6 Original Backyard House Ideas

Peter Chambers

Dec 2, 2022

original backyard house ideas

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What is an accessory dwelling unit? It’s a standalone, smaller residential structure on the same property as a larger single-family home. Some people may know it as a backyard house, and they are the answer to a pressing problem many Americans face in light of the current housing crisis. 

Multi-generational living has arisen to fill a need. Economic reality dictates that when the average house costs more than $500,000, most workers simply can no longer afford the American dream. However, they can escape the rental roller coaster if they know someone with a suitably large enough parcel willing to rent them land to build an ADU home

Some families construct these structures for adult children, while others transform them into mother-in-law suites. Are you considering adding an accessory dwelling unit to your property? Here are six original backyard house ideas. 

1. Cordwood Cabin

Building a cordwood cabin might sound as if you’d need the skills of Grizzly Adams to complete it. You might be pleasantly surprised. This construction style requires only nominal prior knowledge — and you get the pride of accomplishment from a ground-up build. 

The first and most difficult order of business is determining your foundation type and laying it. Pole-barn construction has a simplicity advantage here. It creates a crawl space under your home, makes insulation more practical and saves you a bundle. However, it isn’t suitable for every soil type — you may wish to get a professional analysis before proceeding with your project. 

Poured concrete slabs are another option. Although these offer stability, they often enclose pipes within the concrete, meaning you entail headaches if you later have a problem. 

Once you have your foundation, the fun begins. You’ll get to mix concrete as a mortar, stacking your cordwood to create your walls. Feeling creative? Head to your local recycling center and rescue some beautiful blue and green bottles from the glass bins. Intersperse them between the cords in your walls. You can later add LED lights to illuminate your cabin at night — all while going green.

2. Upgraded Shed

One recent original backyard house idea entails people purchasing relatively inexpensive Tuff Sheds from big box hardware stores and converting them into ADUs. This method has one apparent advantage — it takes the framing out of the equation. Pour your concrete slab, and your walls and roof go up with minimal extra effort. 

Once you place your shed on your property, you need to insulate it. Furthermore, you should plumb and run electricity before enclosing the interior walls. How do you get power? You have four basic options:

  • Connect it to your house: This method will increase your overall power bill. You’ll need to check your whole house amperage to ensure you have enough. 
  • Order separate electric service: You could install a dual breaker panel on your main home to run a separate line. Such a setup is ideal if you plan on renting out your backyard house as a long-term rental to a stranger or family you don’t want to share your electric bill. 
  • Go solar: The greenest option — but you might need space for panels. Tiny homes and campers rarely have enough roof space. However, you can build a portable panel sufficiently large to fuel your structure. 
  • Use a generator: Generators incur a substantial upfront cost — but they also come in handy if you later lose power to your home. 

3. Boxabl

Boxabl is a new company providing casitas complete with a full kitchen, bathroom and living area. Everything you need comes installed — in a convenient box that unpacks in a single hour. Elon Musk uses these homes when he travels to various locations. 

These units are a bit pricier than the DIY alternative, ringing in at $50,000. However, that’s still a fraction of the cost of a traditional home, and you can’t beat the convenience. 

4. Up on Wheels 

If you have an irresistible traveling bone, you might decide that the tiny home on wheels craze makes more sense as an original backyard house idea than a standalone unit. When the urge strikes, you can hitch up your house and heed the call of the open road. 

THOWs often cost the same as other tiny homes, but you must follow more design restrictions. It can be a maximum of 8.5 feet wide — otherwise, it won’t fit in a standard lane. Additionally, you have to ensure you won’t take off your roof while driving under overpasses. 

Finally, check your local ordinances first if you don’t have a dedicated parking space on your lot. While some jurisdictions allow RV and tiny home parking on the street, you’ll have to buy a permit and obey local zoning laws. 

5. Modular

A modular home can make an attractive addition to your property if you have a bit more room. These homes can be comparable to site-built models. However, manufacturers complete much of the construction process in a factory, eliminating environmental delays and protecting structural integrity. 

Modular homes can sometimes entail nearly as many costs as a site-built home. However, you have savings options — work with your builder. 

6. Manufactured

Manufactured homes are another alternative if you want a full-sized dwelling unit without the cost of modular construction. While manufacturers follow a different building code, they offer a near-instant solution to adding a small family to your property. 

Manufactured homes tend to lose value over time. However, you might be able to sell and move your unit if you later decide to replace it with something else — or merely reclaim your backyard. 

Original Backyard House Ideas

There are many reasons you might want to build a backyard house. Perhaps your kids are struggling with the housing crisis and need a place to call home. Maybe your mother-in-law no longer feels comfortable living alone in a city far from her relatives. You might even want to supplement your income with a long-term rental or Airbnb. 

Why not consider one of these original backyard house ideas? You can enhance your property and enjoy a higher quality of life. 

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