seattle backyard cottage blog

Backyard cottages (DADUs) provide opportunities for families, while increasing housing stock density and diversity. Continue reading for more information about Seattle's backyard cottage ordinance or contact us to find out if your lot is eligible for a backyard cottage..

Tuesday, July 27

Atom Prefab Cottage -Small House Plan of the Month

Our newest new small house plan the Atom. The idea for the atom cottage comes from a 1940's prefab house built by the U.S. Government as worker housing at Hanford.  1,200 of the small modern units were built. Many still exist including the 400 sq. ft. one bedroom model that I lived in for a year during college.

Infill cottage housing for volunteer workers, I thought, would be a great re-purposing for this house. In Richland, when the houses were originally built, land was in abundance and the car was king. The current proposal for an undeveloped urban infill site, requires a more compact footprint and greater emphasis on community. To date, two plans have been developed. One 200 sq. ft. studio loft unit and one 400 sq. ft. 1 bedroom unit. Contact us for pricing and additional information.

Wednesday, July 21

rain gardens in ballard

At Microhouse we have years of experience designing rain gardens and other water retention systems. Whenever possible we incorporate rain gardens as part of our overall design strategy along with thoughtful drought tolerant plantings and reduced impervious surfaces. Contact us to find out more about the possibilities for your site including incentives.  For the Ballard test area Seattle Pubic Utilities will pay $4 per square foot of impervious surface runoff collected.

Rain Gardens 101: Rain gardens are small retention ponds that collect runoff from impervious surfaces. In many parts of Seattle rain water that is not absorbed into the ground (runoff) is collected into combined sewer systems (CSO's) where it is combined with sanitary sewer.  The cost of conveying and treating this runoff is considerable which is why Seattle Public Utilities can offer incentives to homeowners who reduce runoff by building rain gardens.

In a pristine environment, most rainwater would be absorbed into the ground, picked up by plants, or slowly percolate to recharge local streams and ground water.  In urban area impervious surfaces like paving and roof tops prevent rainwater from entering the ground and must be collected and discharged.  Increased runoff from these surfaces create excessive peak flows that lead to erosion and water degradation.   Runoff often contains biological contamination from fertilizer and pet waste  and oils from road and driveways.  Rain gardens increase groundwater infiltration and break down these contaminants keeping them out of local waterways.  Rain gardens also create meaningful water features and provide great landscaping opportunities.

Check out the Seattle Public Utilities Rainwise Program for more great resources.

Wednesday, July 7

microhouse at west seattle summer fest

Microhouse will make a virtual appearance at the West Seattle Summer Fest along with our building partners Ncompass Cottage Company.   In collaboration with Ncompass we are able to a provide a more comprehensive design/build process. The integration the design and building results in smarter designs, improves construction quality, and reduces cost.

Stop by and say hi to Stefan and Drew and talk to them about your project.  They have 30 years construction experience working in and around  West Seattle and are enthusiastic about the new opportunities allowed by backyard cottages.  Their booth is located on California Ave SW just South of Key Bank.

Monday, July 5

renting a backyard cottage

Are you interested in renting a backyard cottage or do yo have an existing cottage that you would like to rent?  We have both potential tenants and renters. Contact us to find out what we have in your neighborhood.


All inquires are confidential. We have a proven track record of legalizing existing cottages built without a permit and a select group of select contractor referrals.

solar powered backyard cottage

We have been working with Puget Sound Solar on the Microhouse Eco Cottage. For the 800 sq. ft. cottage we estimate that with a 3 Watt system and a solar hot water heater we can approach net-zero energy usage. Con

Puget Sound Solar Facts

Net metering makes solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) practical in the Northwest. Net metering banks the energy your system makes during the long sunny summer days for the use in the evenings and on short, dark winter days. Your electric meter spins backwards when your home is not using the energy generated by the PV system.  The extra electricity goes to the grid, and you earn credit for power produced that your home does not use.

PV systems collect electricity from panels and send it to an inverter and into your homes electrical panel.  They require little or no maintenance.

For each 1,000 Watts or 1 kilowatt (kW) you can produce up to 1,180 kW hours of household electricity per year. 1kW of PV takes 65 to 90 sq. ft. of roof space. 

On our 800 square foot hyper-efficient Eco cottage we estimate that a 3 Watt system with a solar hot water heater should be able to approach net zero model. The estimated cost for the 3 Watt system is $18,000. This cost can be partially offset by a number of incentives.


Financial incentives can help offset the upfront costs of installing a solar system.


Solar (PV) and hot water systems are eligible for 30% federal tax credit that can be taken over 2 years.


WA State sales tax (varies by county) is waived.

Net Metering

Utilities are required to allow homeowners to hook solar, wind systems up to the grid. When your home uses less than your system produces your electric meter spins backwards, earning credits. You can draw from your energy credit when PV system is not producing.

Production Incentive Payments

WA State utilities are authorized to pay $.15/kWh for every kilowatt-hour produce by net-metered solar, wind and biogas systems. If you by an inverter manufactured in Washington State that rate is boosted to $.18/kWh.

more info