10 Tips for Finding the Perfect Orange County ADU Contractor

If you’re planning on building an Orange County ADU, it’s crucial that you find the right contractor for the project. And while you’re searching for the best ADU contractor in Orange County, there are a number of steps you can take to sort the good from the bad and decide which contractor is the best fit for your project. 

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we get inquiries every day about ADU projects – here are some key points you need to know.

How Do You Find the Best Orange County ADU Builders?

Be careful to choose contractors who specialize in the type of work you require. If you want a kitchen remodeler, a recommendation for a plumbing contractor will not help you. And if you need an ADU contractor, please don’t hire a handyman, etc. Only a licensed, reputable General Contractor (with a B-license from the state) is qualified to build an ADU – which is essentially a small home.

Also, only consider referrals from ‘real-life’ friends if you’re searching on Facebook or any other online platform. Suggestions from your other Facebook connections are frequently biased (their cousin is a contractor, etc).

Most people considering a remodel are well aware of the possible pressures that come with such a large endeavor. There are numerous things that can go wrong when remodeling a kitchen, adding an accessory dwelling unit, converting a garage, or simply installing new flooring throughout the house.

Orange County ADU Best Builders

Pro-Tip: When it comes to constructing an ADU in Orange County, keep in mind this is a major project. You are essentially building a small house. It has all the same components as your home: kitchen, plumbing, roof, foundation, etc. Therefore, there is only one type of contractor qualified to perform this type of project. Only a general contractor is qualified and permitted to construct an ADU because of all the different skilled trades that are required. A general contractor has a B-license from the CSLB. You wouldn’t use a handyman or an unlicensed contractor to build you a home, so you shouldn’t use one for an ADU project either.

There are numerous ADU contractors in Orange County, so you must be cautious when selecting the best one for you. You’ll be spending a lot of time and money on this project, so do your research before hiring an ADU contractor.

While some issues are unforeseeable and inevitable, most issues (such as delays and additional costs) can frequently be avoided… as long as you take the necessary precautions from the start – most importantly, choosing the right construction company for the job!

We take contractor screening seriously here at GreatBuildz; a free service that personally matches homeowners with reputable Orange County ADU contractors.

We’ve assisted with many accessory dwelling unit projects throughout Orange County and Southern California, and we know that the most important decision you’ll make is hiring the right ADU contractor. Working with a poor contractor can easily turn your life into a remodel nightmare, so finding an ADU contractor you can trust is critical.

Where Can I Find a Reliable ADU Contractor?

Orange County ADU Reliable Contractor

As I stated at the outset of this article, the best way to find a good Orange County ADU contractor is to ask family, friends, or colleagues for recommendations.

If you don’t get enough solid recommendations that way, you can contact GreatBuildz to be matched with reputable, pre-vetted ADU contractors.

Our thorough screening process (which includes background checks, license/insurance checks, in-person interviews, reference calls, and more) ensures that our clients are connected to great local ADU contractors. We understand how difficult and stressful it can be to find a contractor for any type of construction project, so we’re here to help.

What Qualities Should I Look for in an Orange County ADU Builder?

Orange County ADU Search

No matter where you find a contractor to build your accessory dwelling unit, always take precautions to ensure they are truly honest and reliable. Here are ten pointers to get you started.

1. Call several Orange County ADU contractors; those who do not answer the phone or do not return your call promptly…that’s a bad sign because they can be unresponsive during your job.

2. Look up a contractor’s license online. You can determine if a contractor has an active license, you can check the name of the owners, determine if there are infractions on their license, and see how long the company has been licensed.

3. Obtain a copy of their insurance certificate and contact their insurance agent; inquire as to whether they have had any recent insurance claims.

4. Call at least three references and look at images of their previous work. Even better if you have the opportunity to visit one of the ADU contractor’s previous jobs and inspect the construction in person!

5. Interview the owner.  The person at your first meeting may be just a salesperson, which is especially common with larger Orange County ADU contractors.

6. Check out their online reviews. Read any negative reviews and assess how problematic their behavior appears to you… and feel free to question the ADU contractor about their negative reviews. A significant number of negative reviews (particularly in the last two years) clearly indicate a pattern, and you should reconsider hiring this company.

7. Outline your expectations for them. A “Contractor Code of Conduct” document is a useful approach to accomplish this. Ask them to explain if/why they disagree with any of these expectations.

8. Consider conducting a background check on them – Your contractor’s team will be in your home, most likely without you. You want to ensure that you can trust them, just as you would a caregiver for your child.

In order to ensure that the potential Orange County ADU contractor is a good fit for you, ask them important questions about themselves and their process. A list of appropriate questions to ask is provided at the end of this article.

How Do I Screen ADU Contractors?

Orange County ADU Contractor Screening

Keep an eye out for the following red flags:

  • The contractor keeps recommending upgrades to your project or scope.
  • You see many “TBD” elements in the contractor’s estimate that will have to be determined during construction.
  • Any contractor that constantly brags about how terrific they are and how horrible the competition is.
  • A contractor who takes more than a week to meet with you or provide an estimate.
  • A contractor is pushy or appears to disregard your budget and scope.
  • A contractor requests additional funds before beginning the project.
  • A contractor is unresponsive or responds slowly to you.

Should I go with the least expensive Orange County ADU contractor?

Orange County ADU Contractor Money

Many people base their decision to hire a contractor on the price/estimate and their ‘gut feeling’ about the contractor after only one meeting. This is a good start, but it is far from sufficient to distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.

When you meet with an ADU contractor, they are attempting to sell you, therefore they are on their best behavior.

The price they quote you for the job is significant, but it says nothing about whether or not they are a good contractor.

Building an ADU is much like building an entire house, only smaller. Most individuals would never employ a handyman or an unlicensed contractor to build a house for them. It’s also probably not a good idea to pick the cheapest contractor to build your ADU.

Although price is always a consideration, you should also be comfortable that you are hiring the best contractor based on other factors.

Furthermore, contractor estimates can differ significantly in terms of what’s included, so you must carefully compare them to ensure that each bid is apples to apples (Don’t worry, GreatBuildz can help you compare estimates!). Before meeting with contractors, make a checklist of everything you want to include in your project and hand it to each contractor you meet.

Orange County residents should take as many precautions as possible to avoid a renovation nightmare. The more of these steps you complete, the more confident you will be that you have found a qualified professional to construct your accessory dwelling unit.

What Should I ask an Orange County ADU Contractor?

Orange County ADU Dog Raising Hand

1. When could you begin?

2. What do you think the project’s duration will be?

3. Will you be in charge of getting all permits and ensuring that all regulatory criteria are met?

4. Are you familiar with our municipal planning department’s personnel?

5. Would I be given labor and material warranties?

6. Do you prefer to work with clients that know exactly what they want, or do you prefer to provide suggestions and advice?

7. Would you be willing to help with the selection of materials such as appliances, paint, flooring, countertops, tile, and so on? Do you go shopping with your customers? Do you make purchases for them?

8. Mention any parking restrictions and, if necessary, clarify the disposal bin location.

9. What hours would your employees be on-site? How frequently will the owner be on-site?

10. Will there always be a foreperson or project supervisor on-site?

11. How frequently would the general contractor and homeowner meet in person or over the phone to keep us updated on project progress and issues as they arose?

12. What effect will modifications in the project scope have? Change orders in writing? Approvals are given orally?

13. When can I expect to receive a proposal? Will labor and materials be included? What will it not include?


When selecting a reliable Orange County ADU contractor for your project, GreatBuildz makes the process easier.

GreatBuildz is a free service in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura, and San Diego that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.Call us today at (818.317.3567) to speak with a member of our local team about your next renovation project, or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.

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