ADU 202 – Other Considerations [3 of 9]

This podcast discusses the considerations and nuances to building an ADU that may be less evident to the average Denver homeowner. Topics covered include (1) What type of ADU do you want? (2)What will the space be used for? (3) Lesser considered ideas and thoughts (4) Taking the future into account (5) The harsh realities of any building project (6) Pre-engagement recommendations.



Denver ADU Course
This post is part of the Denver ADU Course. The course explores the ADU building process in Denver.
Three Learning Options:
  1. Listen to episode “[ADU 3 of 9] ADU 202 – Other Considerations” on the Denver Real Estate Investing Podcast
  2. Watch the YouTube video at the bottom of the page.
  3. Read the blog post.


By this point, we hope that you have a solid understanding of what it takes to get an ADU built on your property. The zoning and planning process requires a lot of input from the homeowner and multiple other professionals who will be assisting throughout the journey of the construction. We wanted to take some time to explain some other considerations that homeowner should have on their mind during the design and development process.

A homeowner should do a thorough analysis of how they think the ADU will be used. This will have a substantial effect on the design type along with the types of finishes that are built into the unit, both having an impact on the final cost of the build.

Family member. If a family is going to potentially live in the ADU you should consider the design based on the age of the family member that is going to live with you. If you have a child coming back home from college then a unit above a garage is not a concern. However, if older parents are coming to live in the unit then having a set of stairs to navigate could add unnecessary hassle to their living situation.

Rental units. A homeowner could decide to reduce the cost by not getting top of the line finishes and appliances. An ADU used only for renting could also get by only being a studio style layout which could help further reduce the amount of materials that are needed during the construction process which helps reduce cost.

Personal residence. Some homeowners have built ADUs on their property to live in and then rent their front house. When homeowners plan to do this it could be a better option to consider higher end finishes along with a unit that is 1-2 bedrooms. Creating a living space that is comfortable and happy to be in will help ensure that living in the newly built ADU is a pleasure and not a pain.

Personal use. Building an ADU to be used solely for personal use is a very popular option as well. There are incredible mancaves and she sheds that have been built to accommodate the unique needs of the property owners and their hobbies. These units can also make great spaces for hosting events and gatherings, they give the luxuries of one’s home while minimizing the traffic and clean up required in the main house.

It is also important to keep future owners of the property in mind when building an ADU. These units should add value to a home, if one is built with too narrow of use in mind potential buyers could see it as a burden rather than a bonus. Building the space with high-quality materials and having the work done by professionals also ensures that the unit will age well and continues to provide value into the future.

Once you have a good understanding of the type and use of the space that you would like for your ADU there are a few more design elements that should be considered.

Natural Lighting. Depending on the orientation of your property you should think about how the sun will enter the unit in the morning and how the unit will be light through the day. It’s best to avoid rising sun directly into sleeping quarters and to try and maximize how much natural light can enter the unit throughout the day.

Privacy. When determining window location it is also important the consider the privacy of the unit. Will neighbors or the main house have a direct view into the bedroom or bathrooms? Where should doors be located as to not disrupt occupants of the main house while still providing security to the ADU? It’s important to balance the overall privacy of the unit while still making it a welcoming home.

Layout. As mentioned earlier determining if the unit is going to be a studio, 1 bedroom, or 2 bedroom unit will have an impact on cost. Multiple bedrooms will also affect the overall layout of the house. Most ADUs are limited in size so multiple bedrooms can take away space from other living areas like the kitchen or living room. How these rooms are laid out will also determine what kind and how effective heating and cooling will be in the home. Many ADU owners do not run full HVAC in the unit and use mini-split air conditioners instead. When using something like this the locations of the areas that are most important to cool need to be near or next to each other to ensure that the unit can work efficiently. If a homeowner decides to run gas to the unit location of the kitchen and furnace should be considered, ideally, you would want to run as little new line as possible to the unit to help reduce the cost.

Realities of the process

Keep in mind that this is not going to be a project that goes without hiccups or slowdowns. Knowing this makes it even more critical that you are well versed on your local zoning rules and have an in-depth understanding on how you want to use the unit and what kind of design you want to build. This will help you solve problems with your architect and builder much quicker. You should have a budget for this project and do your best to stick with it, as with most construction projects they can easily go way over budget if not careful. You should know what areas you are willing to cut back on and which things you are not willing to compromise on.

Working with professionals who have experience in building ADUs will go a long way in making your project a successful one. Experienced professionals will not only know how to handle the hurdles but will also be able to give you well thought out recommendations when a change or decision has to be made. They will also advise against cutting corners to save cost which is something that you should hold anyone you hire accountable to. Cutting corners now will lead to a bigger cost in some way down the road. It’s important that the unit that you build is of quality so that it ages well with the main residence.

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Chris Lopez
Chris Lopez is a Denver area real estate entrepreneur and investor, as well as the host of Bigger Pockets’ House Hackerz and the Denver Real Estate Investing Podcast.
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