What is an ADU?

First, the acronym; A-D-U stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit.

And it means a separate dwelling unit in, or an addition to, your family’s home.   Commonly it is the basement or the attic of a home.  Or, one full floor of living space which includes a sleeping area, bathroom, kitchen and living quarters. They are essentially a small-scale house within a house.  They are also sometimes called mother-in-law units and built as an addition to the existing home.

There are also D-A-D-U’s which stands for Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit.  Same definition only these units are detached from the existing home and located in a back or side yard.  They are usually planned, built and constructed differently than a unit inside the home.

Why would someone want one of these?

The reasons are many and as varied as the units themselves.  Many begin to finish off their basement or attic to add room to their home as their family grows or needs change.  It can start as an extra bedroom, a space to watch TV or maybe a hang out space for kids (or grown-ups) that includes a bathroom.

The accidental ADU

When you begin to add functionality to them, such as a bedroom, or kitchen area, they begin to take on the form of a dwelling unit and building codes will need to be considered.  Any time you add a bedroom you’ll want to make sure you add an EERO (emergency escape and rescue opening) window or door.  This is a opening that meets certain minimum dimensions and allows for escape in case of fire and for emergency personnel to enter the home if needed.  This is relatively easy to do in a converted attic space but more difficult in a basement as a window well is sometimes required.  This means you are digging out a portion of ground outside the window to create an entry space for a bigger window that has a sizable opening.

Once you add an outlet for a stove, a kitchen sink and place for food prep, the space officially become an Accessory Dwelling Unit and need to be permitted as such.  If terms like “food prep space” sound ambiguous, well they are. I don’t make the rules I just try to follow them for the benefit of permitting.

Maybe not all at once

Spaces are easy to convert if you plan from the beginning for this eventuality. Maybe you never take the space to this level but if you ever decide to, the infrastructure is already there. Why would someone ‘take the space to this level’?  If you want a wholly separate living space for family members or if you need some extra cash and would like to rent the space out you will want to create an ADU.  The space can add value to your home and provide additional income.

Look around your home

Look at your attic or basement and start to imagine how this underutilized space may better serve you.  Ask yourself what activities will take place there?  Then, imagine it with better natural light, finished walls and floors, and lighting fixtures added.  If the space is in a basement, make sure to read, Can My Basement be made livable?  Then check out some of 1AD Studios ADUs and DADUs here to see what others have done.

Then call 1AD Studio to set up a consultation to find out how you can begin to plan the space for your immediate needs and possible future needs! We’ll create a plan which allows you to take advantage of the space right away and make sure it will accommodate future needs as time and money allow!

Learn how to change spaces in your home by starting small.
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