Transform Your Property: ADU With Loft Ideas

Our home lives are changing and so are our home needs. Populations are growing and our family structures are becoming more diverse. Many kids leave the nest only to return shortly after. We’re also working from home more than ever before and struggling to hold boundaries between our professional and personal lives. For many of us, our home generates an extra income stream by renting out rooms.

These changes have led to one of the fastest-growing trends among homeowners  building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their property. An ADU is a separate structure that’s usually detached from your main house. They can serve many purposes, like home offices, workshops, and living spaces.

ADU with loft: Modern Alpine Cabin bedroom

ADUs aren’t a new idea. You might know them as carriage houses, in-law units, or garden suites. In Canada, Australia, and England, they were often called granny flats because they were ideal separate dwellings for the elders of the family before retirement communities became the norm. The granny flat allowed older adults autonomy while staying close enough to loved ones to get any care they needed.

Today an accessory dwelling unit has many potential uses beyond giving grandma a place to stay. DEN Outdoors offers many plans for these versatile structures. One way to take advantage of their potential is to build an ADU with a loft — the overhead space can provide extra storage or a sleeping area to make the most of a small dwelling. This guide will walk you through why and how to build an ADU, and we'll share ADU with loft ideas for every size and budget. 

What Are Some of the Common Uses for an ADU?

Before we get into our ADU with loft designs, let's discuss the purpose an accessory dwelling unit can serve. An ADU is more than a tiny house you build in your backyard. It’s part of your home that can meet your evolving needs. 

Extra Living Space

One of the most common uses for ADU projects is to provide living space for aging family members. A tiny home on your property can be an affordable alternative to expensive retirement homes for your family's elders. It can also provide a place for adult kids to stay while finding their feet or transitioning between living situations. The dignity and privacy of having a dwelling of their own can make these arrangements more comfortable for everyone.

A detached ADU is also a good option for full-time hired help. If you're working from home, trying to juggle parenting with professional responsibilities can be overwhelming. A live-in nanny is an essential member of a household staff in many work-from-home or solopreneur lifestyles. Home health aides or full-time elder care providers can also have a comfortable small house to themselves while still being close at hand.

Accessory dwelling units make great guest houses, as well. Putting up visitors in a guest room is fine, but having an ADU as a guest house is even better. A cozy home away from home will ensure that your guests are so comfortable they may never want to leave. 

A Place to Work and Earn

You can also use the space as a home office or creative studio. Working from home can make it tough to maintain a work-life balance. Many people need the structure of getting up, getting dressed, and leaving their house in the morning. An ADU creates a separation between your working and living space, which can make you more productive and happier overall.

Building that ADU doesn't just add square feet to your home, but actually creates a whole new home that you can rent out. This is one of the reasons a detached ADU adds an average of 35% to a home's value.

Some homeowners in popular tourist areas even move into their ADU homes and rent out their main houses to make the most on rentals during the high season. 

Why Build an ADU With Loft?

ADU with loft: Loft Cabin

A home is more than four walls and a roof. It’s where you live, love, create, and recharge. It's a personal living space and you want it to evolve with your needs so it can keep providing for you. That means versatility in every square foot of your home and your ADU is vital.

Versatility might mean an open floor plan that you can reshape when needed. It can mean extra rooms for your home office or future children. Or it could mean adding a loft to your house plans.

If you have high ceilings, built-in lofts provide extra square footage and separation without expanding the footprint of your home. Lofts are great for storage, a guest bed, or a little added privacy.

So if you’re going to build that backyard cottage, why not give it maximum utility by making it a lofted ADU

What Should You Consider When Planning Your ADU?

Adding another unit to your home isn’t a decision to take lightly. There’s only so much space in your home and on your property, and even a tiny home will take up a meaningful portion of it. Also, although an ADU often pays for itself, construction isn’t cheap. Here are a few things you should consider when thinking about building an ADU with a loft on your lot. 

Make Sure You’re Zoned for It

Before getting started on a construction project, make sure you know the building codes in your area. Are you legally allowed to build an additional unit on your property? Throughout much of post-WWII history, the single-family home ruled the American ideal. Many municipalities made it illegal to add a second permanent structure to your land. Over the past few decades, many cities have loosened their rules, but it may still be against the law in some places.

If building a detached ADU is prohibited in your area, consider a garage conversion instead. Since this doesn’t add another structure to your property, it's usually easier to get permits and cheaper to build. You also get to keep your yard fully intact. However, garage conversions usually don’t add as much to your property value as an ADU

Assess Your Space

Determine how much space on your property you want to dedicate to your ADU. Having some idea of how you’ll use the additional building will help here. If it's going to be an office, for instance, you may not need more than 100-200 square feet. But if you’re planning on moving your family into it and renting out your main house, something with multiple rooms and a second story might be a better plan. 

Consider the Budget and Financing

Creating a budget for your project is an essential preparatory step. How much construction will cost depends on many factors — the size, complexity, materials, location, number of floors, ease of access for the construction crew, and much more. The national average cost per square foot for an ADU is $244.50.

Another important consideration is how you’re going to pay for it. Do you have the cash? Will you dip into your retirement account? A common strategy is refinancing an existing mortgage. This may make sense if your plan is to rent it out for income. 

Make a Site Plan

A site plan establishes where you’ll put your new dwelling, how big it can be, and what its orientation should be. It considers parking, access to utilities, trees that might get in the way, and how it’ll interact with your existing house. Making a great site plan often requires a civil engineer.

Visualize It

If you have an average-size yard, an ADU will be visible every time you look out your window. Make sure it's something you want to look at every day. You might want something that stands out beside your main house, or maybe a less prominent build that blends into the landscaping. You can use features of your property to create boundaries between your ADU and main house, like placing a tiny home on the other side of a garden or pool to create privacy for a rental property or in-law suite.

You should also think about the design and style of your ADU. Some people like to create a smaller version of their main house or give it accents that are similar. Others want a distinct design that adds character to the property. At DEN, we have an extensive library of house plans so you can find the perfect design for your accessory dwelling.

ADU With Loft Designs For You

Whether you're planning a DIY build or working with a builder, a set of plans from DEN will get you started on the right foot. Here are some of our favorite ADU with loft designs.

Cottage Tiny House

Cottage Tiny House

If you're looking for a tiny home with a classic, cozy style, the Cottage Tiny House is perfect for you. At 196 sq. ft., this ADU will offer you all the functionality of a second dwelling without dominating your open space. The home sleeps two people and includes a mini kitchen and a bathroom with a shower. The 18-foot ceilings leave room for a storage loft that’ll keep the floor clear and save space for people to move around with ease.

The quaint design of this small modern cottage will charm guests and renters. Complement the storybook exterior with modern farmhouse decor to make sure the small space feels open and bright. And the compact floor plan makes this an affordable build — going by the average national cost per square foot, this ADU would cost approximately $47,922. 

Alpine Tiny House

Alpine Tiny House

For more spacious lots, the 300-square-foot Alpine Tiny House offers plenty of interior and exterior space while maintaining a modern, minimalist design. In addition to a storage loft that keeps the rooms uncluttered, the stowable Murphy bed creates a multipurpose space that would be ideal for a long-term rental or home office.

The floor-to-ceiling windows and wrap-around decking help your guests stay connected to nature, so this is the perfect ADU for a property with striking natural features. At an average build cost of $73,350, this is an ideal project for an income-generating dwelling. 

A-Frame Bunk Plus

A-Frame Bunk Plus bedroom

A-frame cabins are both classic and uniquely striking, and they add character to any property. The A-Frame Bunk Plus takes full advantage of the distinct design with floor-to-ceiling windows and a spacious sleeping loft, so you can have plenty of interior space without a large footprint.

The 270-square-foot cabin has an optional kitchenette, so you can build an ADU that meets your needs. If you're planning to use the space as an office, skip the kitchen and use the extra space for a sitting area, a bookshelf, or a place to work out between meetings. Or create an independent living space for renters or family members.

With an estimated building cost of $66,015, you can invest in two or three cabins clustered near one another to create a group rental property. 

Customize Your ADU With Loft at DEN

An accessory dwelling unit is a versatile way for homeowners to add value and usable space to their property. These modern-day granny flats can provide living spaces for family, hired help, or renters, or give work-from-home warriors a chance to get out of the house.

With DEN, your house plans are instantly delivered, along with detailed building guides that will help you secure financing, set your budget, and start planning with your homebuilder. You can rely on any of our DEN plans to create your ADU, but we’re happy to work with you to build the home you're envisioning. Our team of experts will customize your plans to suit your needs and preferences. Start building your dream DEN today. 



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  • Accessory dwelling units: what they are and why people build them. (2014, October 13). Accessory Dwellings.
  • Study: ADUs can add 35% to Home’s Value. (2021, November 4).
  • Ogletree, A. (2023, February 17). How much does an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) cost to build? Angi.