Find an ADU Designer to Master Your Project: Design, Cost, and Collaboration

Finding an ADU Designer to embark on your dream Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) project involves a journey that is filled with choices and considerations. From finding the right ADU designer or architect to understanding the cost implications, every decision plays a pivotal role. In this blog, we delve into the intricacies of ADU design, cost breakdowns, permit processes, and the crucial choice between starting with an architect or contractor.

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.

Woman wearing a hard hat looking at ADU plans

The Process of Designing an ADU

The process of designing an ADU is a multi-faceted journey that encompasses various stages crucial to realizing a functional and compliant living space. Beginning with a clear vision and a deep understanding of your needs, the ADU designer process unfolds as follows:

  • Conceptualization: The journey commences by conceptualizing your ADU’s purpose, layout, and aesthetics. This phase involves brainstorming and preliminary sketches to outline your vision.
  • Space optimization: Designing an ADU involves making the most of available space. Ensuring optimal room layout, efficient circulation, and effective use of square footage are central considerations.
  • Zoning and regulations: Aligning your design with local zoning regulations and building codes is paramount. Knowledge of setback requirements, height restrictions, and other regulations informs the feasibility of your design.
  • Architectural blueprint: Translating the concept into detailed architectural blueprints is the next step. These comprehensive plans encompass structural details, electrical and plumbing layouts, and other essential elements.
  • Client review and refinement: Presenting the initial design to you allows for feedback and refinements. This iterative process hones the design to better align with your preferences and needs.
  • Permitting phase: Submitting the finalized plans to local authorities for permit approval is a critical stage. Scrutiny of plans ensures compliance with regulations and codes.
  • Construction-ready plans: The concluding phase involves creating detailed construction-ready plans. These plans serve as a comprehensive guide for contractors, ensuring accurate execution of the design.

Hands on blueprints - ADU Designer

Cost of Designing an ADU in Los Angeles

ADU designer costs in Los Angeles can vary significantly based on factors such as the size and complexity of the unit. On average, homeowners can expect to invest between $5,000 and $15,000 for the design phase of a standard ADU project.

The expertise of the chosen architect or designer also plays a role in price considerations. Hiring an experienced professional who is familiar with local regulations might come with a higher fee, potentially ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. However, this upfront investment can lead to long-term savings by avoiding design errors that could lead to costly modifications later.

Additionally, permit fees are a crucial component of the overall cost. These fees depend on factors like the size of the ADU and the location of the property, and they typically range from $1,000 to $3,000.


Everything Included in the Design Fee for ADU Plans

The design fee for ADU plans encompasses a range of valuable components crucial to the success of your project. These include:

  • The expertise of the architect or ADU designer: These experts translate your vision into a feasible and compliant design. Their skill ensures that your ADU not only fits your preferences but also adheres to local building codes and zoning regulations.
  • Creation of detailed blueprints: These plans outline every aspect of the ADU, from structural elements to plumbing and electrical layouts. Clear and comprehensive plans are essential for contractors to accurately bring your vision to life.
  • Revisions and consultations: This collaborative approach ensures that your ADU plans evolve to align with your changing needs and preferences, refining the design to perfection.


Should You Start With an ADU Designer or Contractor?

When embarking on an ADU construction project, the decision of whether to initiate the process with an architect or a contractor is pivotal. 

Starting with an architect offers a strategic advantage by focusing on the design phase. Architects bring creativity and expertise to the table, ensuring that your ADU aligns with your vision while adhering to regulations. They establish the conceptual framework and create detailed plans that guide the construction process.

On the other hand, beginning with a contractor emphasizes the practical aspect. Contractors possess hands-on experience in executing construction projects and are well-versed in the feasibility of design ideas. Their insights during the initial stages can guide the design toward practicality, cost-efficiency, and structural soundness.

The optimal choice often hinges on the complexity of the project and your personal preferences. If your vision is clear and well-defined, starting with an architect might be more suitable. Conversely, if you seek a more collaborative approach that balances design creativity with real-world construction considerations, beginning with a contractor could be advantageous.

In some cases, a combined approach, involving both an architect and a contractor from the outset, ensures a harmonious integration of design and practicality. Whichever path you choose, careful consideration of your project’s unique requirements will guide you toward the most suitable starting point for your ADU construction journey.

ADU brown house design

How to Find the Right ADU Designer or Architect for You

Finding the perfect ADU designer or ADU architect is a pivotal step in realizing your ideal accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Here’s how to go about it:

  • Define your vision: Start by clarifying your ADU project’s goals and aesthetic preferences. Understanding your needs will guide your search for a compatible designer or architect.
  • Research portfolios: Evaluate potential professionals’ portfolios to ensure their style resonates with your vision. Look for a range of projects showcasing versatility and creativity.
  • Check references: Reach out to previous clients to gather insights into the designer’s working style, communication, and ability to meet deadlines.
  • Compatibility and communication: Effective collaboration is key. Seek professionals who listen to your ideas, provide feedback, and foster a positive working relationship.
  • Budget considerations: Discuss the budget early in the process to ensure alignment. A good designer or architect will help balance your vision with financial feasibility.
  • Visit completed projects: Whenever possible, visit completed ADU projects by the designer or architect to witness their work firsthand.
  • Initial consultations: Conduct consultations with potential designers or architects. Use this opportunity to discuss your project, gauge their enthusiasm, and assess their understanding of your needs.
  • Trust your instincts: Beyond qualifications, trust your gut feeling about the designer’s compatibility with your project and your ability to work together effectively.

For help finding the perfect ADU contractor near you, let GreatBuildz be your partner. Share your project’s needs and we’ll match you with a pre-vetted contractor you can trust. Contact GreatBuildz today at (818.317.3567) or visit our website for more information.

When it comes to finding the best ADU contractor in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura, or San Diego – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.


Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information:

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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