Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Casita Floor Plans

Do you have enough space in your residential lot for a casita?

For those who don’t know, casita is a Spanish word. It translates to ‘little house’ and it means a small residential building which is built on the same lot as a single-family home. Casitas are also commonly known as accessory dwelling units (ADU).

That’s because ADU is a legal and regulatory term for a little, extra house built on the same land as a larger primary home. There are over 1.4 million accessory dwelling units in the United States. And, it’s easy to understand why.

The need for affordable housing is growing. America has an aging population and the appeal of multi-generational family homes is undeniable. Unused yard space can easily be put to better use as a rental-income investment.

Even silicon valley venture capital managers are playing a part in making casitas the height of cool. Facebook recently made big investments in seed funding for technology firms focussed on building housing.

So, can you join the 1.4 million people in the USA, who currently own a casita? Yes, you can. And, carefully considered casita floor plans are the key factor in making these small spaces work.

Casita Floor Plan Size Matters

Once you’ve decided to build a casita, the next stage is creating the perfect floor plan. Casita floor plans in Silicon Valley are often a little different from their cousins in Spain.

A traditional casita is just a little cottage. It’s often similar to a studio apartment, or a single-floor one-bedroom property. Typically, it has enough space to accommodate one or two guests and perhaps a child or two.

Small casita floor plan designs are very popular in towns where the real estate cost per square foot is high. In most developed cities throughout the USA, space comes at a premium. So, guest accommodation reflects that. Casita plans with only one room and a bathroom are typically intended for short stays.

Is your dream casita intended to be used as longer-term accommodation or to attract a rental income?

In that case, a larger floor plan might appeal to you. However, in recent years, the tiny house movement has made small homes more desirable.

Casitas with small floor plans are also making news headlines as affordable, temporary housing for low-income families. Even if you have a lot of space on your lot, you might choose a casita with a small floor plan, because construction costs are also tied to the size of the building.

Usually, casitas are not part of the main home. Instead, they are built at the back of the property on the adjacent grounds.

In locations with hot climates, where swimming pools are popular features, they are often beside the pool. This has led to them being referred to as ‘pool houses’.

Even if you don’t have an immediate plan for your casita such as renting it out, or accommodating a family they are a worthwhile real-estate investment. A casita can significantly increase the value of your home.

Choosing the scale and features of your casita floor plan carefully is essential to add meaningful value to your main property.

What is a Casita Floor Plan?

A casita floor plan is the exact, detailed plan that the builders will use to construct your casita. It might be tempting to just look for a free or cheap floor plan online.

But, if you do, be careful. Every property is different and validating your project’s scope is extremely important. Not to mention floor plans are a lot different from a set of permissible plans.

A one-bedroom casita floor plan is perhaps the most common, modern design. However, consider integrating quirky, adaptable features. What about pull-out bunks? Contemporary hammocks and other creative, space-saving furniture solutions?

Think about the exterior look and feel. Do you want it to have the homely appeal of a little rustic cabin? Or, have floor-to-ceiling windows that flood it with natural light and are becoming ubiquitous in modern architecture?

Predict Your Added Real-Estate Value

Appraisers can give you two important pieces of information based on your casita floor plan.

They can tell you how much value they estimate the new building will add to the overall net worth of your home. They can also give you a predicted rental income if you chose to rent it out.

A good budget should be easy to recoup through rent or sale. Therefore, your casita should effectively pay for itself. Perhaps it goes without saying that not all floor plans will deliver the same investment value to your property.

That’s why carefully considered design is so essential.

From the Drawing Board to Reality

The purpose of a floor plan is to turn concepts we have in our minds into a more tangible format we can discuss.

By drafting detailed floor plans you can see dimensions, measurements and get a greater understanding of the space your casita will provide and occupy.

A blueprint for your new build gives the construction team and everyone else involved the first principle to work from and optimize. It’s the lynchpin of all your construction conversations.

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Save time and money by working with experienced designers..

This saves money because it prevents costly mistakes, over designing your home, and missing out on what your city will require to get permits.

A well-designed casita floor plan also helps create efficiency, set expectations, and greatly increase the likelihood of a successful build. But, what should the perfect casita floor plan include?

Include As Much Detail As Possible

Your casita floor plan should include dimensions and detail for all the living, sleeping and bathroom space. It should also indicate the location of the bathrooms and the kitchen. Not to mention all of the hundreds of specific requirements needed to acquire a permit. Think: structural engineering, Title 24 compliance, Fire, etc.

This level of detail is essential.s. Switching a floor plan around can change everything from electrical, plumbing, not to mention structural engineering or your specific lot requirements.

For example, placing the bathroom and kitchen on the same side of the floorplan is efficient, because of drain and water supply installation.

Create Flow, a Sense of Space and Interest

Interior design is just as crucial as architectural design. This is when the exact measurements of kitchens, bathrooms, heating, cooling, water, etc are incorporated into the overall design. Everything from sinks to doorknobs should be selected, so there are no surprises.

Some space-saving ideas for floor plans include structural posts with bars to hook hammocks. Built-in under bed, under couch or under stairs storage could offer additional room for belongings. You could also install sliding doors instead of doors that open into the room.

Some people even choose furniture such as folding, wall-mounted beds during the interior design stage.

Space and Ventilation

Allowing a lot of light and air a casita or ADU is a great way to great spaciousness and ventilation..

Some tips suggest south-facing windows get a lot of sunlight but North-facing windows don’t. In a hot climate, creating a design with North facing windows may be a better option.

Adding a porch with sufficient overhang to create shade, can also cool down a property. Internally, the smaller sized rooms of a casita should flow into each other and provide an interconnected experience for visitors.

By carefully planning your casita floor plan you can ensure enough safety and ventilation. If you live somewhere like San Jose, installing air conditioning will be essential too, in fact you must add heating and cooling legally.When designs are looking good but certain rooms seem like they might be dark, internal windows can become attractive features. They provide secondary natural light. Skylights can also offer a lighting feature to rooms and provide a view of the stars at night.

Plan Out Unique Features

Your floor plan is your chance to make the property exceptional. Concertina floor to ceiling windows could enable you to open an entire wall of the casita to outdoor dining space. Adding interior details such as built-in kitchen appliances is a great idea. But, adding external built-in features such as pizza ovens and seating is possible too.


Making Your Floorplan a Reality

In California laws around accessory dwelling units have already been passed to make building them easier.

Council members were also voting in Texas recently, to make similarly eased building legislation available there. So, perhaps it’s only a matter of time until other municipalities across the USA follow suit.

With more relaxed legislation and so many benefits to having a casita in your backyard, it’s easy to see why California’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) numbers have increased 11-fold.

As mentioned earlier, it has also led to a lot of investment in companies offering casitas or ADUs. So, the market is saturated with businesses that are competing for customers and many of them may not be of the same quality.

That means in areas like San Jose, Sunnyvale, or Palo Alto, California, where ADUs are popular, building a casita is becoming easier. However, people interested in choosing and designing a floor plan need to be even more careful when selecting a supplier.

Practical Considerations For Floor Plans

When you’ve considered which casita floor plan would be best for your little home, you will probably still have some other questions that need to be answered.

For example, how to choose the right building team and how to design the interior.

The planning stage is not too early to begin answering those questions. Ideally, it should be the same business that helps you with both the floor plan and the construction of the property.

It’s most practical to have the same team help you to design and construct the property. Design/Builders have a real understanding of both buildability in plans, but also in costs, timeline, and materials availability.

Competition is fierce, so some construction firms might agree to work on your approved floor plan without the expertise to back up their commitment. If you create a beautiful, unique, modern floor plan, ensure that the right building team is also on board to construct it.

The right team is usually the only one who helped you with the floor plan in the first place.

Your Casita Floor Plan and Your Budget

AtActon ADU, we’re excellent at bringing unique floor plans to life. We also have the capacity to provide help with the project budget.

Acton ADU can assist with financing your casita project.

Finance is connected to your casita floor plan because the amount of finance you need will directly relate to the size of the property. Costs for construction are often tied to cost per sq foot.

Square footage is not the most perfect (or accurate) way to cost a project. In fact, cost per square foot is probably the least accurate measure by which to estimate a project’s cost. There’s lots of reasons for that, but it comes down to what is being built into the square footage. For example, most averages don’t include foundations, site work, kitchen, and bathroom square footage. These are the most expensive to build. That said, it is more common when discussing finance.

By proceeding with finance from Acton ADU, our clients can ensure they take out the right amount of finance for their project and scale the agreement to fit their requirements perfectly.

The Overall Plan, Including The Floor Plan Matters

If your budget is flexible, you may be considering a larger floor plan for your casita. Proceed with caution. Larger casitas may bring in a higher rental value and add more value to your home but they still need to conform to a list of strict development standards.

Development standards for casitas vary from city to city. However, all cities consider some of the same factors when approving or denying applications. Density is one of them. This means the number of residential properties allowed on a single lot.

Another development factor is height. The maximum height allowed for your property will depend on the neighboring buildings.

It’s worth checking this as you could either be pleasantly surprised or shocked and have to re-think your floor plan. In this case, working with a specialist early on can be a huge time and money saver.

Setbacks refer to the distance between your casita and your main property. Your setback space has to be in line with local laws. If you are building your casita in San Francisco you will need a rear setback for your property which is quite significant. It can be as much as 25% of the lot’s depth whereas, for comparison in Los Angeles it can be as little as five feet.

So, keep in mind that in addition to the space that your floor plan occupies as a building footprint, you will also need to factor in additional setback space to conform to building regulations.

Another issue to consider when you’re planning position and scale for your casita’s floor plan is utility. Power and other public utility lines technically belong to the power and water companies, not the homeowner. There are easement rules as well as other considerations for placing the location of a backyard home. Not to mention Title 24 energy compliance.

Some jurisdictions require any new property to be at least 10 feet away from utility easements.

These are all important things to consider when you’re creating your floor plan. It can be expensive and disheartening to draw up some dream, 2-story plan only to discover that you your dream project isn’t buildable..

Then, also discover you don’t have sufficient ground space for a wider building footprint that would incorporate all the rooms and features you want. That’s why careful, thoughtout and smart design with knowledge of your property’s requirements are so important.

Think Carefully About Parking Provisions

In addition to being the right size for regulatory reasons, your casita’s overall footprint might need to incorporate parking.

Interestingly, for a long time casitas in California were required by law to have off-street parking in order to meet regulations. The relaxation of ADU laws changed that. Especially in cities where traffic flow and parking studies revealed that there was more than enough parking available in various neighborhoods. This is not every neighborhood however, some more densely populated neighborhoods may have restrictions locally. A specialist would be able to reveal this some time during the validation stage of a project.

That said, there are some new criteria that exempt new buildings from needing off-street parking. If your casita is within half a mile from public transit you don’t need off-street parking.

Additionally, if the build is in a district that is recognized as historically and architecturally important, your lot can be exempt.

Another exemption eligibility rule is if a car share vehicle is located within a block of the casita. If so, there’s no need for off-street parking for the ADU.

In San Francisco, some properties have also reduced the parking requirement by installing indoor bicycle parking instead. Choosing to make the ground floor of a multi-story casita a garage or bicycle storage space could make sense in your floor plan. These are very rare however.

Aspect and Access are Important

In addition to offering your casita more or less sunlight, the situation of the property can also influence access to it.

While the property is being built, accessibility for building materials, trenchers and any other equipment that need to be brought on-site and off-site will be important.

Utility Connections Are Not Always Where You Expect

Casitas and other small secondary properties on the lot of a primary residence are not 100% independent. Instead, they tap into the main house’s service meters for electricity, water and power. This was a boon to homeowners, as it saved them enormous amounts of time and money required to build new lines and acquire approval from the local utility companies.

This is because they don’t get regulated as ‘new residential uses’ but as an expansion of the primary home. It means there’s less red tape to build them but it also means that if you rent out your casita you’ll have the opportunity to put in your own meter to measure usage, or just build average usabe into the rent.

During the floor planning and layout stage, it’s important to investigate and confirm where the resources for the casita will come from and if they will have an impact on the main property.

It’s also a good idea to not choose features for the casita that could cause your main property problems. Energy efficiency and sustainable development are key. However, be aware that whoever is designing and building your backyard house will need to be fully aware of Title 24 energy requirements in order to pull your permits.

Solar panels are also a requirement for building in California. However, their location is subject to various factors. They will not always be on the ADU, for example. Other techniques to make the property energy efficient or self-sustaining are recommended too.

Essential Fire Safety For Casita Floor Plans

Ensure that your casita floor plan complies with fire regulations for safety. This will also help to make for more affordable insurance premiums.

In some jurisdictions installing sprinklers for fire safety is mandated. In other cities, there’s no official requirement for a casita to have them. However, it might be worth installing them if the casita is difficult for fire services to reach.

Having sprinkler systems and modern, effective fire safety routes and equipment can reduce insurance costs. It can also give you peace of mind. Also, consider how easily ambulances can access your casita in the case of a medical emergency.

Your Floor Plan is Important

Casita floor plans are as unique as the individual who commissions and designs them. To summarize, it’s essential to spend plenty of time understanding the requirements to build a casita on your property..

A good floor plan will also help you iron out any issues early, save time and money, create flow through space and ensure safety.

The floor plan also directly correlates with the amount of budget you’ll need and the amount of increased value a casita will bring to your property in the future.

You can get finance to build your casita with Acton ADU.

We’re ready to discuss your ideal casita layout and how to build it, contact us now.

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