Taking a piece of real estate and improving it by adding an ADU is a relatively easy form of Real Estate Development that even a novice real estate investor or homeowner can accomplish with the right guidance.
Over the course of the next 12-16 weeks I will take you along as I build a brand new 1,200 sqft ADU on a property in Hyde Park, Los Angeles. I will be sharing a step-by-step "how to" which covers the entire ADU construction process from the initial design to final inspection.
This ADU is being constructed on a property I own, and I am acting as my own General Contractor. Although I am a licensed General Contractor, the information I provide in this guide will benefit anyone who is ready to start building their own ADU, even if you have little or no experience in construction. If you have a willingness to learn and are not afraid of a little hard work, then you can build your own ADU which you can use for investment or personal enjoyment. Or both.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your own ADU construction project, please do not hesitate to call or email me with questions or comments. I look forward to sharing this process with my community and I encourage all homeowners and investor who can add an ADU to their property in Los Angeles to do so. Our great community needs more housing and we can help by providing additional housing options for our fellow Angelenos.
For me, I wanted to maximize my return on investment, so I chose to design and build the largest ADU that was allowed. Every square foot you build equals a higher rent you can command and a higher eventual sales price when it is time to sell. I wanted a 3bd/2ba ADU that I could rent for top dollar. I chose to build a detached unit because I had room in my backyard, and I thought that a detached ADU would be more desirable for a family looking for a home. And as any real estate investors knows, families tend to stay longer which equals less tenant turnover which equals less headaches.
Once I settled on the type and size of ADU I wanted to build the next step was to get a design in place and construction drawings produced.
I knew exactly what I wanted and since the ADU was only two stores I didn't need a licensed Architect to come up with a new ADU design, I simply hired an experience draftsman to prepare the plans, and Structural Engineer to provide structural calculations. It is particularly important that you hire a draftsmans or architect that is experienced in designing ADUs, and experienced working with the city you live in. DO NOT try to save a few dollars by hiring someone that does not have experience with ADUs, or an Architect or designer that does not work full-time in your city. An inexperienced designer, Architect, or Engineer can add months to your project timeline if they are not familiar with the ADU ordinance and how each city treats the permitting process.
Once the designer is done with your plans the next step is to submit the plans to the city and wait for their comments or approval. In my case it took the City of Los Angeles about 30 days to review my plans, and after I made a few minor corrections to the plans based on the cities feedback, I had permits in hand and was ready to start construction.
I finally had the permits complete and was ready to start building my foundation. My backyard is almost completely flat, so my engineer designed a slab-on-grade foundation for my ADU. This is the least expensive foundation to build and is perfect for an ADU foundation on a flat property. But slab-on-grade foundations require a flat surface to build on and so I went to work clearing out all the trees and vegetation that was in the footprint of my new ADU. You will see from the picture below that there was one old tree that was the biggest obstacle. A few quick calls to tree trimmers on Craigslist and I found a company that would remove and haul away the tree for $1,100. That was a bargain and I quickly scheduled the tree removal.
The picture below shows the underground plumbing lines installed under the slab. At this point we called the city inspector to come out and approve the foundation pad and footings, and to perform a water test and approve the underground plumbing. With the inspectors blessing we back filled the sewer trenches and started progress on preparing the slab for our concrete.
The picture below shows what the foundation looks like just before we placed the concrete.
A quick note on inspections... never cover up any work until that work is seen and approved by a city inspector. So, in this case when we pour our concrete we are going to cover up the rebar, vapor barrier, and wire mesh work we performed, so it was necessary to call out the inspector before that work was covered. Once the concrete is placed into the ground the work gets covered up and there is no way for the inspector to verify we performed the work to code or the approved structural design. Always, always, always call the inspector before you cover up you work. You will see as we progress on the project that the inspector is always called out right before we cover work.
Back to pouring the concrete. The engineer called for a standard 2,500 PSI concrete and our calculations showed that we needed about 27 yards of concrete to complete the slab. We hired a skilled set of concrete finishers to place and finish the concrete. A crew of four men were able to get the concrete poured and finished in about 4 hours.
The picture below shows a progress picture of the concrete being placed into the footings and slab.
If you're thinking of building an ADU anywhere in the Los Angeles contact us. We're helping homeowners just like you all over Los Angeles build ADUs and Granny Flats.