Designing the Perfect ADU: Tips and Tricks

Additional Dwelling Unit Kitchen Image

Are you looking to build an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in San Diego? If so, it is important to plan your project carefully to get the most out of your investment. In this article, we will provide some tips and tricks from experienced ADU builders in San Diego, helping you create the perfect design for your ADU. We will cover everything from selecting the right materials and contractors to budgeting for construction costs.

Knowing the best tips and tricks for designing a perfect ADU can save time and money and guarantee you get the most out of your space. House to Home in San Diego has years of experience helping customers create ideal living spaces that suit their lifestyle. We keep you informed about all aspects of the process.

What Is an ADU?

ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units, are compact dwellings constructed on the same property as an existing house. These units are frequently rented out to generate money or accommodate guests. Their accessibility and adaptability are helping them gain popularity in San Diego.

ADUs can take on a variety of shapes, including detached buildings, cottages in the garden, and garages or basements that have been transformed. ADU construction has increased in San Diego recently as homeowners seek ways to raise their properties’ value while also producing additional income. San Diego is the perfect location for landlords to invest in these properties due to its pleasant environment and convenient location.

One of the main advantages of adding an ADU is that it enables homeowners to expand their living space without relocating or selling their current residence.

Types of ADU’s

There are different types of ADUs available, and each has its own unique features.

The first type of ADU is the detached unit. As the name suggests, these units are separate structures from the main house. They can be custom-built according to homeowner preferences. Detached ADUs offer privacy and separation from the main house, making them ideal for families with adult children or elderly parents who need independent living spaces.

The second type of ADU is the attached unit, which is built onto an existing structure, like a garage or basement. Attached ADUs tend to be smaller than detached ones but provide a convenient way for homeowners to maximize their existing space without compromising privacy.

Tips for Designing an ADU: Aesthetic & Durability

Designing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) can be a challenging task, especially when it comes to balancing aesthetics and durability. To help you create a stunning yet long-lasting ADU, here are some tips to consider:

Firstly, when working with ADU builders in San Diego, it is essential to prioritize functionality over form. While an attractive design is crucial, ensure the space is practical for its intended use. For example, if you plan on using the ADU as a rental unit, ensure that the layout maximizes living space while still providing privacy for tenants.

Secondly, choose materials that provide both aesthetic appeal and durability. It is best to select materials requiring minimal maintenance or upkeep while complementing your home’s overall design style.

Tips for Planning: Goals, Budgets, and Expectations

One of the most important aspects of planning any building project is setting clear goals for what you hope to achieve with your space. For example, do you plan on renting out your ADU as an additional source of income, or are you hoping to create a separate living space for family members? Determining your goals early on can help guide important decisions throughout the building process.

Another crucial aspect of planning your ADU project is setting a realistic budget. You’ll need to factor in costs such as permits and fees, materials and labor, and potentially unexpected expenses that may arise during construction. Partnering with experienced ADU builders in San Diego can help provide guidance on budgeting and ensure that your investment is maximized by making smart choices throughout the process.

Depending on the project site and the type of ADU project, you are looking at $300 and $750 per square foot in San Diego. There are fixed costs, such as permits and fees, so the first 400 square feet are usually the most expensive.

  • Small ADU: (200 – 600 sq.ft.) = $150,000 to $250,000
  • Large ADU: (600 – 1,200 sq.ft.) = $250,000 to $350,000

Another thing to note is that finishes account for about 30% of your construction budget, so keep that in mind when shopping for lighting, plumbing, and cabinetry. That’s why projects for family tend to cost more than ADU units intended for rental.

Research Local ADU Regulations for San Diego

House to Home has extensive experience with ADU building in San Diego. Here are a few things you need to know about your local regulations.

San Diego allows ADU construction on residential-zoned properties with an existing or planned single-family or multifamily building. The size of your ADU will depend if you choose attached or detached. The ADU can only be a maximum of 16 feet tall and must have at least one floor.

One or two accessory dwelling units are permitted for single-family dwellings. The amount of ADUs that can be built on multifamily sites varies depending on how many structures are already there. The distance between your property’s side and rear property lines and any attached or detached ADUs must be at least 4 feet.

San Diego does mandate that connected and detached ADUs have one parking space unless your project is exempt.

Tips for Designing Your ADU

Designing a functional accessory dwelling unit (ADU) can be an exciting and rewarding process. Still, creating an aesthetically pleasing and practical space takes careful planning. ADUs can add value to your property, create extra living space for family members or guests, or generate rental income. You can achieve all these goals with the help of experienced ADU builders in San Diego.

When designing an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), it’s important to make sure that the unit is both functional and efficient. One way to do this is by incorporating solar technology into the design. You can reduce energy costs and increase your rental income by implementing solar panels.

Another way to create a functional ADU is by making it a smart house. This means installing smart home devices such as thermostats, locks, and cameras that can be controlled remotely from a smartphone or tablet. This makes life easier for tenants and provides added security and peace of mind.

One key tip for designing a functional ADU is prioritizing your needs and budget. Consider factors such as the size of the unit, how many rooms it will have, and whether you want to include any special features like a kitchenette or laundry room. Be sure to work closely with your builder throughout the design process so that they can provide valuable input and advice based on their experience building other ADUs in San Diego.


Designing the perfect ADU isn’t complicated if you approach it with an eye for detail and a thorough understanding of your needs. Start by researching local zoning laws and regulations, then decide on the size and location of your ADU. Consider the function it will serve and the style that matches your home. With these tips and tricks, you can design a beautiful, functional accessory dwelling unit that meets your needs.

Stop struggling to manage your ADU construction project on your own; hire the professionals at House to Home today and make the process simpler, faster, and more efficient. By entrusting experienced specialists with this important task, you can eliminate stress, save time and energy, and finally move forward with confidence. Now is the perfect time to take control of your project—contact House to Home now!


ADU projects typically cost between $300 and $750 per square foot in San Diego. In general, your cost per square foot will be lower the larger your accessory dwelling unit is. The site and your particular property may have an impact on the price. A project’s cost can increase by tens of thousands of dollars if located on a steep hillside!

  • Research potential builders online and read reviews from previous customers. Check their website for their portfolio of completed projects, or ask for references from past clients.
  • Make sure the builder has experience with ADUs specifically, as this type of construction requires a unique set of skills and knowledge.
  • Check if they have all the necessary licenses and insurance for your project.

Depending on the location, size, design, and use of your ADU, there may be different types of permits, such as building permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, grading permits, or fire department approval. You will need to hire reputable ADU builders in San Diego who know your area’s building codes and regulations. They can help you navigate the complex zoning laws and permit requirements for ADUs.