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Tiny Homes: How Long Does It Take to Build an ADU?

Are you trying to help your family find affordable accommodation? Are you wanting to move your aging parents closer to home without success?

Perhaps one of your children has recently returned from college and wants their own space.

According to a recent survey, as much as 10% of the US population’s currently feeling the pinch when it comes to finding affordable housing.  

One way to solve all these problems is to build an ADU in your backyard. Does that sound like a great idea to you but you’re wondering how long you’ll have to share your cramped space with all these extra people.

These are the usual timelines for building various types of ADU’s.

What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

You’ll hear different definitions of what an ADU is depending on where you live. Usually, this term refers to any small dwelling that’s separate from the main house on a property. Some of the other terms for an ADU are granny flats, in-law suites, tiny houses, and garden cottages

There are two categories of ADU’s

Detached ADUs 

These small backyard buildings are stand-alone units separate from your main house. They’re ideal for people who want a little more privacy.

These ADUs are a good option if you want to sing with AirBnB to offer accommodation or if you want to rent out your backyard house.

Attached ADUs

Attached ADUs join onto your home at some point. You can turn a basement, garage, or attic into an attached ADU.

Even if they’re not used for accommodation, these rooms count as ADUs whenever they’re amended beyond their original purpose.

Why Do You Want to Build an ADU?

The purpose of your ADU also affects construction time. Some of the main uses for an ADU include:

  • As extra office space
  • For a home gym
  • As an artist’s studio
  • As a guest cottage for visiting family or friends

Naturally, your budget as well as intentions for your ADU will also impact the size and design of your ADU. The more involved and complicated this process is, the longer you’ll take to build your ADU.

Factors Affecting Your Timeline

In an ideal world, we could all go ahead and bang an ADU together out of plywood in one afternoon. Unfortunately, it’s never as simple as that.

These are the steps involved in building an accessory dwelling unit:

  • Arranging the necessary finance for your ADU
  • Working out a design for your dwelling
  • Arranging floor plans for the design
  • Submitting plans for your backyard house
  • Getting approval from your city
  • Hiring an architect and contractor
  • Recording the City’s Covenant Agreement

Any of these factors can hold up your project. Let’s take a more detailed look at some of these and how long you can expect to wait before your ADU’s ready to receive its first occupant. 

Municipal Approvals

Municipal regulations govern any construction in your neighborhood. In some areas, it might not be legally possible to build an ADU in your backyard.

Some of the msot common regulations are:

  • Restrictions on how many dwellings are allowed on a single lot
  • Distance limitations regarding how close you can build to your boundary
  • Height restrictions on new constructions in your area
  • Size limits on ADU’s in your neighborhood
  • Parking regulations with regard to ADUs
  • Environmental by-laws pertaining to construction


This post, gives you some more information about the type of restrictions that might apply to your ADU.

To get your ADU through the approval process you’ll need to submit several documents to your local powers that be. These include:



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