All posts by Jim K.

ADU Landlord Tips: Preparing Your Lease (Part 1)



With your ADU construction, preparation, decoration, and landscaping complete, you’re almost ready to bring in renters. The new income to start paying off your investment and bringing in a little extra household income is so close you can almost taste it… but from this point, you are still one step of away from safely advertising your ADU as being ready for renters. It’s time to build your lease.

The Importance of a Well-Written Lease

To avoid the most common new-landlord mistake made in the industry, you are not going to use a cookie-cutter lease printed off the internet. While starting with one of these fill-in-the-blank forms is a reasonable way to build a frame for your lease, you absolutely do not want to just go with the default clauses. Not only do you want to make sure every clause actually relates to Hawaii rental law, you’ll also want to make a few adjustments considering that the ADU is on your property and is not a completely separate rental house.

The most important thing to realize about a lease is that it’s not a formality, it’s legally binding. You and your tenant will be obligated to meet any agreements, requirements, and restrictions stated on the lease and violations can potentially end in lawsuits, not just hurt feelings. Because nobody wants a misunderstanding or a lawsuit, it’s best to build your lease carefully.

Hawaii Landlord Laws

The first thing you need to make sure of is that your lease, and therefore your entire landlord/tenant agreement, is in compliance with Hawaii law. The best way to do that is to build your lease with the Landlord-Tenant Handbook open as you go from section to section. This covers everything from types of rental agreements to how to manage disputes. If you build your lease entirely based on this handbook, you should be reasonably secure from legal actions and will have a good baseline for handling negotiations. However, there are still a variety of policies that you will want to have a personal hand in deciding.

Rental Amount

Deciding the amount you’re going to rent your property for each month is a calculation every landlord must do for themselves. There are three numbers that go into this calculation: how much standard rent for your square-footage is on the current market, how long it will take you to regain your investment building the ADU, and what your tenants can afford. ADUs were approved initially to create affordable housing so consider pricing a little bit below the square footage standard.

Duration of Lease

Most leases are six months to a year in duration, meaning that your tenants are agreeing to stay for the entire time marked on the lease and pay rent for each month they are present. Six months is the shortest allowed rental duration for a Hawaiian ADU but if you have tenants you really like, you can increase the lease duration up to five years for long-term housing security for both families.

Damage and Security Deposits

The first thing to think about is what happens if the tenant accidentally damages your ADU. This is usually why most landlords take the equivalent of one months’ rent in a security deposit that will be used for any repairs for tenant-caused damages that the tenant doesn’t simply take care of themselves. Your cookie-cutter lease should include a workable damage and security deposit clause, but it’s up to you to decide how much to ask for as the security deposit.

Access to and Respect for Your Property

If you have not landscaped an entire separate yard and entrance for your ADU, or even if you have, you may want to throw in a clause about access to and respect for your property. This gives you the freedom to make it clear exactly how welcome tenants are to enjoy your backyard or if you’d prefer that they kept to the space you’ve designated to them. You can also define whether their security deposit will apply to the damage they may accidentally do to your property outside of the ADU yard.


Privacy and Due Notice

One of the most important aspects of landlord-tenant relationships is privacy and due notice. This means that you, as the landlord, promise not to barge in on your tenant’s privacy and will give at least a 24-hour notice and the option to reschedule before any inspections or maintenance appointments. Socialization does not require notice as long as you’re willing to accept normal social limitations for when one is welcome or not welcome as a guest. Along the same lines, you may also want to define a certain amount of privacy for your family because the ADU is so close to home.

Leases are both complex and important to how you will interact with your future rental tenants. In fact, this is only the first half of our overview of the basics of personalizing a lease for your property and preferences. Join us next time for the second half and if you’re looking for even more information on building and managing a new ADU, contact us today!


In It Together: Building a Duplex So Two Families Can Live the Dream

This entry is part of 7 in the series Pinterest


If you’ve made it this far, no doubt you’ve noticed that there’s a serious housing crunch in Hawaii. The challenge of finding a nice, reasonably priced home in a convenient location is so difficult to be downright impossible. It’s no wonder so many people have decided to build ADUs and multi-unit homes. Of course, with the space for homes getting tighter and the cost involved with building a new one, even families who can see an answer may have difficulty reaching it.

The Thought of Sharing

But what about teaming up with another family? One thing many young people and extended families are doing is buying a home together either in groups who plan on sharing the space and the proceeds if they eventually sell. This practical theory can also be applied to new constructions as well. Rather than paying for the entire construction yourself, you have the option of splitting the costs with others who also want a new home in the neighborhood you’ve chosen and with a duplex, you don’t even have to share your personal residence.

Two Private Residences, One Set of Costs

The beauty of a duplex is that there are so many savings to be made in a construction by building two homes for the effort of one. Using efficient construction techniques, you can share one foundation pour, one roof, and one last-mile set of connections to the water, power, gas, sewer, and cable. That’s already thousands of dollars saved compared to building two separate houses. While a duplex construction may be more expensive than a single family home, together both families will save money by going in together.

Maintaining Your Privacy in a Duplex

One of the major concerns with duplex and, indeed, any shared living situation is that there won’t be enough privacy. Let us reassure you that your duplex can be as private as you want it to be. You can have a shared yard if you like that or put a privacy fence right down the middle. You can share a central garage or have them separate with a hedge down the middle of your driveways. The central wall will be insulated to protect you from sharing unwanted sounds and you can even select a design where the front doors don’t leave in the same direction of your lot is oddly shaped.  Of course, you can also go the other way and share as much as possible if you really enjoy the family you’re building with.

Who to Build With

Deciding to build a duplex with another family is the easy part but the key to residential bliss is finding someone who you’ll really enjoy splitting the bill and the lot with. One way to do it is to build with a close sibling or friend who is at the same point in their life, living as neighbors and raising your kids together, possibly even in an openly shared backyard. This is a great way to never be lonely and ensure that your children will have other kids about their age nearby without even having to cross the street for play dates.

Another way to go is to buy with your parents. Many Hawaiian parents are trying to help their children get into the housing market and building a duplex creates what one might consider the ultimate granny flat. This ensures that your parents will be amply repaid in a lovely new home for helping you financially, you can easily help them keep the place up as they get older, and you will most likely inherit the other half of the property in due time.

Finally, if you would rather not live with family or build a double-family with a close friend, you still have one very good option. Find another family either locally or online who is ready to buy or build and wants to live with just as much privacy as you do. In fact, you can even draw up a private contract between the two of you guaranteeing a mutual respect of privacy and ensuring that even if you become friends over the course of the construction project, your separate families maintain the right and ability to remain separate on opposite sides of the duplex.

Building a duplex is an incredibly astute financial decision whether you’re building with friends, family or a friendly stranger. But, of course, it’s also not your only option for efficiently using a single residential lot. For more information about building a custom duplex, designing an ADU, or embarking on a big DIY renovation project, contact us today!


Before You DIY, Ask Yourself: Is This Light Fixture Safe?

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Pinterest


Every home has its little quirks, from the squeaky stair to the flickering porch light. More often than not, if the issues aren’t irritating or obviously dangerous they become part of the familiar character of our home. You learn to love these personality quirks of your home. However, when you’re thinking about a major DIY renovation, it rarely occurs to homeowners to worry about the safety of an old light or electrical fixture. Wiring ages, just like the rest of a house and old wiring can be worn or frayed. Even recently renovated lighting, if done incorrectly, can be dangerous. Getting involved in any unknown wiring should be done carefully and if the fixture is known for erratic behavior, you might want to turn off a breaker before your initial investigation.

Symptoms of Unsafe Wiring

Most homes, especially those built before 1987, have some area where the wiring is not perfect. Often this is the result of either old wires and fixtures or a long-past DIY project that has not withstood the test of time. If there’s a light in your home that is crooked, flickers, or has exposed wires, any DIY work you do with or near it should be done carefully and you might want to have it replaced by a professional. Here’s a quick list of warning signs to look for:

  • Dimming and Flickering
    • The power is not reaching your light fixture consistently, a sure sign that the connection is not steady and safe
  • Frequently Tripped Breakers
    • This indicates that something on that circuit is demanding more than a safe amount of power. Sometimes a previous tenant has ‘fixed’ this with a bigger breaker, so look for unusually large breakers as well
  • Buzzing Outlets and Switches
    • Buzzing is always bad. This is too much electricity running through loose connections
  • Constant Shocks
    • If a fixture or appliance is holding a static charge, this is a bad sign
  • Burning Smell
    • The smell of burning plastic is the result of overheating wires and melting insulation and nearby items.
  • Suspicious Wiring
    • If the wiring doesn’t look professional, it probably isn’t. While untidy wiring doesn’t definitely indicate a safety hazard, frayed wires, and damaged wire insulation is an immediate problem.

The Answer to Potentially Unsafe Fixtures

If your home electrical system or any particular fixture has exhibited one or more of these symptoms, you’ll want to approach your DIY project with extra care. If you’re not well versed in electrical safety, you may want to ask an electrician to take a look at your fixture before you get started. They will help diagnose your wiring problems and give you several tips on how to proceed with your DIY project. In many cases, you will simply need to replace a few old parts while the power is disconnected.

Starting a big DIY project usually involves a variety of construction and repair skills including working with your wiring. If you have been thinking about working with your light fixtures or outlets, always be careful when approaching an unknown electrical connection. Know which wires are live and if you’re not completely confident about remaining safe, work with an electrician to ensure that you don’t leave a dangerous, if attractively remodeled, situation.

If you have plans for a DIY renovation and have been wondering if that old flickering light fixture is safe to mess with, the answer is all-too-easily “No”. Faulty wiring is the number one cause of accidental house fires and unnecessary burns. Keep yourself and your home safe by approaching electrical renovations with care, especially if the fixture is known for irregular behavior, no matter how familiar. For more helpful home renovation tips, contact us today!


Getting a Handle On Your Front Door Hardware

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Pinterest


When most people buy a new home, it’s fun to spend a little time really making it yours. You can repaint the walls, redesign the landscaping, and even do a little kitchen renovation to make the space better suited to you and your family. But what about the front door? This is not only the face you show the neighborhood, it’s also the primary way you’ll be accessing your home. Choosing a new front door is a lot more complicated than simply selecting one off a shelf like at the grocery store or pointing out a style and saying “Make It So“. There is a decision-making process starting with the material, then the size and style followed by color and, finally, the hardware. Do you know what kind of handle you want? Some people (admittedly a very few) choose the handle first and build the door around it while most choose their door and then a handle to match. To help you get a handle (pardon the pun) on the decision, let’s answer a few questions you may have about front door locks and handles.

The Shape Functionality

The first thing to consider is who will be using the door. Yes, it sounds silly, we know your thought is “Me, of course!”. However, the style of handle you choose will determine how easy it is to open the door when it’s unlocked. Keyed knobs with a deadbolt are the most common but it should be noted that these take a reasonable amount of grip and dexterity to use. Consider turning the key, turning the handle, then pushing. If you want young children or an elderly relative to come and go, you may want an easier to use handle.

Another standard front door handle is the tall, curved handles that fit the shape of the hand with a thumb latch. These elegant sets are easier to use, push, and especially pull closed but if it’s stiff or the door swells, it might take a little bit of thumb strength to get through.

Then there’s a pure lever handle, easily recognizable by its horizontal bar sticking out left or right from the keyhole. These handles are ideal for handicapped use because they don’t even require a closed hand or working thumb to open once unlocked. You can also train particularly bright cats, dogs, and heavier birds to open doors using lever handles if that’s something you’re interested in.

Finally, there’s the solid bar, no latch involved except the deadbolt. These are quite popular for heavy solid wood doors as they give you the best leverage to haul it open and then closed behind you. Vertical bar handles create an elegant, almost medieval look for your front door, giving the impression that you live in a castle even if it’s a modest one-story home.

The Color and Finish

Needless to say, the color and finish on your door hardware should compliment the color and style you chose for the door itself. Handles, in general, come in a wide variety of metal colors and the combination you choose will reveal a lot about your personal style. Brass, especially darkened ‘aged’ brass has a distinctly historical look, but when combined with a modern style, a glass accented door can take on a ‘Steam Punk’ appearance. To get a naturalist look, try brass with any color of green or darker blues.

Stainless steel and bright silver handles are wonderful for lighter colored and primarily glass doors because they shine together or striking on dark doors by creating contrast. A darkened brushed silver is elegant on beige, moss green, and other muted-colored doors. Silvers also look great on wood, though the shades of brown and silver should be tested against each other until you find a combination that pleases you.

Then there are the darker tones, like a deep red finish or black. These can be stark on white or glass, elegant and classic on wood grains, or ominous on a dark door in complimentary colors. Black handles tend to give a feeling of formality to a home.

The Lock and Deadbolt

How will you lock your door? Most handles come as a set with their own deadbolt, but it’s important to consider how the door is constructed when choosing your latch and locking mechanisms. Double-doors, for instance, require special consideration because they need to latch together securely without rattling or breaking the weatherproof seal when closed.

It’s important to remember that the lock and deadbolt combination you choose will be part of your coming home and locking up procedure every single day for the rest of the time you keep this door, which should be many years unless you really enjoy replacing your front door frequently. Try a lock before buying to see if your hands are comfortable with the mechanism and, once again, consider the needs of any children, elderly, or infirmed in your household who may struggle with a stiffer or more awkward lock type. You might even like a smart lock with a keypad and response to control from your smartphone.

The Right Handle For Your Door

Which is the right handle and lock combination for your front door? Unless you’ve been dreaming of a specific door handle for years, the only way to know the answer is with careful consideration, comparison, and at least a little bit of experimentation. Look at your options, compare finishes to door colors, and try a few handles on for size, smoothness, and ease of use. For more professional answers to DIY project questions, contact us today!


Retirement Downsizing in Place with an Accessible ADU

This entry is part of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit




Many seniors are seriously conflicted about the choice to downsize into a smaller, more manageable and affordable house or stay with the family home to pass it on to the children who grew up there. There is an inherent conflict between practicality and sentimentality, especially as you start to slow down and getting around the big old abode is becoming more of a hassle than it’s worth. The good news is that it’s not a clear-cut choice between selling the house to downsize or staying and trying to take care of it on your own. There are many shades of alternatives like living in the master suite and renting out spare bedrooms, running the place like a bed and breakfast through Airbnb, or you can even effectively downsize into a senior-friendly little home, rent out the house, and still be close enough to keep an eye on the old family home. How do you ask? By building an ADU.

What is an ADU?

An ADU is a small additional home built on your property either separately from or connected to the main house. These are homes generally between 400 square feet and 800 square feet. What’s so special about ADUs is that you can build one almost anywhere because they are so small but include enough room for one or two people to live comfortably, if not expansively.

Most ADUs feature one or two bedrooms, a full if small kitchen and dining area, a bathroom, and sometimes a laundry area. They often feature wide porches to help create more living space and are very comfortable in a spacious backyard. In other words, they are the perfect retirement downsizing apartments and you can build one right next to the home you don’t want to leave behind.

An Accessible ADU is Perfect for Retirement

ADUs are great for a lot of different population groups but for seniors, they are the perfect put-it-anywhere retirement flat. Small and incredibly compact, the ADU will be easy to keep clean even with a limited daily energy and you’ll never have to go up and down stairs to reach a room in the house. Even better, they can be easily designed for perfect accessibility with all the privacy and comfort of an apartment in a retirement community but still on your own land and completely under your control. A ramp can be installed out front, bars can be elegantly and discreetly installed throughout the home, and you can even have it custom-built with counter lifts, light-touch appliances, and other helpful accessibility features to make it a luxury retirement suite right in your own backyard.

The Smart-Home Upgrade

You can also make your small retirement flat even more convenient with the installation of a modern voice-activated smart home. You can have wifi-enabled lights and thermostat, and maybe even other appliances like a smart oven, coffee maker, self-watering plants, pet treat dispensers, and amazingly much more. Even non-smart things can be added to the smart home roster with the use of wifi-plugs for simple on/off functions. This means that from the comfort of your chair, you can manage many aspects of your home without having to waste your energy wandering around turning lights on and off, resetting the thermostat when it gets cold, or starting the oven pre-heating. And with an ADU, you’ll only need one hub because it can hear you from one end of the house to the other.


Downsizing is often the most practical choice for aging seniors, but it can also be a hard one because you don’t want to leave your family home. Fortunately, you don’t have to actually go anywhere to downsize or even give up some of your privacy to rent out part of the house. You can gain the full profits from renting the entire main home and still live comfortably on your own property by building yourself a cozy little accessible ADU. With the combination of a small clean space, ramps, and handrails, and helpful smart-home integration, you should be able to enjoy your retirement quite blissfully with all the joy of watching your family home come to life again with activity from a nearby comfy porch chair. For more information about building your cozy custom retirement ADU, contact us today!


How Erosion And Sediment Control Plan Affects The Building

This entry is part of 1 in the series Erosion and Sediment Control Plan (ESCP)


Sediment control helps builders prevent soil, sand, and cement from reaching waterways. Even small amounts of erosion or pollution from the site can bring significant environmental damage or kill aquatic life. The pollution can block stormwater pipes. Ensure that all control plans are done in accordance with the mandatory requirements of the Planning and Permit department.

How an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan Affects Buildings

The erosion plan’s aim is to divert uncontaminated water far from the work area. The efforts help minimize erosion by reducing site disturbance or destabilization of surfaces. The control plans also prevent the collection of material stockpiles or discharging of sediments.

Successful control measures on the building site can retain and trap sediment displaced by slope erosion. This can result in improved site conditions and reduction of cleanup costs to the community. The local community experience healthier aquatic life and cleaner waterways.

Erosion and sediments can delay constructions because of wet conditions. This can result in losses arising from material stockpiles. With the erosion control plans, you get fewer dust and mud problems. Therefore, there are fewer chances of fines because of the reduction in the number of the public complains.

Make certain that all attempts to comply with the sediment control plans are in line with the requirements of sediment control or local erosion guidelines. You should obtain appropriate experts with the right qualification and certification to handle your erosion and sediment control plans.

Factors Influencing Sediment Control

Slope – the longer and steeper the slope, the greater it is to suffer sedimentation and erosion.

Soil type – clay soil has a higher chance of bringing environmental harm. Sandy soils can cause traffic hazards and drainage problems. Exposed subsoil can bring more problems than topsoil.

Nature, extent, and duration of the disturbance – the greater the disturbance, the higher the risk of sedimentation or erosion.

Season ad climate – high rainfall intensity and duration together with high winds can affect sedimentation and erosion. Rainfall events intensify under climate change. The extent and severity of the sedimentation and erosion increases. This increases the need to control the impacts which are of great importance.

Locations and size of the site – it is harder to implement sediment control on the smaller sites. It is more problematic if the site slopes towards the road. You can contact your local council for consultation. Large rural sites that have vegetation do not always need specific controls.

How to Minimize Site Disturbance

Prevention or control is always better than cure.  Put in place a careful design and an efficient construction sequence that will minimize disturbance to your site. This will reduce environmental impact and save you money.  The design should avoid excessive cuts and unnecessary clearing of vegetation. Clear only areas where the building work will take place. Preserve grass and vegetation as much as possible to help filter erosion and sediments from stormwater before it reaches your drainage system.

Postpone removal of vegetation or starting earthworks until you are ready to start the building activities. Avoid construction activities that disturb the soil during rainy seasons or lengthy and heavy rainfall periods.

How to Implement Sediment Control Plans

Start installing erosion and sediment control plans before you start any earth moving or excavation. Regularly maintain the control plans until the building construction is complete and the site stabilizes.  It is important to ensure you do not unlawfully divert stormwater or release it into the neighboring properties as it can cause erosion or discharge points, which can result in lawsuits.

Avoid contaminating the stormwater with sediments by diverting the water away from the construction area. Use flow diversion devices to minimize the volume of stormwater reaching that disturbed area. Restrict overland flow by installing storm water drainage system early during the construction process.

For more information, contact us.


5 Tips for Building an Energy Efficient ADU

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit


If you’re thinking about or already planning to build an ADU on your property, it’s important to remember that the cost of construction is only the beginning. The ADU will connect to your property’s water, power, and possibly gas hookups. Whoever lives there will add to your utility bills as if they were living in the main house, meaning your monthly costs will inevitably go up. This means that the more energy-efficient your ADU is, the lower it’s monthly utility cost will be. While there’s little you can do about water other than to have a well or collect rainwater (a whole new project all on its own), you can [amazon_link asins=’0979882001′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ab5886f5-e67f-11e7-9b62-6fcd0550a544′]lower and even eliminate the power required to keep your ADU residents happy. Here are five tips to remember when designing and building your ADU that can help.

1) Insulation and Weatherproofing

The weather in Hawaii is notoriously nice but most modern families still prefer to turn on the AC when relaxing at home or preparing for work and school each day. This means that the more efficiently a home maintains it’s internal temperature, the more energy efficient it will be. To ensure that your ADU doesn’t leak AC, make sure that the home is fully sealed and well-insulated. Windows and doors that open wide are wonderfully breezy, but they should also have efficient weatherstripping so that when closed, they seal completely.

2) Central Air

A lot of homes have stop-gap cooling measures like window AC units or free-standing room heaters. Not only are these bulky, they’re also less efficient than a centralized air system with sealed ducts, clean vents, and a single well-built appliance managing all your cooling and occasional heating needs. The more streamlined your ADU design is, the less power it will use.

3) Low-Watt Appliances

Appliances come in a wide selection of quality and efficiency. No matter what kind of appliance you’re looking for, from [amazon_textlink asin=’B074BXLK17′ text=’washing machines’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d6319d19-e67f-11e7-b5dc-2fc330d35f0b’] to water heaters, there will be options that consume less power for the same high-quality performance. With just a little bit of research, you should be able to fully equip your ADU with appliances that will combine into a significant reduction in power consumption for you and your ADU residents.

4) Solar Panels and Micro-Grid

Now that you’ve ensured that the ADU will consume the minimal amount of energy, you have the opportunity to have it compensate for its own power consumption, possibly reaching net-zero and removing the ADU from your power bill entirely. All you need is a modest solar panel array and a battery bank that can support the home’s power consumption overnight and maybe a day or two of clouds.

5) Smart Home

The final power-saving and incidentally delightful solution is integrating IoT smart home features. Wifi-controlled and programmable LED lights are not only more efficient, they can also be turned off from anywhere and turn themselves off when no one is home. A smart thermostat can ensure that the AC is never running when the house is empty. You can even install smart outlets to control normal appliances from your phone or on an efficient timer.

The more efficiently your ADU has been designed and built, the more inexpensive it will be to keep running comfortably and maintain in the years to come. From good insulation to lights that turn themselves off, with a little bit of forward thinking, you can reduce the amount of power your ADU consumes and possibly even generate all the power it needs to run every appliance in the home. For more helpful tips on building a new ADU for your family or rental use, contact us today!


How to Optimize Space In Your New ADU

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit



Anyone who’s been looking into ADU designs recently has probably had to face a very stark truth: ADU’s are small. Unlike normal single-family homes, they are each limited to a certain maximum floor space size based on the total size of your lot. Unfortunately, floor space means that even if you decided to build up (to safe ground space), you would still only be able to build so much area worth of rooms. The vast majority of ADUs will be limited to a maximum of 400 sq feet of floor space. This is about enough room for one fairly tight bedroom, a full or 3/4 bath, and an open kitchen and living area. With traditional furniture and storage methods, this can get cramped pretty fast but with a few creative storage and design techniques, you can maximize the living space while remaining within regulation size.

Turning The Walls into Storage

The limitations on ADU size is based on floor space, meaning the area between the walls. But what about the walls themselves? rather than using up a hundred of your square feet for dressers, shelves, and cabinets, why not install them directly into the walls so the floor can be used for comfortable human activity? All you need is a little innovative carpentry to embed stacks of drawers, fold-out shelves, and hidden cupboards to store everything from tools to clothes to [amazon_textlink asin=’B003IKMSFE’ text=’kitchenware’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4c0a9c72-e677-11e7-8743-7b58c1ee8f1f’].

Murphy Beds

The Murphey bed is a simple but effective engineering marvel already well-loved by apartment-dwellers. This design involves a bedframe with what appears to be a tall, recessed headboard. The bed can be folded vertically, with the footboard folding toward the ceiling, to embed itself into the wall, creating floor space for daily activities. With this method, you might be able to comfortably turn the master bedroom into a convertible study and/or fit one or two children’s beds into the living area to better accommodate a young family.

Roll-Away and Platform Beds

Roll-away beds are another innovation that can help you double bed space for floor space. A simple platform, perhaps made into a play area, can hide a full-sized children’s bed that is only rolled out for sleeping time. Platform beds, on the other hand, are out all the time but have either another roll-away bed or large drawers worth of storage underneath.

Ceiling Storage

While lofts will count against your floor space, simply choosing to store things hanging from the ceiling will not. By designing a vaulted ceiling, ladders, and hooks or brackets for hanging storage, you can give your ADU residents a lot more room for their things so the floor space is only occupied by daily activities. These can hold bicycles, potted plants, hanging cleaning supplies, even cabinets that lower themselves on electric rails if you want to go all-out.

Embed the Tech

How much floor space do you want to be taken up by standing lamps, entertainment centers, or [amazon_textlink asin=’B00FU3ZKN4′ text=’computer desks’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c2ef2b3d-e677-11e7-a6db-f52111b67e20′]? You can plan for these features as well by embedding them into the walls. An entertainment center can fold out or you can leave a handy recess in the wall with convenient outlets and cable hookups for your resident’s media needs, maybe even with matching recesses for surround-sound speakers. Mount the lights on the walls and ceilings, and take the time to design a corner desk that doesn’t take up much room, once again near convenient outlets.

Most ADUs will be using their limited floor space for traditional furniture, storage, and beds but you can set the trend of optimized comfort and efficiency. Give yourself, your relatives, or your rental tenants the gift of elbow room with a creatively designed ADU, embedded storage, and beds that can be put away. For more advice on building perfect custom ADU, contact us today!


Just How Big is a 400 sq ft ADU?

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit



Building an ADU on your property is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your neighborhood. It can provide cozy independent housing for retirees, extra housing space for family living with you, or provide a rental home for another family in need of affordable housing. However, building an ADU also comes with some specific limitations, one of which is how big your ADU can be in comparison to the size of your lot. Specifically, if your land is 3,500 square feet to 4,999 sq ft, the largest ADU you can build is 400 sq ft of internal floor space, including lofts. For larger lots, the upper limit caps at 800 square feet. But just how big is this in practical terms? How much walking space, how comfortable is the kitchen, and how many people can share the space without stepping on toes? 400 sq ft is small and 800 isn’t actually that much bigger.

Designing the Floor Plan

The key to building an enjoyable ADU is to understand exactly how much room you have to work with, then choose a floor plan that optimizes a comfortable lifestyle. In fact, the decision of floor plan is incredibly important to this process as you’ll need a design that fits well in your open yard space, is pleasant to live in inside, and suits the intended purposes. For a family, you’ll want to plan for private sleeping and clothing storage areas. For one or two retired elderly, a simple layout with plenty of wide spaces to move around in would be more convenient.

What 400 sq ft Looks Like on a Floor Plan

400 sq feet can be done in a lot of different ways depending on how you design it. The best way to think about a 400 sq ft is that it’s about the size of a two-car garage if square, and is usually about enough space for an open kitchen-living area, a full bathroom, and a one bedroom. The most important decision is how many walls to have. The fewer walls, the more open space you have, and most designs include an open kitchen and [amazon_textlink asin=’B00Q8EOLDY’ text=’living room’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0b27d3ad-e679-11e7-91a2-bb3a906db448′].

Designed long, you can put the bedroom and bathroom on the ‘private’ end and the kitchen and living room together on the other. This is better for narrow yard space and separating privacy space from visitor space. Square designs can provide more open space, especially if you’re willing to put the bed in the living area. Then, of course, there are all your non-regular options. L-shaped houses and other odd variations may provide for the exact distribution of space and yard use you’re looking for as well.

What About 800 st ft?

Okay, now let’s say you have quite a large plot of land and double that amount of ADU floor space. Now you have room for a separate kitchen and dining area if you want it, but in most cases, you’re better off investing in an extra bedroom or two to accommodate families with children. With creative storage, [amazon_textlink asin=’B008BWESBQ’ text=’fold-away beds’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9f02521b-e679-11e7-9647-5508a1e57c5e’], and maybe another 3/4 bath, you could now comfortably fit a family of four or five in your ADU as long as they don’t mind small closets. For fewer tenants, you might add a study, guest bathroom, and a larger master suite instead.

Building a welcoming, family-friendly ADU is more complicated than it seems. You want to think carefully about who will be using the ADU and how you can make optimal use of the space available. If you’d like more ideas on how to design and build the perfect ADU plan for your property, please contact us today!


5 Decisions to Make Before Starting Your ADU Construction

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit



If you want a source of passive income and to do a community service at the same time, a rare opportunity to be sure, there’s no better option than constructing an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on your property. This is Honolulu’s best answer to the increasingly pressing crunch for affordable housing and while there are some very specific rules, it’s a great chance for current homeowners to significantly increase the value of their property, provide a new home to family or renters in need, and enjoy the excitement of a new project literally in your [amazon_textlink asin=’B01FLO0TWI’ text=’backyard’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’6957f4aa-e67a-11e7-ba81-156c15ca43e3′]. However, before you start putting up timbers, there are a few important decisions you need to make.

1) Is the ADU for You, Family, or Renters?

The reason you’re building an ADU will shape every other decision you make, so you might as well start at square one. ADUs can serve a number of interesting, helpful, and profitable purposes depending on how they are used. If you (the homeowner) plan to move into the ADU and leave the main house for the family or high-dollar renters, the design should be fit to your personal needs. If the ADU is to house an overflow of family, consider their preferences and look into ohana housing instead, which has fewer regulations but isn’t as versatile if the family moves out. Finally, if you’re planning for renters, you’ll want the ADU to be as welcoming as possible for anyone who might move in.

2) Would it be better Attached or Detached from the Main House?

You may not have realized it, but ADUs can absolutely be built as an attachment to your main house. In some cases, this may be the only way to achieve the required number of parking spots or fit the second dwelling onto an oddly shaped lot. That said, attached ADUs are more ideal for the family as you’ll be living in close proximity, along with sharing a wall and possibly a door to the main house. For ADUs you plan to rent or plan to eventually be able to rent, later on, it would be better to build a detached dwelling for added privacy and personal space.

3) Are You Prepared for a Very Small Dwelling?

ADUs come with a maximum size restriction depending on the square footage of your lot, and these can be pretty darn small. If your lot is between 3,500 and 5,000 sq ft, your ADU could have a maximum size of 400 to 800 sq ft. That may be smaller than you’re imagining. With 400 sq ft, there’s usually enough room for one bedroom with a full to [amazon_textlink asin=’B01KGRAHJ0′ text=’queen sized bed’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’93f69a54-e67a-11e7-934c-89a72daf9e9d’], a compact kitchen/living/dining area, and a small bathroom. Once you know how big an ADU you can build, take a walk through a few models and existing homes around the same size to really get a feel for the functional size of the home. That said, people have reported living comfortably in less than 200 sq ft.

4) Can You Convert an Existing Accessory Structure?

If you have a large shed or well-built workshop already on your property, there’s a chance that you might be able to convert this into all or part of your new ADU. For this to be a viable option, the accessory structure needs to be sturdy and capable of being upgraded to good quality living conditions. You’ll need insulation, real walls and floors, a kitchen, and a bathroom along with the necessary power, water, and possibly gas connections. It may just be easier to build a new structure, perhaps even making room by knocking down the old shed rather than repurposing it.

5) Do You Want to Go “Off-Grid”?

One of the really nifty options for a brand new ADU is the ability to go ‘off-grid’. What this means for most is solar panels. Big ones, with enough battery power to ensure that the lights and water heater work at night as well. You can even install a rainwater collection and filtering system but we suggest keeping the water pipes even if your ADU is power independent. An off-grid ADU will cost a little more to make but for the rest of its life will add nothing to the power bill. If you’ve got the money to invest and love the idea of renewable energy, this could be a great ADU choice that will, incidentally, also raise its value as a rental property. While you’re at it, throw some solar on the main house, too.

Here at Owner Built Designs, we specialize in making your Honolulu ADU dream a reality. For more helpful tips on designing the perfect ADU for you, your family, and your property contact us today!