Creating New ADU in the Portland Vancouver Area

New Home Additions in the Portland Vancouver Area, Bathroom Addition, Kitchen Additions, Bedrooms Addition, Gameroom Additions

If you love your existing Portland or Vancouver area home and neighborhood, but need more space, what are your options if you don’t want to move? As homeowners look for ways to expand and improve their living spaces, a new trend has emerged that provides an attractive solution for many homeowners.

 An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) can be a great way to create new space without having to move. And according to a recent NAHB report, it’s gained a lot of traction. Approximately 20 percent of all remodelers surveyed say that they worked on ADU projects that converted an existing space into new living space. Another 18 percent worked on an ADU that was a new addition.

What Is an ADU?

According to the American Planning Association, “An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a smaller, independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone (i.e., detached) single-family home. ADUs go by many different names throughout the U.S., including accessory apartments, secondary suites, and granny flats. ADUs can be converted portions of existing homes (i.e., internal ADUs), additions to new or existing homes (i.e., attached ADUs), or new stand-alone accessory structures or converted portions of existing stand-alone accessory structures (i.e., detached ADUs).

What makes an ADU such an increasingly popular option? 

An ADU Can Meet a Variety of Needs

There are many different reasons why homeowners in Clark County and Multnomah County (and other places) may need more space. Some may have aging parents who no longer want the responsibility of maintaining a larger home—but still, want a level of independence. They want to be near family, but they also want their privacy.

Some homeowners have grown children who are just getting started with their careers. They may not be ready to take on the burden of a mortgage, yet. Or they may be facing the possibility of a transfer early in their career. They still need a space of their own while they begin building their futures. An ADU provides space for them to be independent while saving toward a house of their own.

Other homeowners may have a family member with a disability who would benefit from having other family members around—but wants to have a certain degree of autonomy and independence.

In some cases, a homeowner may want a separate space for a hobby such as painting, woodworking, or pottery that is best pursued in some degree of isolation. And with so many of us working from home, there are plenty of homeowners who want or need a dedicated home office that isn’t just a spare bedroom with a desk in it.

For people who entertain overnight guests frequently, an ADU is a great way to provide the warmth and hospitality of a home while providing plenty of privacy and quiet. 

Interior Planning

What things should you keep in mind for the interior of your ADU? Keep in mind that many of these units may be small. That doesn’t mean they can’t be comfortable, but you’ll want to choose some of the elements carefully.

Give special attention to the windows you choose. One option is to place your windows higher so that they let in more natural light. In addition to allowing more light in, higher windows also allow the light to penetrate deeper into the living space (while preserving privacy).

If you have the option, consider using vaulted ceilings. Even though this may not add square footage, the visual impact makes the space feel larger.

Take advantage of open space design. Because space is at a premium, you’ll want to avoid wasting space with unnecessary walls or hallways. Keeping things open creates a feeling of more space. Consider that when building closets as well. A walk-in closet may be great for your master bedroom, but for a guest house or an office space, floor space is a bigger consideration.

Is an ADU Right for You?

How do you know if adding an ADU is the right call for your Portland Vancouver home? One of the best things you can do is to enlist the help of a design-build remodeler to help you evaluate your needs and options. We tend to look at space and options a little differently and we may see opportunities that aren’t immediately apparent to you. We invite you to contact us and tell us a bit about what your needs are. Then we can help you consider the best options to achieve your goals—whether that’s building an ADU or better using the existing space in your home.

What you need to know about ADUs


ADU stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit. It is a small, detached living structure located behind the primary residence on a lot. ADUs include their own kitchen, bedroom and bathroom facilities. They are intended to be “accessory” to the primary dwelling.  They are also known as carriage houses, cottages, in-law suites, and many other names!


In Portland Vancouver and countless other cities around the country, demand for housing is outpacing the supply – especially for affordable housing. At the same time, we are seeing the negative effects of single-family zoning regulations that limit the character, scale, and number of allowable units in our neighborhoods.

ADUs can boost housing supply without adversely affecting the scale and character of a neighborhood. An ADU’s compact size, minimal utility footprint, and minor maintenance requirements make them inherently affordable to build and operate. They therefore offer the possibility for use as an affordable housing option for those making 80% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI).


We see a number of possible benefits to owning an ADU, including added value to your property, creation of or increased rental income, expansion of living space, and the addition of a separate but nearby housing option for aging parents. In addition to those gains, there are other tangential benefits, such as increased affordable housing options and added income to support local businesses.

Source of Passive Income (Rental Income)

If the additional house is well-located— for example, by a pond or a forest— and the ADU design follows the design guidelines applicable to the lot on which the ADU is located, it is quite possible to rent it out to those people who want to live and relax in tranquility. It will ensure your extra income monthly and allow your renters to dwell in peace.

Having an ADU on your property allows you to generate supplemental income from your property. The arrangement can either be structured to generate long term reoccurring rental income or short term rental income to help cover your expenses.

If you live in a vacation destination town, you have an opportunity to generate short term rental income from your ADU. Using a service such as Airbnb, you can rent your ADU for a weekend at premium rates. These rental rates can often be enough to cover a large portion of your mortgage each month. Check the restrictions for these short term rental programs in your area as many cities prohibit this type of rental.

Home office, Workshop, and Studio

Having an ADU is extremely convenient if the property owners work remotely. Such an additional building will allow you to work in a quiet environment, without being distracted by people you live with and household chores. You can cross the backyard and be already at the workplace: which is a really convenient option, let alone the change of air and scenery.

If you have a home business, having a detached structure to work from can enhance productivity and focus. Using the ADU as an art studio, workshop or office allows you to have a separate space for client meetings and can create a more professional setting than an in-home office in your primary residence. Having an ADU on your property to work from also eliminates commuting and wasted time in traffic.

Instead of sinking money into office rent each month, invest that money into building an ADU. When you sell your property, you can re-coup the cost of construction in the sale of the property.

With the right site planning, landscaping and design, there may be options to completely separate your primary residence from your ADU. Having separate entrances and parking can help to present a more professional appearance to your business.


We are inspired by the broad benefits of ADUs for both individuals and the community. ADUs and Tiny Houses are often grouped together in conversation. The Tiny House movement champions a simple living philosophy with a foundation in increased personal free time. At the Renovate Guys, we celebrate this philosophy, but believe the potential benefits go far beyond the self. We think these simple living ADU structures can contribute to resolving a very complex issue facing cities today – housing shortages. We have crafted our Design/Build/Deliver service to make the process as simple and painless as possible, from start to finish.

Interested? Let’s connect at (503) 850-0002