The Many Faces of ADUs

The Many Faces of ADUs

All the Ways You Can Use the Extra Space | ADUs

It’s no secret that ADUs (accessory dwelling units) have become increasingly popular over the past few years. However, 2020 saw a record number of ADUs built in California. Around 9,000 people requested a building permit for an ADU in 2019, while that number skyrocketed to over 12,000 in 2020

With the global situation as it currently is, there’s a good chance that the ADU building trend will continue throughout 2021 and 2022. The Californian government is pushing for more ADU building and relaxing the building codes and zoning laws that previously blocked them. 

So, building an ADU has never been easier than it is in 2021. But why do people build ADUs, and what do they use them for?

There are many ways you can use your ADU and here is some of them explained

Extra Space Comes in Handy | ADUs

As we already discussed, ADUs have many benefits. People who build an ADU on their property next to their single-family home end up with more space and a potentially increased income.

ADUs have both short- and long-term benefits:

  • ADUs can effectively deal with the housing crisis — affordable housing is in short supply in California. Building ADUs in job-rich areas and then renting them out can deal with this issue. Affordable housing, which costs less than 30% of a person’s income, was practically an unattainable dream in California.
  • ADUs increase the value of your property. The real estate market in California is breaking records each month, and house prices are skyrocketing. Southern California houses that cost $500,000 in June of 2020 now cost around 22% more. If you want to cash in on that, it’s a good idea to make a few investments before you do it. 

ADUs allow you to potentially repurpose a space you aren’t using (like a garage or a portion of your yard) and add 1,000 square feet (or more) to your property. But what exactly can you do with them?

How Can I Use My ADU?

The best thing about ADUs is that they are versatile. First of all, there are different types of ADUs available to you. You can do a garage conversion or build a backyard cottage, opt for a tiny house or do an interior conversion ADU.

But, no matter which way you go with your building project, you can use your ADU in different ways. 

That’s why there are many names to ADUs. The linguistics of ADUs is what confuses most people. When someone tells you they are building a granny flat, it doesn’t really conjure a nice image in your mind, does it?

Accessory dwelling units go by many names:

  • accessory suite, apartment, unit, or dwelling
  • ancillary unit
  • granny flat, unit, apartment, or pod
  • backyard cottage
  • garden house or suite
  • basement apartment
  • in-laws unit, apartment, or suite
  • carriage house
  • home within a home
  • mother-daughter house
  • secondary suite, unit, or dwelling unit
  • tiny house

No matter the name, you can use your ADU in three different ways:

  • as non-living space
  • as temporary or permanent living space for family members or friends
  • or as a living space you’ll rent out.

What you do with your ADU depends on your location, property layout, and living conditions.

Non-Living Space 

There’s no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year. Among other things, it saw many of us leaving our office space and adjusting to working from home. For example, the Bay Area saw around 1.7 million workers transition to the WFH model in 2020. 

Of course, other cities and counties also saw a similar change happen. That’s actually what partially contributed to the increase in ADU building the past year. ADUs make for excellent additional non-living space.

Home Office

If you have to work from home but need to separate your living and working space. An ADU is an excellent solution for you. It allows you to still “go to work” and, more importantly, leave work. 

Working from home is tricky because it gives people the impression that they are always on call, so they often forget to clock out. If you have a separate office space that’s completely away from your primary residence, it might be easier for you to maintain a work-life balance.

Pool House

To many people, having a pool house is the epitome of decadence. However, if you already have a pool (and the yard space), having a pool house isn’t a huge leap. With an ADU, you can easily provide a space for yourself, friends, and family to change in and out of your swimsuits, shower, or just lounge around in. 

An ADU can also be used as a pool house, yoga, music or art studio

Yoga Studio

ADUs make for perfect yoga studios. They are large enough, so you have space to move around and far away from your main residence to give you that serenity and tranquility you’re looking for. Not to mention, you can easily have yoga sessions with other people in your yoga studio ADU. If you’re a yogi, an ADU might make a difference between opening your yoga studio and teaching in someone else’s.

Art Studio

Artists are notorious space hoggers. They spread their supplies around and infiltrate every nook and cranny of their primary residences with their things. So, you can see how having an additional (and separate) art studio space can be beneficial both for the artist and their family members.

Musicians could benefit from ADUs even more. If you’re a musician, you probably always dreamed of having your own music studio where you could play or sing uninterrupted and without having to worry about noise. Well, with an ADU (that has exceptional soundproofing), that dream is that much closer to becoming a reality.

Living Space

Of course, people primarily build ADUs to have additional living space. Why? Because having extra space is always a plus. You can use it for yourself or others. 

More specifically, you can use the additional space as guest space, family space, or as a rental. 

Granny Flats and In-Laws Suites

With over 64 million people living in multigenerational households, multigenerational living is once again on the rise due to the financial and emotional benefits it has. That’s why many ADUs are built to be granny flats or in-laws suites. People with aging parents aren’t that keen on leaving their elderly to fend for themselves or live in nursing homes. On the other hand, sharing living space with anyone is a challenge.

That’s why many people opt for ADUs. They provide just the right balance between proximity and privacy to leave everyone in both households happy and thriving.

ADUs also allow aging in place while simultaneously downsizing. Retired people who can no longer maintain their single-family homes opt to build ADUs in their backyards and relocate to them. The benefits of this are two-fold — they can stay near their house but have less space to maintain, and they can earn additional income by renting out their primary property.

Guest Houses

Those of us who often have friends and family from out of state visit know that space is a hot commodity. Building an ADU that will serve as a guest house is an excellent idea because it allows you to entertain guests without sacrificing your (or theirs) space, privacy, and comfort.

Boomerang Kids’ Suites 

With nearly 70% of millennials saying they can’t imagine how they can afford a house, it’s clear that the housing market is changing drastically. Although young people are buying homes, many of them are opting to rent instead. But, as we saw when the pandemic hit the entire world, renting can’t provide the same stability and safety that house ownership can. 

That’s why 2020 saw a lot of kids flocking back to their family homes (temporarily or indefinitely). Households that had ADUs didn’t have to compromise on space as much as those that didn’t. So, if you have a child that is considering moving back home, then building an ADU might be a good idea.


Of course, ADUs are also a potential additional income because you can always rent them out. Many two- or three-person families are looking for housing that’s not only affordable but also easy to maintain in terms of space. ADUs make for great rentals because they are entirely independent of the primary residence. Detached ADUs also offer enough privacy for all involved.

Cedar can help you build a perfect ADU

Build Your Perfect ADU With Cedar

Now that you’re familiar with all the ways you can use ADUs, it’s finally time to start building one! Cedar offers turn-key ADUs that will fit beautifully into your Californian neighborhood. You don’t have to deal with contractors, permits, and zoning rules nor figure out financing on your own.

All you really have to do is call us and book an appointment! The Cedar team will always strive to give you just the right type of ADU that you need that you’ll use to house loved ones, as an extra space, or to rent out. Creating beautiful, functional backyard homes is what we do, so give us a call!