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Is an Architect Necessary for Building an ADU?

An architect is necessary to build an ADU that’s safe and beautiful. Consider working with an all-inclusive ADU company with their own designers and contractors.
Updated Jan 06, 2018
Although you may consider building an ADU a minor project that doesn’t require an architect, this isn’t the right approach. Instead, you need to involve experienced professionals in building an ADU to result in a quality and beautiful structure that will last a lifetime.

What Is an ADU?

Before we talk about ADU architects, it’s important to first gain an understanding of what an ADU is. An ADU or an accessory dwelling unit is a separate living unit that is located on the same property as a main dwelling. ADUs may come in the form of a granny flat, in-law unit, backyard cottage, carriage home, or tiny home alongside a single-family home on the same property.
In order to be considered an ADU, the unit needs to come equipped with its own living, cooking, and bathing spaces. Sometimes, you are able to create an ADU conversion by renovating existing spaces like a basement or a garage. In other cases, you may need to build an ADU entirely from scratch within the yard of the main dwelling. Check out our piece here on the different types of ADUs.
No matter which option you choose, constructing or converting an ADU comes with a lot of work that needs to be permitted and up-to-code to meet local and state regulations.

What Do You Need To Build an ADU?

The first and most obvious thing that you need to build an ADU is space. Whether you have the space within your existing home or in the yard, you need to ensure that there’s enough of it to actually build a suitable ADU. If you’re building a detached ADU that is completely separate from your home, you will need to comply with local regulations concerning setbacks. For instance, your city may require that your ADU unit is set back from any lot lines and/or the existing structure—the state-wide minimum is four feet from the rear and side yard property lines.
In Los Altos, California, for example, your ADU needs to be set back at least four feet from side and rear lot lines as well as at least six feet from any existing structures. In Los Angeles, California, your ADU needs to be set back at least four feet from side and rear lot lines as well as at least ten feet from any existing structures. These requirements vary a lot depending on the municipality, so make sure to familiarize yourself with local regulations in terms of space needed for your ADU.
Once you know that you have the space for an ADU, you can move forward with the process. From there, you will need to find an architect to draft the building plans for your ADU. Architects typically handle things like engineering, material usage, and compliance with regulations.
Additionally, you will need to find an interior designer to handle the more aesthetic aspects of your ADU. Interior designers typically handle things like features, finishes, and furniture. Finally, you will need to find an actual builder for your ADU to construct the unit from the ground up.

Can You DIY an ADU?

DIY is all the rage these days, so can you DIY an ADU? While it may be feasible to DIY a mobile tiny home or even an ADU conversion, this approach is not recommended when it comes to building a detached ADU. This is because building a detached ADU is essentially like building a smaller version of a regular house in the eyes of city building and planning departments.
The process involves foundation work, structural concerns, utility connections, wiring, plumbing, and more. The sheer amount and intricacy of work involved here mean that going the DIY route could end up costing you more money and leave you with a less-than-desirable ADU. So instead of taking the DIY route with the goal to save a few bucks, this process is better left to the professionals.

Do You Really Need an Architect To Build an ADU?

So since you probably shouldn’t DIY an ADU, you will need an architect to help you design the right floor plan with the right features for your needs that fit the specifications of your property as well as local regulations. However, an architect is just one type of professional that you will need to build your ADU.
You will also need contractors to cover different things like plumbing, electricity, roofing, insulation, siding, and more to work underneath a general contractor. Finally, you will need an interior designer that’s able to work with the other parties to fulfill your ADU vision based on the specific aesthetic you’re looking for.
While finding, vetting, and working with these different parties can be overwhelming, there’s a better approach that will simplify the process and give you better results.

How To Find the Right Architect, Designer, and Builder for Your ADU?

Instead of working with individual architects, designers, and contractors, a better approach involves working with a specialized ADU company that is able to cover all of these bases at the same time with minimal effort required on your part.
For instance, companies like Cottage offer a hassle-free process from start to finish. We cover the more complicated parts of the process like permitting and feasibility while involving you in choosing materials and design features so your home is distinctly yours.
Cottage is dedicated to designing and constructing ADUs that are custom-built according to your needs and specifications. Instead of settling for a prefabricated ADU that may be too small to meet your needs, you can help determine your square footage, layout, and materials for a space that truly works for you.
For instance, let’s say that you need a larger ADU with multiple bedrooms and a full-sized kitchen. We can definitely make this happen, as we have done many times before.
Another thing that you need to consider when choosing the right ADU company is experience. You will want to work with professionals that have experience specifically with ADUs rather than traditional single-family homes, remodels, or additions alone.
This is because ADUs come with a unique set of restrictions, regulations, and challenges that need to be expertly navigated to provide you with the best end results. You can rest assured that Cottage has the experience needed to make your ADU dreams a reality.
Finally, you need to consider the cost of your ADU. Working with all of these different experts separately can get expensive and muddled very quickly. Instead, working with a single company that encompasses all of these experts can save you a lot of money.
Cottage offers an all-inclusive ADU process that covers everything from design to engineering, site prep, utility connections, foundation, and construction. At the end of the day, we can provide you the best results for the best price without sacrificing quality and timing.

The Rundown on Building ADUs

As you can see, an architect is necessary for building an ADU alongside designers and contractors. Working with all-inclusive companies like Cottage simplifies the process for you and provides the best results. Reach out to us today for a complimentary consultation to see how we can make your ADU dreams a reality.

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