Five Common ADU Design Mistakes

An example of good sound separation.
An example of good sound separation.
An example of good sound separation.


Over the years New Avenue has worked out the best design practices for small homes as well as the design choices that should be avoided. You can benefit from our experience. Here’s a list of common design mistakes people make when planning their accessory dwelling.

1. Not enough sound separation

Sounds are amplified in small living spaces. A common mistake is to provide insufficient sound separation between rooms, creating a noisy home. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be the noisiest spaces, and bedrooms the quietest. It’s a good idea to separate these rooms with a sound proofed wall. If you have a sleeping loft that is open to the space below, you can minimize noise by placing the loudest spaces underneath the loft, rather than directly across from it.

2. Too few windows

Many homeowners try to lower their project’s cost by reducing the number of windows. But a house with too few windows is not only a gloomy place to live in, it can actually increase your energy bill if you find yourself using electric lights in daylight hours. As a rule of thumb, you should install at least 10 square feet of windows for every 300 cubic feet of space.

3. Poor window placement

Window placement is also an important design consideration. It’s a mistake to only place windows on one side of a room. This makes a room stuffier and harder too cool because it prevents cross breezes. Especially in living rooms, try to place windows on more than one wall, ideally on walls directly across from each other.

4. Improper kitchen measurements

Kitchens are tricky to design in small homes because refrigerators, ovens, and other appliances take up so much space. Make sure you have enough space in your kitchen to accommodate the specific appliances you want – in fact, it may be best to pick out your appliances before building any counters and cabinetry.

5. Not enough wall blocking

If you’re going to live in a small home, you will need to maximize your use of vertical space: wall shelving, bike hooks, and cabinets are all great ways to squeeze as much space as possible out of your house. Without enough wall blocking however, many of these design choices are impossible. Wall blocking are pieces of wood that run between wall studs that provide attachment sites for cabinets and shelving. In a small home, it’s always better to err on the side of too much blocking than too little.

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