Understanding Backyard Cottages aka DADUs


An exterior image of a DADU in Seattle

Backyard cottages are on the rise. In a city growing as fast as Seattle, finding new solutions geared toward urban density and affordable living can be challenging. Backyard cottages present themselves as an effective, economically viable and aesthetically pleasing answer to these problems.


But you can’t build a housing unit in your backyard tomorrow. Permitting requirements for backyard cottages can be a little tricky to understand. Fortunately, our team loves talking about this kind of stuff, so we’ve broken it down for you. In this post, we’ll talk about what a backyard cottage is, what requirements you have to meet to build one, and what sets these units apart from other housing solutions.


What is a Backyard Cottage?


Backyard cottages are also commonly referred to as Detached Accessory Dwelling Units (DADUs). The “detached” distinction makes them different from basement apartments, or units of that ilk. Backyard cottages are separate constructions from your main house, and function as complete units all on their own.


There are a number of reasons why you may want to build a DADU in your backyard.

  • As a separate space for a family member

  • To bring in extra income by renting out the unit

  • To increase the value of your property

  • As a separate workspace or studio

  • To increase economic accessibility to your neighborhood

Regardless of your reasons for building a DADU, there’s one thing you want to make doubly sure of: that you do it legally.


In our next section, we’ll detail some of the specific regulations you need to meet in order to break dirt on your backyard cottage in the Seattle area.


What Are the Legal Requirements for Building a Backyard Cottage?


Before you go ahead and start planning your backyard cottage, you should always check with the particular zoning laws of your neighborhood. In Seattle, you must live in a single-family zone.


But not all single-family homes are eligible to legally build a DADU--your lot needs to be at least 3200 square feet. Right now, there are a lot of eligible homes in West and North Seattle.


If the owner of a home in a single-family zone wants to build a backyard cottage, it can’t legally be bigger than 1000 square feet. And before you begin building, you will need to obtain a construction permit.


Naturally, any structure has to be in compliance with standard building codes. In Seattle’s surrounding municipalities, like Bellevue, Kirkland, and Renton, regulations may vary slightly. Make sure you confirm your legal eligibility for a DADU before you begin building!


Backyard Cottages as a Future-Based Solution


It’s no real surprise why so many people are considering adding backyard cottages to their own homes. As Seattle grows, DADUs offer a solution that increases economic diversity and takes a strong step towards sustainable urban density. And we can’t deny that DADUs offer a high degree of cottage-esque charm to any neighborhood.

We love talking about topics like this. For more real estate insights like this one, make sure you follow us on social media.

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