Detached Additional Dwelling Unit (ADU): Creative Ways to Save Space

Detached additional dwelling units, also known as ADUs, are incredibly popular in Ontario right now, and for good reason.

These dwellings—sometimes referred to as coach houses or garden suites—provide a myriad of benefits to the owner. They can provide privacy for guests, secondary income for you, and independence for elderly loved ones or your adult children.

Since these units are essentially a mini house you build on your property, separate from your existing home, there are zoning considerations that you need to be aware of. We are not going to cover zoning in this article, but we highly recommend reading our post on zoning when you’re done with this one.

Let’s get started!

How To Plan The Kitchen For Your ADU

Building an ADU means you’re working with limited space. So, while traffic in a kitchen is always something to consider when building or renovating, it’s doubly important in a smaller unit. Not all of our suggestions will be applicable to your unit, but we hope we can inspire you.

Utilizing vertical space in your kitchen is one of the best ways to maximize storage and space. One small and inexpensive change that makes a big difference is hooks to hang mugs in your cabinets and using an overhead rack for pots and pans. Taller upper cabinets can also maximize vertical space.

A similar trick is to look around your kitchen and determine if there are any sneaky places to install shelves. Magnetic shelves or stick-on shelves can turn the side of your fridge into a spice rack, and risers can double the storage space on your counter.

Over-the-sink cutting boards will also help you temporarily extend your counter space. And don’t forget about all that wasted space on top of your fridge; a deep cabinet above the fridge, shelves, or a fitted pantry in this area will be extremely useful.

How To Plan The Bedroom For Your ADU

There are a ton of creative ways to make a small bedroom feel larger. As we just mentioned, utilizing unused space for storage is essential. Things like murphy beds--or similar under-bed storage--and vertical or overhead storage will help out a lot. But what else?

As this article is focusing on detached ADUs, the bedroom will need to have a window. One quick trick is to use floor-length curtains and mount the rod higher than the top of the window. This will make your room feel taller. Tall dressers will not only take up less space, but will also help with this affect.

If you’re handy—or willing to pay for a premade one—creating a loft-style bed will afford you extra space like nothing else can. A loft -style bed is a piece of furniture where the bed is built with surrounding dressers and cabinet space. They're very convenient for small spaces like ADUs or apartments.

How To Plan The Bathroom For Your ADU

Mirrors are your friend in a small bathroom. They’re easy to clean and will help increase the amount of natural light if you only have a small window. A large mirror over the sink and a long mirror on the back of the door will make the room feel much larger.

Your shower and/or bathtub are going to be the most cumbersome component of your bathroom. If you think you can get away with it, foregoing a bathtub and using only a shower will immediately give you space back, and if you use clear glass on your shower enclosure, the shower will seem like it isn’t even there. But if you require a bathtub, choose a smaller one, or a shower and tub combination.

While we’re talking about combinations, a great way to reduce the cost of your build is to combine your bathroom, kitchen, and laundry plumbing. This will greatly reduce plumbing costs and typically putting the plumbing in the corner of the ADU closest to the original house will help save additional costs.

How To Plan The Laundry Room For Your ADU

If all you need is a washer and dryer, these appliances can be creatively hidden away with a custom closet or custom cabinet in any part of your suite—where plumbing allows. Often times, when dealing with tight spaces, the washer and dryer are designed as a part of the kitchen. But if you need a dedicated laundry room, how can you make the most of such limited space?

Use space in other rooms for your laundry needs. A simple, inexpensive drying rod in your shower, above your bathtub, or even over your kitchen sink means you don’t need a drying rack in your laundry room.

Consider doubling your laundry room as a mud room entry; muddy clothes can be thrown immediately into the washer without tracking any through the house.

Heating Tips For Your ADU

One major consideration when it comes to designing a detached additional dwelling unit is how it will be heated. Choosing a hot water tank over a tankless water heater is going to change the space required and the way the unit is designed. Things like baseboard heating will require additional space for a heat recovery ventilator (HRV)—though they can often be tucked away in a closet. Other options include in-floor heating, perfect for slab on grade designs, or mini-splits which offer heating and cooling solutions in a wall mounted unit.

These solutions are also expensive, so it’s doubly important to take careful consideration. For those who are building their secondary suite as a guest room, you may have some leeway that others do not. For example, if you’re not expecting guests in the cold months, and you’re looking for an inexpensive solution to heating, wall-mounted, or window-mounted heating units might be just what you’re looking for.

Ready to build your detached additional dwelling unit?

The first step is figuring out if your property works for a detached additional dwelling unit. Purchase a zoning report from us today!