What You Need To Consider Before Adding A Secondary Suite To Your Place

May 4, 2020

From a good construction of the house, the first thing that hits our mind is significant space, enabling us to move around freely, decorate with furniture, or set up a painting studio or small garage. Sometimes we get the luxury to design our place such as that, but if we are moving in a pre-built house, it might call for a remodeling.

Secondary suite refers to a dwelling unit which is generally attached to a more substantial existing residence. They serve multiple purposes. Other than the ones mentioned above, some people invest in secondary suites to rent them out and generate income, while others utilize them for personal usage. Regardless of how individuals exploit, in-law units are a pretty handy addition to any property.

In all likelihood, this description might trigger you to build a backyard cottage. That is a great infinitive and certainly one for the future. But many people come up with countless things to regret once their unit is all dolled up. The point being, erecting a secondary suite is easier said than done from the standard of an average person. So before you kick-start the construction or delve any deeper into the process, you must consider the following factors because they will play a vital role to make your project a success story:


Often, people sketch out a design without knowing the property development standards of their area. As a result, they end up building something that might go against the legal obligations and even get penalized in some cases. You can save yourself from this trouble by coming to terms with the zoning laws of your neighborhood. Tabbing into development standards will give you a bright idea about features such as height, density, and so on.

In some parts of the country, permits are mandatory to commence with the construction work. Again, the local regulatory body can guide you the best regarding what kinds of permits are required and how you can apply for them.


What could be more embarrassing than starting an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) project and then running out of the cash before its completion? Well, that is not an uncommon occurrence. A fair proportion of people never manage to pull off the venture within the due deadline. Poor financial strategy is the biggest culprit behind this.

Unlike the past, mapping out a budget is comparatively easier today. Because you have access to many online calculators that estimate all the necessary costs and give you a rough idea about total expenses. For further verification, you may get in touch with someone who has enough remodeling experience on his credit.

It is quite probable that your monetary standing might not be ideal for coping up with the construction expenditures. If there is not a yawning gap between your budget and overheads, taking a loan could get the job done. Moreover, you can also save some amount down the road by indulging DIY household tasks like fixing a sink, painting, etc.


Parking rules strictly apply to an ADU. In the past, the government deemed it important for every ADU that it must have a separate off-street parking area. However, the regulation has been softened now because homeowners had to pay a hefty tax. According to the current municipal code, you are not entitled to waste money on new parking if your property is in step with any of the following requirements:

  • It is within the distance of half a mile from public transportation.
  • It is situated in a district that enjoys a rich historical background.

Even if these conditions do not apply to your home, you may still qualify for some bargaining, which varies from state to state. Taking the example of San Francisco, an ADU not standing in parallel to the above criteria may just have to reserve bicycle spaces inside the new structure.


You may be able to turn your secondary suite into a visual treat and accumulate heaps of compliments from neighbors. However, a good design does not necessarily translate into a convenient design.

Let’s say; the new unit is architectured in such a way that its main door is facing your existing home’s entrance. Now, if you want to shift your parents to the ADU, this layout will offer them a sense of harmony and togetherness. At the same time, the unit won’t prove to be an excellent prospect if you put it on rent because an outsider generally prefers more privacy. At times the concern over privacy is mutual. Either way, this design will end up being a deal-breaker.

That is precisely why you should make your mind beforehand regarding the usability of the secondary suite. It will provide you much-needed clarity of thought, and the result will be nothing but perfect.


Until recently, a fire sprinkler system was a must in all secondary suites. But this rule has been revisited lately, and you may get away with the requirement under certain circumstances. The best way to know whether you should install the sprinkler or not is to get in touch with the fire officials.

Having said that, if fire regulation exempts you from this measure does not mean you do not need it at all. A sizeable percentage of ADUs is occupied by older adults who are not agile enough to respond to an emergency situation like a fire break out quickly. Of course, excluding the sprinkler will come up with financial relief, but having no access to it could put the life of your loved ones on the line.


The success of an ADU greatly hinges upon the selection of the contractor. He will be the key player right from the get-go. Since ADUs are mushrooming throughout the country, ADU-centric contractors are peppered everywhere. But not all of them equally master the art of construction. Here is how you can budge away from poor contractors and get hooked up with the best in the business:

  • EXPERIENCE: Just like every other profession, experience counts big time for a contractor as well. Compared to a newbie, a seasoned contractor would be well-equipped with skills to meet all the challenges that concern his field.
  • CHECK LICENSE: Having an active license shows that the person no bully and is qualified to get on with the task.
  • ASK FOR REFERENCES: A contractor can go on and on boasting about his projects. But instead of readily trusting his word, ask for recent references. You must make the final call based on the feedback of old clients.


Building an ADU is a big decision, and you simply can’t set a foot wrong. Because if anything goes wrong, you will need a huge fortune to undo that. Albeit time-consuming, getting to the bottom of the elements mentioned above will ensure the best return of investment and, thereby, an ideal ADU.

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Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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