There’s never been a better time to build an accessory dwelling unit. Whether you’re creating a new office space, a home gym, or housing for an aging family member or live-in nanny, an ADU is an efficient option for getting more square footage out of an existing home. And thanks to Los Angeles’ new ADU laws, more people are eligible to take advantage of this opportunity.
Because these can be complex projects, it’s important to work with licensed accessory dwelling unit contractors who are experienced in building ADUs. Although structures like these have been built for many years (whether it’s a guest or a tiny home in someone’s backyard, the many specific rules and regulations around these new ADUs make it extremely important to hire someone who is qualified and experienced to build them. After it, they require all the same elements of your primary home, just in a smaller box! Here’s what you need to know about finding the right team for the job.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we help people every day to better understand the ADU costs, scope, and details for their prospective projects – below is an overview of how to find the best accessory dwelling unit contractors in Los Angeles.
Tips for Hiring the Best Accessory Dwelling Unit Contractors in Los Angeles
How Do I Find the Best Accessory Dwelling Unit Contractors?
In a perfect world, a local friend or family member has recently completed a project similar to the one you’re planning, is thrilled with the work done by the contractor they hired, and is happy to connect the two of you. But in the real world, there’s a significant amount of leg work involved in finding reliable professionals.
You have to read online reviews, ask to view portfolios, check references, and verify insurance and licensure — and some of that’s before you even request bids!
At GreatBuildz, we’ve streamlined this process by building a network of Southern California’s best accessory dwelling unit contractors. Each one has been vetted and verified to ensure the utmost professionalism and quality of work. Just call and tell us about your ADU project and budget and we’ll match you with three local builders.
What Should I Look For in an Accessory Dwelling Unit Contractor?
When hiring a contractor for any project, it’s important to make sure not only that they’re licensed but that they’re local. You want to work with a professional who knows all the ins and outs of the requirements and regulations outlined by your municipality’s ADU ordinances. It’s also important to verify they have ample experience in ADU construction, meaning they’ve built both additions and garage conversions.
A reputable contractor will hold both General Liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance. Before considering hiring a contractor, ask them to provide you with copies of both of these certificates. Keep in mind these are annual policies and will expire on the date specified on the certificate, so ensure that you get a new one upon expiration.
Keep in mind that there is only one type of contractor that’s qualified to build an ADU – a licensed General Contractor with a “B” license. It would be a mistake to hire an unlicensed contractor or a handyman to build an ADU. This structure requires a large multitude of different trades and skills and the general contractor is uniquely qualified to bring together a crew of workers or sub-contractors that can perform the various specialized tasks, ie. foundation, framing, plumbing, roofing, tile, electrical, etc.
How Do I Vet a Contractor?
Thoroughly vetting a potential accessory dwelling unit contractor is a rigorous process. The first thing to do is contact them by phone — if they don’t answer or call back quickly, that’s a red flag that they might not be responsive during the completion of your project.
To verify that they’re licensed, you can do a license lookup through the Department of Consumer Affairs State License Board. This will show you not only whether their license is active but also whether they’ve committed any infractions. It’s also a good idea to call their insurance broker and ask whether they’ve had any insurance claims recently.
From there, you’ll want to view their portfolio and call at least three of their references. If you have the opportunity to visit one of their completed projects in person, that’s even better.
It’s also important to interview the owner of the business or at least the project supervisor who would be your primary contact during the project. When you’re dealing with larger companies, it’s not uncommon for them to send a salesperson or other staff member to your first meeting.
Don’t forget to read online reviews, especially the negative ones. Take stock of what’s being said and assess how serious those claims seem to you. If you see a significant number of bad reviews, especially within the past two years, this could indicate a pattern of bad behavior.
It’s also not a bad idea to run a background check. After all, this person and his or her team will be in your home.
At GreatBuildz, we save you time by managing the screening process for every contractor in our network. This means each professional we recommend to you has already been vetted and verified. And to ensure expectations regarding professionalism and reliability, each professional we work with has signed our 20-point code of conduct.
Should I Pick the Cheapest Los Angeles ADU Builder?
Building an ADU is a lot like building an entire home — just on a smaller scale. Because of the size and scope of this project, a garage conversion costs between $95,000 and $125,000 for a garage conversion and upwards of $200,000-$300,000 for a detached ADU with all-new electric, HVAC, and plumbing.
When calculating the costs to formulate your accessory dwelling unit budget, it might be tempting to shop around for the lowest price as you’re considering whom to hire. But the bottom line in a contractor’s bid doesn’t tell the whole story.
That’s why it’s important to create a checklist for everything you expect to be included in the project, then assess the scope of the accessory dwelling unit contractor’s bid as well as the estimate to ensure you’re getting the best value.
It could very well be that the general contractor offering the most robust build doesn’t have the lowest fees. But if ADU cost savings are a concern, the professional you hire will be able to walk you through various options in layout, materials, and appliances to come up with plans that work within the constraints of your budget.
What Should I Ask an Accessory Dwelling Unit Contractor?
There are a number of questions that will help ensure you and a potential accessory dwelling unit contractor are on the same page when it comes to your expectations for the project. These include:
- When can you start?
- How long do you estimate the project will take to complete?
- Will you be responsible for obtaining all necessary permits and ensuring compliance with all regulatory requirements?
- Will I receive guarantees and warranties on materials and labor?
- Do you prefer to work with clients who already know what they want or do you enjoy getting involved earlier in the planning and design process?
- Do you assist with selecting materials such as flooring, countertops, tile, and appliances? Do you shop with your clients? Do you make purchases on their behalf?
- Taking parking restrictions into consideration, where do you anticipate locating any disposal bins?
- What work hours will your crew be onsite?
- How often will you be onsite? Will there be a foreman or supervisor on-site at all other times?
- How often will you and I meet in person or via phone to discuss project progress or any issues that might come up?
- How will you address changes in the project scope? Will there be written change orders or verbal approvals?
- When can I expect a bid? Will it include labor and materials? What won’t be included?
GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable, thoroughly screened accessory dwelling unit contractors and provides project support from start to finish.
Submit your project to be connected with several fully vetted, trustworthy accessory dwelling unit contractors who are experienced with accessory dwelling unit costs and projects. For more info, visit www.GreatBuildz.com or call 818.317.3567 today.