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Top Cost-Saving Strategies for Building an ADU in 2024

Home - Architecture - Top Cost-Saving Strategies for Building an ADU in 2024

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Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) has become increasingly popular as homeowners look for ways to maximize their property value, provide additional living space, or generate rental income. However, the cost of constructing an ADU can be a significant investment. In 2024, smart planning and strategic decisions can help you save on your ADU building cost. This blog outlines the top cost-saving strategies to ensure your ADU project is affordable and successful.

Understanding ADU Basics

Before diving into cost-saving strategies, it’s essential to understand what an ADU is. An ADU, or Accessory Dwelling Unit, is a secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot. It can be attached, detached, or converted from an existing structure, such as a garage. ADUs typically include a living area, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area.

1. Conduct Thorough Planning

Research and Permits

One of the most crucial steps in saving money on your ADU is thorough planning. Begin by researching local regulations and zoning laws. Each city has specific requirements for ADUs, including size limits, setback rules, and occupancy restrictions. Understanding these regulations upfront can prevent costly changes down the line.

Design and Layout

Invest time in designing a functional and efficient layout. Smaller, simpler designs tend to be more cost-effective. Consider multi-purpose spaces to maximize the utility of each square foot. For instance, a fold-out bed can save space in a studio-style ADU.

2. Utilize Existing Structures

Garage Conversion

Converting an existing garage or basement into an ADU is often cheaper than building from scratch. The basic structure is already in place, which can significantly reduce construction costs. Ensure the existing structure is in good condition and complies with building codes.

Attic or Basement

Similarly, transforming an attic or basement into an ADU can be a cost-effective option. These spaces often require less structural work, focusing instead on interior finishes, insulation, and utilities.

3. Simplify the Design

Minimalist Approach

Opt for a minimalist design that prioritizes functionality over luxury. Simple designs with fewer intricate details reduce labor and material costs. Open floor plans can create a spacious feel without the need for additional walls and framing.

Standard Materials

Use standard, off-the-shelf materials instead of custom or high-end options. Stock items are generally more affordable and readily available, which can also save on shipping costs and project delays.

4. DIY Where Possible

Sweat Equity

If you have construction skills, consider doing some of the work yourself. Tasks like painting, landscaping, and installing fixtures can be managed by homeowners, reducing labor costs. However, leave more complex tasks like electrical and plumbing work to licensed professionals to ensure safety and compliance.

Friends and Family

Leverage the skills of friends and family who may be willing to help. Hosting a few work parties can make light of the work and reduce labor expenses. Just ensure that all work meets local building codes and standards.

5. Shop Smart for Materials

Bulk Purchases

Buying materials in bulk can lead to significant discounts. Collaborate with neighbors or other ADU builders to purchase materials together. Large home improvement stores often offer bulk pricing or contractor rates for large orders.

Reclaimed Materials

Consider using reclaimed or recycled materials. Salvage yards and online marketplaces can be great sources for affordable building materials. Items like doors, windows, and fixtures can be sourced at a fraction of the cost of new ones.

6. Energy Efficiency

Long-Term Savings

Investing in energy-efficient appliances and insulation may have higher upfront costs, but they can lead to significant savings in the long run. Energy-efficient ADUs will have lower utility bills, making them more attractive to potential renters.

Solar Panels

Consider installing solar panels. While the initial investment is substantial, solar panels can drastically reduce or eliminate electricity bills over time. Many areas also offer tax incentives and rebates for solar installations.

7. Financing and Incentives

Grants and Loans

Research available grants, loans, and incentives for ADU construction. Many cities and states offer financial assistance to encourage the development of ADUs as a solution to housing shortages. These programs can significantly offset construction costs.

Tax Benefits

Take advantage of tax deductions and credits for energy-efficient upgrades and home improvements. Consult with a tax professional to understand which benefits you qualify for and how to maximize them.

8. Hire the Right Professionals

Experienced Contractors

Hiring experienced contractors who specialize in ADU construction can save money in the long run. They are familiar with common pitfalls and can navigate permitting processes efficiently, reducing the risk of costly mistakes.

Get Multiple Bids

Obtain multiple bids for your project to ensure you are getting a fair price. Don’t automatically go with the lowest bid; consider the contractor’s reputation, experience, and included services.

9. Time Management

Off-Season Construction

Schedule your project during the off-season. Contractors may offer lower rates during periods of low demand. Avoiding peak construction times can also lead to quicker project completion.

Project Timeline

Develop a realistic project timeline and stick to it. Delays can increase costs due to extended labor and rental fees for equipment. Effective project management and regular progress checks can keep your project on track.

10. Think Long-Term

Quality Over Quantity

Saving money is crucial, but don’t sacrifice quality in the process. Poor-quality materials or workmanship can lead to higher maintenance and repair costs over time. Invest in durable materials and skilled labor to ensure your ADU stands the test of time.


Consider future needs and potential changes in regulations. Building with adaptability in mind can save on future modification costs. Design your ADU to be easily upgradable or expandable if needed.


Building an ADU in 2024 can be a cost-effective way to add value to your property and provide additional living space. By conducting thorough planning, utilizing existing structures, simplifying design, and making smart financial decisions, you can significantly reduce construction costs. Remember to prioritize quality and energy efficiency to ensure long-term savings and satisfaction with your ADU investment. With these strategies, you’ll be well on your way to building an affordable and successful ADU.