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A gambrel roof Garage converted into an Accessory Dwelling Unit

The Accessory Dwelling Unit: Better Housing for Less

There’s a new trend that’s been taking over the building industry over the last decade. One that helps provide affordable living space for growing families. A trend that helps families stay together longer without having everyone share the same roof. What is this trend you may ask? The Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU for short.

What’s an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

What exactly is an Accessory Dwelling Unit? Basically, an ADU is a secondary living space on a single family residential property. For instance, a tiny house that shares property with a larger residence, or an attached In-Law suite could both be considered Accessory Dwelling Units. 

In this blog post we’ll be showing you a recent example of an ADU that was built on site by our team of Amish Craftsmen. Plus, we’ll explain why an Accessory Dwelling Unit may be the perfect solution for your growing family.

Our Customer’s Challenge

Back in 2016 we had a customer come to us with a challenge. They owned a home in Florida, but they wanted a space close to family in the Northeast to call their own during the warmer months. A tiny-home could have fit the bill, but it would have sat around their family’s property doing nothing for half the year. Plus, while most tiny homes can be economical, some owners will complain about the cramped living quarters eventually. 

Our solution? A Three-Car, Two-Story Garage with Gambrel Roof that would be transformed into an Accessory Dwelling Unit. The first floor may look like a typical garage, but all the amenities of home are included in the second floor. Plus, unlike a tiny home, there’s plenty of storage space downstairs to stash away power tools and larger appliances. Oh, and of course THREE whole cars which the whole family could use while our customer was back in Florida.

An Accessory Dwelling Unit within a three car gambrel garage

Here’s the whole structure in all its glory.  This Gambrel Garage measures 24’ wide by 36’ long, and is finished with Red Smart Panel Wood siding. It also includes a number of customizations, including:

  • Heritage Overhead Garage Doors
  • Exterior lights over each garage door
  • Pent Roof Overhangs
  • Full-sized Shed Dormer – for more living space

First Floor

The first floor of our customer's gambrel garage Accessory Dwelling Unit

The first floor is your standard three-car garage. There’s shelving for tools and power cords. Bikes are stored by the back wall. They also kept the water heater and softener downstairs to free up as much floor space as possible upstairs. 

Another aspect worth pointing out is along the back wall, close to the ceiling. See those vents? This Gambrel Garage has central air! It makes sense too, considering this home is primarily used during the summer months.

The Upstairs Apartment

A cozy yet comfortable living area of our customer's accessory dwelling unit

Now, onto the truly amazing part of this Accessory Dwelling Unit, the second floor! Once you make it upstairs you’re greeted with this gorgeous living room/kitchen area, complete with beautiful hardwood floors throughout. 

To the right, you can see the very edge of the kitchen area, complete with working sink. Above the sink our customer cleverly installed a wine glass rack, so they can drip dry. Also included is the dinner table with enough space to comfortably entertain 3 people. 

Living Room

An entertainment system neatly stored away in the gambrel garage dormer.

Then, there’s our customer’s fully furnished living room. This includes all the amenities of home like a full sized recliner, and love seat with enough room to stretch out. Thanks to the extra space provided by the full-sized dormer, our customer was able to neatly tuck away an entertainment center as well.


Our customer can cook anything in their accessory dwelling unit kitchen

It may not be considered “full sized” but this kitchen set up sure does beat what’s available in most tiny homes. Along with the kitchen sink, our customer kitted his Accessory Dwelling Unit with a mid-sized fridge, electric grill, coffee maker, toaster oven, and microwave. It may not handle a full dinner party, but it’s certainly more than enough to cook a healthy meal for one or two people. 


The bedroom of an accessory dwelling unit

Once you make your way through the living area, you’re then greeted with a surprisingly spacious bedroom. Our customer didn’t even have to skimp on the bed size either – that’s a queen-sized bed! There’s also more than enough space to fit a wardrobe closet and dresser for clothing – in addition to the walk-in closet you’ll see below.

Not only that, but this room also includes a computer desk with a full-sized desktop. They even have a printer! Not a bad area at all to get some work done when needed. Best of all, they even installed a flatscreen in the corner. Perfect for some background noise to work – or fall asleep to.


Fully functional accessory dwelling unit bathroom

Finally, we come to the most important room in the home: the bathroom. It’s easy to think some compromises had to be made with this room considering all this has been built into just one floor of a garage. Surprisingly, the bathroom is actually quite complete. All the necessities are there, including toilet, standing shower, and sink. There was even enough space left over to add an attached walk-in closet.

How Much Do Accessory Dwelling Units Cost?

So as you can see, an Accessory Dwelling Unit can be a surprisingly complete living space, with very few compromises. There is one major factor to consider though: the price.

Now nailing down an exact price can be a little tricky on our end since there’s so much work that goes into these units. Here at Lapp Structures we consider ourselves experts at crafting the long-lasting “shell” of an ADU. If someone plans on living in this structure full time though, they’re going to need more than just that.

Everything from hanging drywall, to adding insulation, to hooking up the electricity requires a professional from that respective field. When building an Accessory Dwelling Unit, we work closely with these professionals to make the process as smooth as possible for them.

To get to an answer; A three car gambrel garage from Lapp Structures would cost somewhere between $50,000 – $60,000 to build on a cement pad. It would then be up to you, the customer, to price out contractors, electricians, and plumbers to handle the interior work.

Where You Can Save on an Accessory Dwelling Unit

If you’re handy, you could save a few thousand dollars and handle some of the interior work yourself. Although, we would always recommend leaving the wiring and plumbing to the experts. 

Now, there are some other factors to consider if all this may not seem as “affordable” as it was made out to be in the beginning of this article:

  1. This three car gambrel garage is HUGE, so you could downgrade to a two-car garage, or even one of our larger single story shed styles and still have plenty of living space.
  2. The amount you invest in the property will increase the overall value of the property you build on.
  3. Building on property you or a family member already own will be FAR cheaper than acquiring new land. 
  4. If the property is vacant for part of the year you could always rent it out on services like Airbnb for some extra income. 

Aside from the monetary benefits of an accessory dwelling unit, there are other upsides that simply can’t be priced out. 

The Benefits of Owning an ADU

ADUs allow families to stick together longer, without going crazy living under the same roof.  Younger families can live in an ADU on their parents property, making it easier for grandma and grandpa to help with childcare. ADUs are also a great alternative to assisted living, allowing your aging loved ones to keep their independence while still being close by if they need help.

There’s also environmental benefits to be had. Since most accessory dwelling units are typically far smaller than the average dwelling, they require less to heat and cool. Plus, its smaller footprint means there’s less energy and resources needed to build.

Ready to Learn More?

So, do you think an ADU is right for you? It’s easy to imagine building one for yourself with so many benefits to be had versus traditional housing. Before you break ground though it’s important to check on the land and zoning regulations of your municipality. ADU’s are nothing new, but local regulations can affect how you use the structure, and can vary greatly from city to city.

Once you get the okay from your township, contact one of our knowledgeable design consultants. They’ll provide years of product knowledge and insight that will help guide you to your perfect DreamSpace. Soon enough you’ll have a dwelling that will provide extra income, extra storage space, or necessary shelter for a loved one. 


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