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Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a CASITA?[+]
    "Casita" is a common term for a Guest Suite, Backyard Cottage or Bungalow, Mother-in-Law Apartment, Second Unit, Accessory Residential Unit, Pool House, Home Office, or even just a quiet place to relax. Some are attached or built within a main residence, while many, like our designs, are detached separate units built within the setbacks of the main lot. Many of our Casitas may be attached to existing residences if necessary, yet that usually adds additional complexity as it then affects an existing structure that may or may not need upgrades to bring it up to current codes.

    Our Casitas may also be used for recreation properties or even a small primary residence.
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  • What Makes a California Backyard Casita™ different?[+]
    In a word: Experience.

    Drawing upon our experience over four decades creating and building the finest custom homes and estates, we create the finest guest Casitas, Bungalows, In-Law Apartments, Home Offices, and Pool Houses. We bring the same attention to detail and eye toward fine design with soaring ceilings, clerestory windows, exquisite finish materials, and impeccable craftsmanship. Fine living in smaller footprints.

    Obviously, we're not for everyone. Our clients have discriminating tastes and an eye for the extraordinary. They don't cut corners, and neither do we - our offerings aren't cheap; we refuse to apologize for quality.

    Once we have your property address, we will be able to determine your options. We know how to wade through the myriad of new codes and requirements to achieve the best possible results. The governing codes and approval processes have become so complex and confusing, you need an expert to guide your project through.

    We are custom design and build specialists and, if necessary, we will modify any of our existing plans to meet size, interior or exterior finish materials requirements. Or create a completely new casita to meet your individual tastes and match your sense of style.

    We are Structural Insulated Panel (SIP), Insulated Concrete Form (ICF), as well as passive and active solar experts. Our casitas are super-insulated and carefully located on the site for maximum benefits. Optional features will make your casita OFF-GRID efficient and self-sustaining if you like.

    We won't just sell you a set of plans and wish you good luck; we walk with you through the entire process from start to finish and handle every detail through your own project manager. Our goal is to have you ecstatic about your new Casita, and to be invited to your first pool party or barbecue to celebrate! We have extensive follow-up after completion to make sure you stay ecstatic!

    You may even blame us when your guests never want to leave.
  • Are California Backyard Casitas™ allowed in my area?[+]
    With locations in San Diego and near Park City, Utah, we are able to supply backyard cottages and casitas in most residential settings throughout California and in much of the western United States. Many cities and counties have passed or are considering "Second Unit" or "Accessory Living Unit" ordinances to encourage the development of backyard casitas.

    The State of California passed an ordinance that allows for "Second Units" in any residential zone in the state. These may be for any residential use, including rentals if the main house is occupied by the property owner. They need to meet existing setback, height, and lot coverage codes. Some cities and counties have added additional requirements such as minimum lot size, exterior materials, and colors.

    As each city or county may have different requirements, we do a thorough study of the applicable codes and restrictions, and create a roadmap of your options. This becomes the base from which to build your perfect casita.
  • How are the Casitas built?[+]
    California Backyard Casitas are usually completely move-in ready within 60 days of breaking ground.

    The same details that give our Casitas such character, such as the soaring vaulted ceilings and high clerestory windows, make them much more difficult to build than a typical shed-type offering. Some of our designs are more time-consuming than others, yet because of our modular Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) construction, most of our on-site framing is usually accomplished within three to four days.

    The remaining time is spent crafting and installing the finish materials and equipment to make your Casita come alive.
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  • How do I get started, and what does the process entail?[+]
    Step 1: The CASITA Brief™
    Review the information regarding it and schedule your personal consultation.We will walk you through the codes and processes that affect your property.

    Through our decades of experience, this proprietary process has proven to be the most effective in allowing the creative design to flourish while providing a proven organized pattern for the best results for all involved; the perfect Casita for you.

    Our plans and buildings may be purchased in one of 3 ways:

    1. Buy a Standard Plan. Purchase a standard set of plans to build yourself or by your own contractor.
    2. Custom Plan. Have us modify one of our plans, or custom design one from the ground up, specifically for your site.
    3. Full Package. We will customize one of our plans, or custom design your new Casita - exactly the way you want it! We will wade through the maze of codes and requirements to pull the building permit(s), and then we will hand-craft your new casita to your specifications. All for about the same price you would pay a typical contractor for the construction alone.

    We are Casita Specialists.
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  • How do I customize my Casita?[+]
    Your project manager will walk you through every step of the process to make sure your Casita is all yours. You will be able to select your finish colors and materials, fixtures and appliances.

    Drawing upon our forty years' design and construction experience, we can quickly modify any of our standard plans, or design a completely new one to your specific needs. Should you want something completely different, we can accomplish the new design quickly.

    We utilize powerful interactive 3-D design technologies to help you experience your new casita well before a shovel is turned. Let us know your needs and discover how exciting the process can be.
  • Building Green & Net Zero Energy[+]
    California Backyard Casitas™ are designed and built with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) which form the walls and roof structures. SIPS have R-Values up to 50% greater than similar stud walls with batt insulation, yet with up to 400% less air infiltration with few to no thermal bridges, and the effective R-values can be up to 200% greater than similar frame construction.

    In addition, we insulate all slab floors, use Low-E glazing in windows and doors, with ultra-efficient heating and cooling systems, with quiet, efficient ventilation systems to keep indoor air healthy. Drawing upon our decades of passive solar design and super-insulation experience, our Casitas are designed to meet Passive House™ standards to offer consistent energy savings of up to 75% of traditional building techniques.

    Combined with a few of our optional upgrades, your Casita can be up to Net Zero Energy efficient.
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    SIPS information
    (An Affiliated Company)
  • What Options are Available?[+]
    • Lutron lighting system
    • Complete home automation system
    You may customize your Casita with any number of options, limited only by your imagination... and budget.
    • In-slab heating system
    • LED lighting
    • Etc.
  • What About a Garage?[+]
    We will happily add a garage to your Casita, although some of our standard plans are more suitable than others depending upon size, and the logistics of the plan and site. Most municipalities require at least one off-street parking space for the casita - covered or not, which needs to be taken into consideration for the permit.

    Contact us and tell us of your needs; we will make it happen!
  • Are California Backyard Casitas™ engineered for my area?[+]
    YES! California Casitas are designed and built to very high standards and are suitable for all locations. All of our Casitas are fully engineered and built to meet or exceed local codes, whether you buy only the plans or have us completely finish it on your site.
  • What About Costs and Financing?[+]
    We are a true design / build company; our expertise is delivering a stunning design wrapped within impeccable craftsmanship. We are not the cheapest option, nor the most expensive. As Casita Specialists, we know the ins-and-outs of creating wonderful solutions, working through the myriad of municipality requirements, and delivering great casitas.

    As the vast majority of our projects are custom-designed to fit the owners' needs and properties, we prefer to meet with you in person. We will then assess your site and requirements, as well as your budget, and then present options that will work within those specific parameters.

    “It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”― John Ruskin

    Per square foot pricing figures are not very accurate, because they do not take into consideration such things as the difficulty of one plan over another to build, yet they are easy to understand. As you can tell by the photos and renderings of our designs, ours are not simply tarted up sheds, and as such, cost us much more to build than most others available. High vaulted ceilings with clerestory windows bathe the spaces in wonderful light. That space cannot be compared with a simple rectangle with flat 8' ceilings.

    Even though we price out each component to arrive at the construction costs, rather than a per square foot number, by reviewing our previous project costs and we can arrive at broad per square foot ranges. The following price ranges are for the building only. Since each location is different, all of the site work outside of the immediate foundation, etc. has to be bid individually, as well as the other improvements, such as utility and sewer or septic lines. Retaining walls and other structural concrete work can add significant costs to the equation as well.

    A good quality finished casita can run from $200 to $300 per square foot, depending upon complexity and finish selections. Complex plans with intricate detailing and extravagant fixtures and finishes can run from $500 to over $1,000 per square foot.

    The majority of our projects fall within $250 to $400 per square foot, totally finished, with killer audio / video systems, home automation, superb appliances and fixtures, great flooring, cabinetry and slab countertops. And including all of the site and landscape work. We can build you a spectacular casita within that range.

    If you need something simpler, we do that as well. We have simple casitas that have been finished closer to $150 per square foot, yet still have wonderful light-filled spaces, with looks and features that live larger than you would expect.

    During your Casita Brief meetings and report, you will be able to set the budget you're comfortable with, and we will show you what you can expect for that price. We have completed projects all over the price spectrum based upon the needs and desires of our clients. Give us a try!

    Should you decide to explore financing options, we have relationships with a few outstanding lenders that understand the California Casita concept and know the requirements and benefits of different available programs.

    Our people are ready to help walk you through the financing of your new Casita; just email or call.
  • Who Are You Guys?[+]
    A passionate group, excited about creating the finest Casitas.

    • Winford Jones studied architecture at UCLA under the renowned Charles Moore, and has been designing and building custom residences and estates since 1972. He is an expert in energy efficient design, using super-insulated SIPs and ICFs, as well as passive and active solar design.
    • Alan Jones is literally a rocket scientist with impressive business acumen, majoring in astrophysics at UCLA and then receiving his Ivy-League MBA from Dartmouth College. He honed his skills while providing long range forecasting and contract negotiations for two Fortune 100 companies, as well as presiding over a very successful software company in the Midwest.
    Alan and Winford are managing members of Solare Design•Build, LLC (SolareDesignBuild.com), developer of fine homes and subdivisions. They also manage Structural Insulated Panels of Utah (SIPSofUtah.com), providing SIP and ICF expertise spanning more than 20 years.
    • Roy Regalado, our California Architect, has decades of invaluable architecture experience creating great designs from custom residential, entire subdivisions, and outstanding commercial projects throughout California and as far away as Hawaii and the Middle East. He is an expert at making sure visions get transferred accurately to completed plans while wading through the rising tide of codes and regulations.
    • Tim Cox, one of our Board of Directors, is president of a large Midwest healthcare company and brings a long-range and broad scope perspective to the mix.
    • Brent Farley is our General Contractor partner. He and his crews have been meticulously hand-crafting great residences since 1988. He is expert at building with SIPS and has the experience to handle any construction situation that arises. (CA License 992736).
    • Martin Tanner is our legal counsel partner and brings a wealth of real estate development experience to our group. He keeps us grounded in reality when we soar too high.
    • Christopher W. Jones is our do-all soccer-nut guy, having played in college and in Brazil. He has great understanding of all things technological and keeps us running in the right direction.