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    | 4 min read

    ADU vs. DADU: Which Space-Expanding Strategy is Best For You?

    There are many reasons to consider an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). You’ve been having conversations with aging parents who are looking to age in place with family nearby. Is there room in your home to give them space where they can live autonomously, but with a bit of “backup?” Or you’ve decided to locate your counseling practice at home but need an office with a separate entrance. Maybe you are looking to build a pool house or a larger garage for a growing collection of cars.

    Would an ADU address these additional living space needs? What about a fully detached accessory dwelling unit – a DADU? Maybe you’ve been hearing these terms and would like to know more. With demand for ADUs and DADUs in New England growing, I wanted to share what you need to know about assessing your needs, maximizing functionality, and the zoning questions that are likely to come up when considering this kind of addition to your property.

    What is an ADU?

    An ADU is a secondary housing unit on a single-family lot. It can be attached to or, with a DADU, detached from the main residence.

    ADUs/DADUs can come in various forms, such as a converted garage, a basement apartment, a movable tiny house in the backyard, or a separate permanent structure. They provide additional living space on residential properties. ADUs have gained popularity in many urban areas as a means to increase housing options and address affordability challenges, hence the growing popularity in the Boston area housing market.

    Assessing Your Space Needs

    ADUs and DADUs are about creating separate living space, not just adding square footage to expand existing living space. Whether you are adding space for adult children, in-laws, guests or for some other purpose, what are the requirements you are looking to fulfill? For people looking to age in place, it might be about moving laundry to the same floor as the new ADU/DADU living space. What level of privacy is expected? Something detached will obviously provide greater privacy, but there are also ways to create separation in an ADU. What is the storage needs for the new space? These are the kinds of questions to answer when assessing the needs to be addressed by this new space.

    Maximizing Functionality: Tailoring Your Space to Your Needs

    As you can see, there are so many reasons to consider an ADU or DADU. Here are a few clients we have helped to create the space that functions best for their needs.

    21st Century Carriage House

    If a home sits on a large parcel of land, options are more open. One client was looking for more room for a large vehicle, and a tractor that was used frequently on the property. Above the garage space, they built a home gym. This was built in addition to the existing three car garage they already had attached to their home. 

    With plenty of land, they decided to create a DADU, a carriage house with a three-car garage and a gym above it with a set of stairs that go into the gym. We also add a covered walkway from the carriage house to the home. The covered walkway became a great asset when they entertained. They found this was a great place to set up food and other items with protection against the sun. 

    suburban-retreat-medfield-ma-9A view of the three-car garage and walkway. The tapered posts with stone base anchors the walkway as a feature, not an afterthought, that connects to the architecture of this DADU and the main home.

     In-Law Apartment

    Instead of downsizing to a retirement community, this family wanted a place for Mom to age in place. The apartment could eventually be used for grown children. Mom’s “must have” list included a full kitchen and space to entertain, her own laundry, and overall – the ability to maintain her autonomy.

    ADU-KitchenAn ADU kitchen with everything needed to prepare a full meal for one person or a group of family and friends.

    In-Law Apartment 2

    Another project converted a garage space with a separate entrance for an aging parent to live with their family.

    in-law-apartmentThis ADU connects with the main home but provides ample separation between the in-law apartment entrance (to the right) and the main home.

    ADU-bathroom-with-washer-dryer-stackThis ADU bathroom includes a walk-in shower and space for a washer/dryer stack.

    ADU-KitchenA small but fully appointed kitchen opens to bright, sunny living space.

    Three-Story Apartment

    Sometimes it is the younger generation for which the ADU/DADU is designed. In this instance, parents built a three-story addition for their daughter so she could help them as they aged in place. The addition was built like an apartment with access to a living area on the second floor. The third floor includes a laundry area and bedroom space.  

    Zoning, Permits, and Regulations

    Like any addition to a single-family lot, there are zoning and regulation requirements that need to be met. When it comes to ADUs and DADUs, there is pending regulation in Massachusetts to make it easier to rezone housing to enable families to expand and add on so family member can live with them.

    Often planning boards will allow variances for ADUs but may add restrictions. It is important to work with a design-build company who understands and can work with the zoning requirements in your town. Often, they will speak to the building inspector before engaging in the project.  

    Finding the Ideal Space Solution for Your Home

    An ADU or DADU represents a significant change not just to your property but to the way your family lives on that property moving forward. You want the next stage to be a positive one for everyone involved.

    There are as many options for creating the best DADU/ADU as there are reasons for building them. Your design-build partner can help you explore all of the options by asking questions and learning as much as they can about your needs. Beyond great listening and needs assessment, find a design-build partner who understands the zoning requirements in your area and has a reputation for exceeding expectations.

    To learn more about home additions (ADU) or DADU, please download our FREE eBook - Home Additions 101: How to Plan a Home Addition That Perfectly Meets Your Family Needs. And if you are ready to speak about your next renovation, please schedule a home renovation discovery session.

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