Step By Step Guide: How To Build An ADU

Step 1: Decide the type of ADU you want to build

The first step in building an ADU is figuring out the purpose of the ADU and what type of ADU would best fit your personal needs and the physical characteristics of your property. Are you looking for an office space? Maybe a home gym? Or are you looking to have a guest house? These are some of the many questions you may ask yourself when deciding on the purpose of an ADU in your home. Homeowners should also keep in mind that they have the option to build either a detached ADU in their backyard, an attached ADU that is a part of the home, or an ADU conversion.

Pro Tip: The City of Los Angeles has made it easier to build an ADU by providing homeowners access to 20 pre approved design options which can reduce the LADBS plan check review process from 4-6 weeks to as little as one day! These pre-approved design can be found on the ADU Standard Plan website as well as down below.

https://www.ladbs.org/adu/standard-plan-program/approved-standard-plans

Step 2: Budget

Once you’ve decided on what type of ADU best fits your needs and your property, you must come up with a budget on how much you are willing to spend on this project and how much the project is actually going to cost you. Its very important you consult with an expert such as an architect or contractor in order to get the most accurate estimate of cost, timeline of the project, as well as the manpower you would need to continue on with building an ADU. On this step you may want to keep in mind of any unexpected expenses that may come up, there are times where things may not go as planned so its better to account for the unexpected!

Step 3: Design the blueprint

On this step you may want to hire a draftsman or architect to help you design a plan or blueprint of your ADU. This is where you can start visualizing what you want your ADU to look like, while creating your blueprint you must also keep in mind of any electrical and plumbing work the ADU may need.

Step 4: Permits

Once everything is set all homeowners must request any permits needed for a smooth construction process, keep in mind of the 20 pre approved design options that have been pre approved for the city of Los Angeles, that can reduce the check review process from 4-6 weeks to as little as a day! Once you have all your permits in tact you are ready for building process of your ADU!

Step 5: Foundation Footings

When building a foundation you want to make sure you have a clear and flat surface to build on. The purpose of a foundation is to provide a level surface and to make sure the weight of the structure is distributed to the ground evenly. Once your site is cleared and the foundation has been made, you’re going to add the footing into the foundation, now you’re ready for the next step!

Step 6: Underground Utilities

At this point in the building process you want to run any underground utilities that will run underneath the foundation slab. This means installing plumbing lines, gas pipes, and electric power lines, cables, etc.

Step 7: Structural Rebar & Concrete

At this point in the build you are ready to add structural rebar, rebar is structural steel thats placed inside the concrete footings which provides the concrete with strength. Once the rebar in placed into the footings, the slab is to be reinforced with wire mesh, as well as a vapor barrier over the soil to prevent any moisture from the ground soaking into the slab. Around this time is when you would want to call the city inspector so they could inspect the rebar, vapor barrier, and wire mesh. Once the city inspector gives you the okay, you’re ready to place the concrete over the slab, now you just wait for the concrete to dry to progress into the next step!

Step 8: Rough Framing

Now you’re ready for the rough framing part of the ADU construction, this is where it gets fun  and you can see your ADU forming from the ground up! Keep in mind that the rough framing step can take up to 12-14 working days.

Step 9: Mechanical, Electrical, & Plumbing

On this step it’s time to get a plumber, electrician, and HVAC subs to start with the installation process. There is where all the water supply lines are being installed, a good note to remember is that your blueprint should specify these installations so that the subs know where to install their work in order for them to work quickly and efficiently! This part of the building process might take up to two weeks.

Step 10: Roofing, Siding, & Exterior

Now we can move forward to roofing, siding, and exterior paint. At this step in the process all the rough electrical, plumbing, and HVAC should be complete and the interior electrical panel should be done. At this point you want to call the city inspector to ensure everything up until the installation is according to the building code, once the inspector gives you the clear you’re ready for the next step!

Step 11: Insulation & Drywall

Once the exterior is completed and the city inspector gave you go to move forward, you’re ready to start insulting and adding drywall! On this step you want to make sure that any cracks and penetrations that exist in your framing are filled to ensure that theres no air leakage through your exterior walls.

Step 12: Finishing Touches

This is basically the last step of how to build an ADU, on this step the exterior of your ADU is complete and all inspections have been passed, now time to focus on personalizing the inside of your ADU! This is when we can move on to interior painting, installing the floors, and adding cabinetry that may be necessary for your newly built ADU!

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