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  • Writer's pictureCrystal Remodeling

How do you ADU?

It doesn't have to be the traditional Mother-In-Law space! Accessory Dwelling Units come in all sizes, shapes and purposes.

With real estate at a continued premium, more and more families are finding ways to make space for each other and, in some cases, create passive income as well. An Accessory Dwelling Unit, also known as an ADU, can be the perfect solution.

An ADU is, in essence, a secondary housing unit built on a single-home lot. Accessory Dwelling Unit is a regulatory term that identifies how builders can construct them in a given jurisdiction, but they are not defined by any particular structure type or placement. ADUs can be in the form of a converted garage, a basement remodel, a detached structure, an addition to the house or inside the main house itself.

Mother-in-law unit? That’s an ADU. Carriage house? ADU. Basement apartment, granny flat, secondary suite? All ADUs. Portland, Oregon, is known for its innovative community of ADU experts.

When considering adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit to your lot or home, there are many factors to consider -- more than we can explore here. But it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

What is the short-term and long term purpose of your ADU?

Are you interested in the passive income of a short term rental now, but the unit will ultimately house an elderly family member? Be sure to keep the design simple but flexible, with ample storage, and easy-to-maintain surfaces and appliances. Be sure the unit offers privacy and is easily accessible by someone with physical limitations. Include accessibility features for later use that can also be enjoyed by guests today such as shower grips, bars by the toilet, low or open cabinets, handy storage pull-outs, and attractive, up-to-code railings on any walkway or staircase.

This is just one example of a flexible long-term plan. Think through your own plan and purpose so you can design and build now for an easy transition later.

What are the codes for building an ADU in your city or county?

The regulations on building a new ADU or converting a current space into one vary widely depending on where you live and the vision for your unit. In addition, these regulations are rapidly evolving, and they could have changed since the last time you looked. If you are planning to do some or all of the work yourself, it is imperative that you check with your county building permit department to find out what the ordinances are in your area. Better yet, hire a local contractor to plan and construct the project for you. An experienced local design/build contractor like Crystal Remodeling can safely navigate the permitting and construction process, even on a small city lot with a historic home occupying it.

Depending on your unique situation, other important considerations could include cost and financing, resale value and upkeep and maintenance. We recommend that your first call be to our expert planners at Crystal Remodeling. We can help you think through your purpose and vision, highlight the benefits and challenges of such an undertaking, and navigate the ordinances in your community.

For more in depth information on accessory dwelling units check out and

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