Which Backyard Structure is Right for You?

With more people working from home now than ever before, the need for extra space has become a priority for many people. As adult children return to their parents’ homes in favor of remote work or aging parents begin to require more care, having some extra space can keep you and your family happy.

Accessory Dwelling Units (or ADUs) and Finished Sheds/Accessory Structures offer much-needed additional space to live or work in peace.

To find the best accessory structure for your needs, you’ll want to keep in mind usage, price, and the time it will take to complete the project. In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need to consider which option is right for you adding extra space to your property.

In this Guide:

What are ADUs?

ADUs are one of the fastest growing forms of housing in California. They are most commonly built on single family residential lots in popular communities where smaller, more affordable housing is hard to find.

ADUs are usually limited to 1,200 square feet, and most detached ADUs average about 750 square feet. And they can fit within a compact footprint, meaning you can add them to most any backyard.

There are plenty of benefits to ADUs – they are legally rentable, have their own address, and can have separate utility metering if desired.

Specific requirements of an ADU

Here in California, there are certain requirements for building an ADU:

  • Be at least the size of an efficiency unit (at least 150 sq. ft. livable space plus a bathroom)
  • Contain a kitchen
  • Contain a bathroom
  • Built on a permanent foundation
  • Can turn on/off the ADU utilities without entering the primary unit

ADUs Adds Livable Space to Your Property

Adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit to your property means you are adding livable space to your property, which carries a lot of legal weight. For instance:

  • An ADU is covered under homeowner’s insurance
  • An ADU officially adds square footage (and bedrooms/bathrooms) to the county record of your parcel
  • An ADU can legally be rented out
  • An ADU will receive its own postal address

What is a Finished Shed?

Today’s modern sheds aren’t the worn-down wooden shacks of yesterday, gathering dust and holding little more than garden tools and a lawn mower. Nowadays, backyard structures are custom built, highly customizable sheds that feature attractive & functional architectural elements to create the workspace of your dreams.

Backyard sheds can be used in a variety of ways: home office, man cave, she-shed, art studio, music room, library, playhouse, pool house, workout room, and more.

 

Finished or Unfinished Shed

All our sheds and garages come prefabricated for easy installation in your backyard. They can be left unfinished on the inside, so you can customize it as you desire. However, most homeowners ask us to finish the interior of their structure.

 

Limitations of Accessory Backyard Structures

To save money and time for permitting and installation, an accessory structure is often missing some features found in ADUs. For example, sheds usually don’t include plumbing, so you won’t be able to add a bathroom or kitchen. Also, a shed cannot legally be slept in, so if you plan to use your new structure as an occasional guest room, you should be aware that you cannot legally do so without it being an ADU.

A Comparison between ADUs and Finished Sheds

The main difference between ADUs and Finished Sheds is the intended use of the structure. ADUs are intended to be used as an additional residence on your property – whether you use it as a long-term or short-term rental, as a granny flat for your parents or relatives, or you live in it and rent out your main home. Finished sheds or accessory structures, however, are mainly intended as functional non-living space. They make the perfect home office, she shed, art studio, or other dedicated space for hobbies or business.

Below you will find some of the main differences between ADUs and Finished Sheds & Accessory Structures.

Design and Customization

ADUs

Finished Sheds

Size can be up to 1,200 square feet; most are ~750 square feet. Size can be up to 120 square feet without a permit; up to 500 square feet with a permit.
Multiple rooms (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom) with different ceiling heights. Single space.
More customizable – Start with a model or design from scratch. Customizable – Start with our shed designs then select the color and options.
Build Quality – Everything is built to code like your home. Dwelling-grade windows, doors, and hardware. Meant to last for over 50 years. Build Quality – Not designed to meet housing structure codes and requirements.
Build Materials – You can choose any material you would put in your home. Default is builder-grade materials; you can upgrade to more expensive materials. Build Materials – Standard sheetrock or beadboard walls, baseboard & trim, and choice of laminate or vinyl plank flooring.

Usage

ADUs

Finished Sheds

Additional livable space for relative. Ideal for work-from-home or office space.
Place for an aging relative or to age-in-place. Studio space for music, writing, art creation or other projects.
Place for an adult child to live and work from home. Playhouse or Home Gym.
Rental space for additional income. Man Cave or She Shed.
Airbnb Storage for fragile, high value possessions.

Pricing Considerations

ADUs

Finished Sheds

Increases home equity and property value, as you’ve created an entirely separate living space. Only additional value comes from a future buyer looking for WFH space or additional “room”.
Adds from $60K-$120K to tax base. Has very minimal effect on tax base.
ADUs are usually ~$200,000 plus. Most Finished Sheds are ~$25,000-$35,000.

Project Process and Timeline

ADUs

Finished Sheds

Total Time: ~12-18 Months Total Time: ~4 months
1 hour for initial consultation 1 hour for consultation and site visit (if needed)
2-4 weeks for site visit and 3D design of floor plan 1 week of discussing details of design
4-5 months for design drafting and engineering plans Order placed
5-6 months for permitting 1-2 weeks for construction, delivery, and installation
4-6 months for construction and completion

Need Help Deciding Which Structure is Right for You?

Ultimately, each option has its own primary use with a host of creative possibilities. An ADU is perfect if you need a structure with a bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom that you can use for rental income or to house and take care of a loved one. Our finished sheds are the perfect solution when you need extra space for work or projects on a budget.

Unsure of which option is right for you? Contact our team to discuss your project and get help designing your own private backyard space.

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