How to Build the Perfect In-Law Unit
An in-law unit, or accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is an excellent addition to your home if you want to expand it. You might want to build an independent space for your parents or other relatives who may need some extra support and want to live as independently as possible. Or you might just be considering adding extra space to your home for guests. An in-law unit could be constructed somewhere in your backyard or on any other space land you might have. Alternatively, you could convert your garage or attic or build an addition onto your home.
There's a lot to consider if you're thinking about building an ADU. You might not have a lot of space to work with, so you'll have to think carefully about using the space you have available. You will likely need to consider building regulations and whether you will need a permit, and you will have to find the right architect and builder to bring your dream to life. Multigenerational homes are becoming more common again, and they're a great way to keep the family together. As you plan your in-law unit, keep the following things in mind to build the perfect new addition to your home.
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Get Input from Those Who Matter
When you're building an in-law unit,, it's often with someone specific in mind. One or both of your parents might be coming to live with you, for example. If this is your plan, you should be sure to involve whoever will be living there when making your plans. It might be your home, but it will soon become their home. They should get to have a say in what they need and what the place will appear. Of course, you can still have your input. You might want the ADU to blend in with your existing home, and you will probably have the final say on where and how it is constructed.
Consider Your Budget
Before you go too far with planning your in-law unit, you should think about how much you can afford to spend. Whether your budget is modest or sizable, you should make a plan that will work for you. If you're looking to save money on the project, you can save by making your unit smaller, looking at prefab solutions, using affordable materials, and more. Many things can help you keep your costs down if your budget is on the lower end of the scale. However, even if you have more money to spend, you still need to keep tight control of your budget.
Get a Site Plan
A site plan gives you an overview of your existing home. This is a must-have before you start planning for your expansion. It will help you identify the best place to build your ADU, plus it will give you the dimensions that you need to know how much space you have. You might also need a site plan if you need to apply for a building permit before you begin construction. My Site Plan can help you with your site plan, offering affordable prices for residential projects. It will give you details of any features or structures that you need to be aware of, including trees, which could get in the way of your construction plans.
Decide Whether to Extend, Convert or Add an Extra Structure
You will need to decide how you're going to add an in-law unit to your property. An ADU is often a free-standing structure that might stand in your backyard or other available spots. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be a new, free-standing structure. There are alternative ways to add an in-law unit to your home, such as converting an existing space like a garage. You could also build an addition onto your existing home, which could serve as your ADU.
Look for Inspiration
You might know that you want an in-law unit, but there's a lot to think about in your design. Before you set anything in stone, it's good to get some inspiration and find some ideas. Take a look at some examples of ADUs to see what you could be doing with the space that you have available. Ideally, an in-law unit will provide everything that you would need in a home. It should have a bedroom or sleeping area, living space, kitchen, and bathroom. A quick look online can show you many ADU designs that can get you to think about how to design yours both inside and out.
If you're going through the effort of adding an in-law unit to your home, you should think about how it's going to be useful long-term. When you're expecting to have an older relative move in, this might mean thinking about how you're going to make the space accessible. People often need more help with mobility as they get older, so it makes sense to consider things like wide entrance ways, grab bars, and an adapted bathroom. You might also want to consider what will happen to the unit if the intended occupants do not use it. Maybe they're not ready to move in yet, or perhaps they will eventually move into different accommodations. You might want the space to be flexible so that you can repurpose it.
In-Law Unit Essentials
There are some essential features you will need to consider for your new ADU. Make sure you plan for some of the fundamentals, such as proper ventilation and exposure to light. These units tend to be reasonably small, so you should also think about how you can maximize the space. One way to do this is to have high ceilings. It might not give you more floor space, but it does give the impression that your space is more abundant. Keeping your unit open in the living areas is another way to make it more spacious.
If there's one thing to keep in mind while planning and budgeting, it's storage. Your ADU needs plenty of storage capacity if you want it to be suitable for anyone to live there. Moving into an in-law unit might require getting rid of some clutter, but there still needs to be space for personal things. Plan the essential areas that need to be in the unit, such as the bedroom, somewhere to cook and eat, and any other living spaces.
Find an Architect or Project Plans
To have a solid plan for your project, you need to have architectural drawings. One option is simply to find some project plans online. You can browse plans and buy some that you like that fit the space that you have available. Alternatively, you can hire an architect to design an in-law unit from scratch. Even if you choose to use existing plans, it can be useful to use an architect to adapt them. They can make adjustments to help the plans suit your needs and fit the space you want to use.
Choosing an architect might seem a little overwhelming at first. You might not know what to look for or what questions to ask. Firstly, you might want to look for architects who have experience with designing these types of units. You can take a look at their portfolio to see if they have developed anything that you like. Consider whether you like their style and if you're impressed by the design choices that they make.
You might find that you have friends and family who can make recommendations if you know anyone who has had any construction work carried out. You can often trust their opinion more than anyone else's. You can also get in-depth answers about how they found working with the architect. You have the chance to ask them questions about the process and the experience. Of course, you can also look at online reviews and testimonials, which are useful for giving you an idea of whether an architect is the right one.
Another thing to consider is whether you might want to use a design and build service. When you choose a design and build service, they will take care of the whole project. This can be a more cost-effective option, and it can save a lot of time too. They already have their construction team, so you don't need to spend time looking for contractors. This option might not be for everyone, but it is one way to ensure a smooth process.
Consider Prefabricated Options
If you don't want to spend the time finding an architect and designing your ADU, you could consider prefabricated designs. A prefab design will allow you to choose a layout that you like and quickly install it on the site where you want it. You can usually customize prefab designs a certain amount, too, so you have some control over the final drafts. One of the benefits of a prefab design is that it makes it easy to control the costs. Installation is easier too, and it can also often be easy to take apart, in case you decide that you no longer need it.
Ensure You Meet Building Regulations and Requirements
You will need to make sure that your new in-law unit meets any regulations or building requirements. These can be government regulations or HOA rules, if you belong to one. You may need to follow regulations relating to the size of your ADU and the features and materials that it has. You might need to have a permit before you begin construction. This could require you to have a site plan and architectural drawings showing your plan for your in-law unit. Make sure you understand the process that you will need to complete to ensure everything is legal.
Once you have the design of your new unit planned out, you will need to find the right contractors. Your architect might be able to help you with this, as they have likely worked with various contractors and can recommend builders for the job. As you did with architects, you can also ask friends and family for recommendations to help you find a builder. You might want to find a contractor specializing in ADUs, although it isn't necessarily a priority. You should consider whether you're building a new in-law or need someone to convert an existing space.
You need to keep your budget in mind when building your new in-law unit, but choosing the cheapest builder isn't necessarily the right option. If you want someone cheap, they might not deliver the quality that you're seeking. As with architects, take a look at their portfolio to assess their previous work. You might even want to see if you can visit projects that they have completed to check the quality. If you don't have a recommendation from your architect or someone you trust, check on online for business reviews. Online reviews are usually quite honest and helpful.
There are a few things to check when you're looking for the right contractors. You need them to be licensed and have the proper insurance to complete your work legally and safely. They should have plenty of experience to trust that they will get the job done well. An experienced contractor can ensure your project runs smoothly, even if they hit any snags. Look for a contractor who can handle your project's cost well. They should be able to stay in budget and explain where your money is going.
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