Winter Is the Perfect Time to Build an ADU

Winter Is the Perfect Time to Build an ADU

Here’s why winter is the perfect time to build an ADU!

The interest in building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in California is increasing each year. In fact, 2020 was the year of ADUs before it even started. And, despite the global events, ADU building skyrocketed (just as predicted). 

There’s been a significant jump in ADU permits being issued all over California — back in 2018, the state of California issued around 9,000 permits, while that number was significantly higher in 2020 (12,392). This change in numbers was mainly due to two factors:


As we’ve mentioned many times before, the government realized that ADUs could significantly help with the lack of affordable housing, so it’s been doing everything it can to incentivize people to build a backyard cottage in their backyard. And, it worked!

Now, people are quick to consider helping out with the overall housing options by building granny flats. Some build them to have a few hundred extra square feet for friends and family members, while others look at them as business investments and plan on renting them out as long-term rentals.

However, many people think that just because November is almost upon us, they have to postpone their grand plans about tiny houses until spring. 

Well, the Cedar team is here to tell you that winter is the perfect time to build an ADU! There are plenty of benefits to the winter construction of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Some are logical (like the fact that finding an available contractor is more manageable and a lot more straightforward), while others might be more hidden from plain view. So, let’s see what they are, shall we?

Build an ADU in the Winter | What are The Benefits?

Not that long ago, the rules of building were firm on the fact that you shouldn’t pour foundation before spring. However, as the building technology advanced, the rules have evolved. 

Not to mention, we’re in California. At best, the winters are mild, and thanks to the Eastern Pacific High, California has the most beautiful weather year-round.

That’s why California homeowners have a leg up on everyone else when it comes to building more living space on their property. We can add on to our single-family homes throughout the year (if we plan everything right and get our plans pre-approved).

More Availability and Overall Shorter Wait

If you want to build your ADU in the winter, you’ll be happy to hear that you’re in the minority. That might not sound as good news right off the bat, but it’s actually a great benefit. The contractors aren’t fully booked in the winter, which means you’ll be able to not only find one that works for you but also book them pretty much immediately. 

This increased availability also has another hidden benefit. Because your contractor probably won’t be working on several projects simultaneously, you’ll have an overall shorter build time. The contractor you choose will have more resources to devote to your project. 

Incidentally, that also means that you (and your ADU project) will probably get more personal attention than you would in the spring or summer. Although every professional builder will make sure to devote their attention to your project no matter the time of the year, winter is a slow season for them. Therefore, you may get more individual attention than you normally would.

Better Rates

One of the most common myths about ADUs goes in two different directions: people either believe they are cheap gimmicks or too expensive to build.

In reality, ADUs are fully functional, effective, and efficient additional dwelling units that will add more living space to your property and potentially increase your income. However, they aren’t that cheap to build. On average, the costs can be somewhere around $156,000, but they can also stack up. If you’re building on a budget, consider doing it in the winter because construction rates might be a bit lower.

Fewer People Applying for Permits

adu permit california

As logic dictates, fewer people are willing to start their ADU project in the winter; so, fewer homeowners are applying for permits. Although the government already made the process of getting a permit as quick as possible, getting one in the winter will probably be quicker.

The fewer people there are in the virtual permit line before you, the quicker the permit process will finally be over. It’s the simple law of supply and demand.

Mother Nature Can Actually Help You

So, we already know that you can build in the winter. You just have to factor the weather conditions in. In fact, the cold and the rain (and sometimes even snow) can help you during the construction more than you probably originally thought. 

Most people think that weather can only hinder their project. However, seeing how the land, soil, and overall layout plans behave during harsher weather can be beneficial. If it doesn’t rain during your ADU construction time, you’ll never really know how the property behaves and where the water tends to gather, for example. 

That can’t happen if you build in wintertime. It’s will rain sooner or later. 

Not to mention, the extra water after heavy rainfall (or snow) can help compact the gravel. That will create an excellent base for concrete work. It will also help you avoid settling spots.

The Humidity Isn’t as High

One of the major concerns people have about winter construction is humidity. They are worried that the moisture will warp their wood and leave them with a botched project.

However, because construction doesn’t stop worldwide at the first sight of rain and increased humidity, lumber companies and builders have ways of working around this little issue. Not to mention, the humidity in California is actually lower during winter than it is during spring and summer. 

The lumber that’s used for ADU projects (and any building projects) is kiln-dried to 19% moisture. Ideally, you don’t want to disturb that percentage because if the wood gets too dry, it can become brittle. Wood that’s too wet, on the other hand, can rot or warp.

So, how do you maintain that perfect balance? Well, since the air isn’t as humid in the winter, you’ll easily avoid getting the wood wet. Not to mention, even if it does get wet due to rain or melting snow, the heating devices on the construction site (that you’ll definitely have to have) will help dry it out. 

building an adu in california this winter with cedar

Indoor Work

Once you finish the early stages of the construction and you have the bare bones of your future accessory dwelling unit before you, it’s time for indoor works. Luckily, the weather really doesn’t matter for this particular stage of the project. 

Therefore, as long as you ensure that the outdoor construction part of the project goes without a hitch, you’ll be good to go on the indoor work.

But There Are Some Drawbacks

Of course, winter isn’t the most perfect time of the year to build an ADU. Otherwise, everyone would be waiting for November to come around to break ground. Therefore, naturally, there are some drawbacks to winter building.

The Ground Might Be Frozen

One of the reasons ADUs are so popular in California is that all the conditions are perfect for building, and that includes the weather. However, sometimes even California winters can be harsh.

If the ground is frozen, there’s really little you can do about it. Your project might run into some delays due to that. 

Daylight Is Fickle and Fleeting

We don’t have as many daylight hours as we do in the spring and summer in wintertime. Therefore, the working day can’t last as long. When it comes to construction, you need daylight.

Extra Heating Costs

Since winters can be cold even when they are mild, you’ll have to heat the construction site. That might mean some extra costs for you.

Concrete Setting In Is More Difficult (But Never Impossible)

One of the biggest myths about winter construction is that the concrete can’t settle if it’s cold outside. It is true that you mustn’t let concrete freeze during the first 24 hours of settling. Otherwise, it just won’t settle to be as strong and durable as it should. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t pour concrete during the winter.

Builders can add additives to the concrete to keep it from freezing. That is a preventative measure that only strengthens the concrete (and doesn’t weaken it, as many believe). 

Aside from that, builders leave the concrete to cure for a longer time in the winter than they do in the summer. Therefore, it’s possible that the cement the builders pour in the winter is actually stronger than the one they pour in the summer. Build an ADU this winter with us!

cedar builds all year-round

Cedar Builds All Year-Round

If you don’t want to wait for the flowers to start blooming to break ground and start your ADU project, give us a call! We work year-round and will happily assist you in making your winter ADU building project a dream come true.

Our turn-key solutions that combine Scandinavian minimalistic design with the Californian spirit are the easiest and quickest way to increase your square footage and add an ADU to your backyard.