Is This Room a Bedroom?

Dave Towne
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Is This Room a Bedroom? I often see discussions on various forums about “is this room a bedroom”, or similar comments.

In case you’ve never seen the IBC requirements, I found this on a set of building plans for a new house:

IN EVERY SLEEPING ROOM, PROVIDE AN EMERGENCY EXIT WINDOW WITH MIN. HT. OF 24″ AND MIN. WIDTH OF 20″ AND NOT LESS THAN 5.7 SQ.FT. OF OPENABLE AREA AND NOT MORE THAN 44″ FROM FLR. TO SILL

Bedroom IBC

So to decipher: A BEDROOM egress window sill must be no more than 44” above the floor. The opening height of the window must be no less than 24 inches, and the opening width must be no less than 20 inches. And the openable area must be no less than 5.7 square feet. 24” x 20” is only 3.3 sq. ft., so the window must have a larger opening than that.

Understanding these specifications is important when you have to make a decision whether or not a particular roomshould be classified as a BEDROOM if there is not another secondary egress besides the primary door.

But this can be especially challenging in older homes. The home next to mine (that I and wife once lived in), which was built in the early 1950’s, has transom windows in both “sleeping rooms.” Per the current building code these rooms ‘technically’ cannot be termed bedrooms. Local custom and marketability would not agree. But if the home was being purchased under FHA guidelines, it would not qualify due to the height above floor and size of the transom windows in those rooms. That’s because FHA defers to local codes, which in most cases are the IBC codes.

Related: there is no national ‘code requirement’ that I am aware of that mandates a “bedroom” must have a closet in order to be classified as a bedroom. That’s an urban legend, promoted by some real estate agents, TV shows, etc. Locally, in your market, possibly. Find out!

Secondly, I believe the ‘code requirement’ does say that a “bedroom” must be a minimum of 70 sq. ft. in floor area, with a requisite secondary egress point.

Just because a particular room in a dwelling has a bed in it does not mean it’s a ‘legal’ or ‘technical’ bedroom.

Don’t be swayed, cajoled or influenced by what an agent says. They are in the business of selling ‘living space’ and they know bedrooms are a key factor. They will call a broom closet a ‘bedroom’ if it helps sell the property!

And while we’re on this topic, if you work in suburban/rural areas where private septic systems are common, you need to know how the local jurisdiction classifies the “bedroom count” in terms of septic capacity. This factor varies across the country, and may be different with adjoining counties in the same state. Do not over-report the number of bedrooms in a dwelling if the local health department jurisdiction classifies the property as having fewer bedrooms than the number of rooms you find with beds in them. You may need to research the Septic Permit to find out.

Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Dave Towne

Dave Towne

AGA, MNAA, Accredited Green Appraiser - Licensed in WA State since 2003. Dave Towne on e-AppraisersDirectory.com

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1 Response

  1. Avatar Christie M Bond says:

    I specialize in historic preservation and valuation of historic homes – “back in the day” closets were a luxury, and most older homes in my market had furniture instead, like wardrobes and armoires. There was no shortage of Realtors that would debate with me on this topic, and disagree with my bedroom counts over the lack or presence of closets. My personal criteria in defining a bedroom was that it was large enough to function as such, with room for a bed and dresser/wardrobe, had privacy (door and walled in independently without being a walk-thru for other rooms) and also had an “egress” sized window. If any of these things were lacking, then I would look to name it something other such as a sitting area, or den etc…. Conversely, just because a room has a closet does not mean it classifies as a bedroom. ( I’ve also had arguments over a upstairs hallway with closets and beds lining the walls not being included in my bedroom count. ) Thank you for bringing this refresher and clarification to attention!!

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Is This Room a Bedroom?

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