The past few months gave us A LOT of togetherness at home.

The past few months gave us A LOT of togetherness at home. Lots of time for reflecting, cooking, working, playing, and learning all under one roof. But what if your roof is feeling a little bit too small these days? Are you battling for space with your spouse or kids? Do you need an escape in your own backyard?

We hear you! So many families are running out of room and know a renovation won’t get them what they need. Since March, we’ve received more inquiries about additions and DADUs (detached additional dwelling unit) than any other time. Are you considering one of these? Below we lay out some criteria you should consider before you start designing.


We’ve seen some bad additions in our day. The ones that look like a box stuck on the back or side of a house somewhere with no consideration of rooflines, siting, or scale. I’m sure you’ve seen them too! We’ve also seen some great additions - ones that blend seamlessly and leave the house and property looking ten times better than before. So how do you know if an addition is the best option for you?

1. Your house footprint isn’t already maxed out.

First steps first, check and see what the allowable lot coverage is with your city’s jurisdiction. It might be the case that you can’t increase the footprint of the house, but you can expand upwards. Or maybe the house is situated right against the front setback and you can only develop in the backyard. Either way, you need to determine the site parameters before you start planning that dream kitchen with the magical pot filler you’ve always dreamed of.

2. You would consider a remodel along with the addition.

Let’s talk about scale. Many times we see huge vaulted rooms added onto the back of smaller scaled homes. This is weird! You want the addition to seem like it was always part of the home, not an additional limb that the house magically grew.

Typically we see additions tie into a larger remodel - maybe we need to change the kitchen layout to work with the added living space. Or perhaps the exterior deck needs to go, but we replace it with a terraced patio and a new family room that blends the new and old spaces. In any case, your existing floorplan and exterior elements will probably need some shaping to accommodate the added rooms.

3. The house is missing a critical function piece.

If you live in an older house (hi Seattle four square gems), you know we don’t live the way people used to. The bathrooms are small and shared, mudrooms are nonexistent, and kitchens are separated from the rest of the house. If your heart is set on a mudroom where kids can drop off their gear and you can give the dog a bath, there’s likely not enough space to make this happen without losing another critical room in the home. Consider a front or rear addition with another service space (laundry room? powder room?) to make this worth the cost and effort.

4. You’re willing to spend $500-$800/ sq ft.

Additions are expensive. Building, in general, is expensive, but additions especially so. Why? We equate them to construction surgery for your home. Everything has to tie back into the existing systems (structural, electrical, mechanical) and this might trigger upgrades to your current home. Many additions require seismic retrofits to bring older homes up to code. So if you’re thinking to yourself, it’s just a 20ft x 20ft master suite, how much can this really cost? The answer is probably more than you think. Please consider all the things this might affect before landing on a budget.  


Backyard Home office

Super charming DADU, designed by us in Queen Anne

Ok, let’s talk about DADUs, First of all, as one of our amazing clients noted, it’s fun to say. But what is it, exactly? A detached accessory dwelling unit is a smaller structure on your lot that is not attached to your home. Typically they are rented out (think tiny house or granny pad) but they don’t have to be. They usually have a small kitchen and bathroom, and some living and sleeping space.

When would you build a DADU instead of an addition? Read our list below and see if your needs check off these boxes.

1. You need some separation.

Do you need a home office but don’t want to be in the house? How about a place for kids to hang out without being on top of you? Do you have inlaws or an au pair or frequent friends that like to crash on your couch? Then YES, a DADU is right for you.

DADUs are great because they can be so flexible. One day they are an office and a team meeting space, the next day it’s a guest suite for your parents. Architects love spaces that can transform to suit different needs, and homeowners love DADUs because they can adapt easily to whatever life throws at them.

2. You have the room to make it happen.

Every jurisdiction is different, but in Seattle, an accessory structure’s footprint can’t take up more than 40% of the rear lot. In Kirkland, the structure can’t exceed 800 sq ft. This means you may not be able to fit your garage, recording studio, and tiny house without building a 2 story structure. Check your local code (or contact us to figure that part out!) before squeezing in too much program.

3. You can service the building with utilities.

If you’re building an accessory structure, you will likely want electricity, water, and gas. These can take up a large chunk of the budget depending on where the lines currently exist and what hoops are needed to jump through to get a connection. Determine the feasibility of this early on in the process.

4. You’re willing to spend $300-600/ sq ft for new construction.

If you have a nice, flat area in the back of your house with easy access to utilities, then your cost will be on the lower end of this range. If you have a very large lot and want to build a tricked out DADU 200ft away from existing utilities, expect to pay more. This is really site-dependent, but we would not expect to build a new, ground-up DADU for less than $150,000. No matter if your structure is big or small, the basic services still need to be run and walls need to be built.

Whether you decide to build an addition or a DADU, enlist the help of a professional to guide you through the process. Many jurisdictions have complicated zoning codes that dictate the size and positioning of these structures. If you’re working in the Seattle area, please reach out - we would love to hear about your home dreams! Below are some resources to get you started.

Seattle Accessory Dwelling Unit Information

Kirkland Accessory Dwelling Unit Information

Bellevue Accessory Dwelling Unit Information