ADU Guide

Starting Your ADU? 5 Things To Do NOW for a Smooth Build

How can I ensure that my ADU project goes smoothly? Kyu and Michelle from the Cottage Operations and Design teams walk through the keys to your ADU’s success.

Kyu Kim, Michelle Badr, & Caleb LeeAugust 16, 2021

Congratulations! You have decided to take the next step on your Accessory Dwelling Unit journey by pursuing an ADU project. Balancing your ADU use case(s), budget, timeline, and design is no small feat, and these are huge steps towards having your ADU ready for move-in day.

Now what? In this article, Kyu and Michelle from the Cottage Operations and Design team walk through how you can be a great partner for your ADU’s construction from your first discussions about eligibility to the last design development meetings before submitting your drawings for a permit in your city or county. Kyu and Michelle have helped guide hundreds of homeowners through all aspects of the ADU process, and have some great insider tips for homeowners here.

Still not decided on your ADU project or want to learn more? The Cottage team is standing by to talk about the perfect ADU for you and your property’s needs. Click the "Get Started" button on the top right hand corner to get a Free Consultation and Estimate Today.

ADU property assessment

The 5 Keys to ADU Success

Everyone wants to build their ADU on schedule, within budget, and at a high project quality. But as experience has taught us, that is far from guaranteed with traditional construction or prefab ADU companies. Here are the 5 keys we’ll cover today:

  • Secure Your ADU Budget
  • Identify Your ADU Use Case(s)
  • Inform Decision Makers Early
  • Create Your ADU Vision
  • Communicate Early and Often About Your ADU Needs

While there are many other details that you need to consider for your ADU project, the Cottage team has seen time and time again that these five pieces of advice drive the majority of our successful projects.

Key No. 1: Secure Your ADU Budget

KYU: When building an ADU, budget is one of the key factors to determining what will eventually be constructed on your property. However, it’s difficult to set a budget or start the financing process without having any sort of expectations on what you can build for a certain price range.

General contractors generally offer you a price per square foot for single family home construction. However, this is often not as applicable to ADUs because of their smaller scale and different set of fixed costs. On top of this, there are soft costs, such as permit fees and other consultant fees, that are important to nail down early on in the process.

By reaching out to Cottage, we can give you an all-inclusive price range based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to: size, layout, shape, site conditions, geography, and general finish level. We also suggest looking at some of our Featured Projects to understand the broad types of projects that we have completed.

If you already have a target budget that you’re looking to hit and you already have financing plans lined up, reach out to Cottage and mention this during your consultation. We can work backwards from your target budget and provide our expertise during the design process to make sure you’re not making any unknowingly expensive decisions. If you’re not entirely sure about your budget, we would love to chat as well - we help you understand what is possible between different budgets or options as we’re laying the groundwork for a successful ADU project with you.

Key No. 2: Identify Your ADU Use Case

KYU: Knowing the use case(s) and motivation for your ADU project is crucial to making sure that the Cottage team is able to make the right design and finishing recommendations. Every property in California is unique, and you know yourself, your family, and your property best.

For example, you wouldn’t want to install glassy patio doors on an ADU that faces the main house as the doors would reduce the privacy of both the ADU and the main house. However, the same patio doors could be a great design touch for an ADU with a family-oriented use case or perhaps in a different spot of the ADU.

Homeowners will often come to us with a DIY sketch in hand—and that’s fantastic that you’ve put so much thought into the project! However, do keep in mind that there are often multiple ways to accomplish the same goals in architectural design. Tell us about your goals and the Cottage design studio will be able to use their expertise to help you meet your various design challenges with creative solutions from our experience over hundreds of ADU designs.

ADU Design Example - 1 Bedroom L-Shaped

Key No. 3: Inform Decision Makers Early

KYU: When it comes to building your ADU, we want to make sure that everyone involved is satisfied with the project. We want to make sure every relevant family member or other stakeholders are involved in the project as early as possible so their feedback is incorporated from project conception.

As you’re going through the design process, make sure to loop in your family members if they need to be involved. This is especially true if they will be the ones living in the unit or are the ones financing the build.

While the Cottage team can provide recommendations for the ADU build, you, your family, and/or your other stakeholders will ultimately need to make the final decisions on location, size, budget, and design for your ADU project.

Key No. 4: Create Your ADU Vision

MICHELLE: Before diving straight into conversations about design, it’s important to think about your personal ADU vision.

Designing without a vision is much like designing in a vacuum - the endless options for finishes in a custom home or ADU will drive you mad if you don’t start with a strong understanding of your goals and priorities. We suggest taking some time to carefully consider your main goals for the project and to imagine how your ADU will be used by whoever will be living in the unit.

Once you have the ADU’s goals in mind, make a list of every feature you would want in the ADU design, being careful to divide these into “must-have” features versus features that might be nice in the unit but are not necessary for accomplishing your ADU goals. Most homeowners prioritize the ADU shape, roof style, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms as “must-haves” while keeping other elements like number of doors/windows, storage space, and location of interior rooms as secondary considerations.

During the Cottage design process, we’ll discuss your priorities for your custom design and work with you to make recommendations that maximize your vision while staying within your budget.

Key No. 5: Communicate Early and Often About Your ADU Needs

MICHELLE: Communication is at the heart of any successful relationship and your ADU project is no different. Whether you are in the early stages of generating ADU ideas or deep in the design and construction of a project, your communication with your ADU team will play a big part to ensure your project is successful.

A few communication tips we recommend include: 1) consulting all of your project decision makers (partner, investors, parents, or children) before delivering answers to your ADU team, 2) coming prepared to meetings with questions and decisions, and finally, 3) remembering to lean on your ADU team’s expertise and experience when needed.

The Cottage Design and Operations teams constantly are hard at work to ensure that your ADU reality matches your ADU vision. However, the best way to ensure we’ll be able to fully utilize our expertise is if you communicate with us every step of the way.

What’s Next for Your ADU?

As Michelle and Kyu covered in this post, there are a few important ways to ensure that your ADU project goes smoothly. Now that you have the keys to success for your ADU project, you can be better prepared for all of the conversations you’ll have with your ADU team.

The Cottage team is here to help discuss your ADU project at any time! Contact us today using the link below for a Free, No-obligation Consultation & Estimate for your ADU vision with one of our ADU experts!

Get your free consultation and estimate today!