and forth with your designer and your builder, and make sure you’re very happy with every detail of the design. Build a 3D model: your ADU will look a lot like your 3D model, so spend some time lounging and walking around inside your 3D model.  This is a huge financial investment- it is worth the extra energy up front to dial in your design before you submit it to the permitting office.

The full design phase and building phase is outlined here.

One comment on “Getting started

  1. Elzi
    April 6, 2021

    Any comments on adapting large sheds built and sold by locals for an ADU? Basically buying the shell with roof and exterior, and finishing off the interior yourself.

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