What Makes A Bedroom A Bedroom?

Real Estate Agent with EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates 9506757


What Is A Bedroom From A Legal Perspective?

Building codes may vary from town to town.  But, many state codes fall back to the International Residential Building Code or IRC.  The IRC sets minimum building codes for one and two-family structures.

Contrary to popular belief, nowhere does the IRC require a bedroom to have a closet!

Building codes can be complex so we will focus on the basics:

  • Two forms of egress- Two forms of egress is required for a bedroom. One form of egress must lead directly to the outside in either the form of a door or a window that meets certain requirement... a bedroom window used for outside egress can be no more than 44 inches from the floor, it needs at least 5.7 square feet for the opening, and it must measure no less than 24 inches high and 20 inches wide,
  • Minimum size- A bedroom must be a minimum of 70 square feet with no horizontal dimension being less than 7 feet.  At a minimum, a bedroom should be 7x10 feet.
  • Natural light and ventilation- There needs to be a certain amount of light and ventilation from windows in a living area.  The window glazing needs to be 8% of the floor dimension of the area with ventilation being about 5%.
  • Minimum ceiling height. If you have a bedroom under the roofline, like many cape style homes, you must have a minimum of a 7-foot ceiling height for at least 50% of the floor area of the room. 
  • Heating-  A bedroom must have a permanent source of heat that can keep a bedroom at a minimum of 68 degrees year-round.

These are the basic minimum requirements for a bedroom to legally be called a bedroom. 

Don't Forget The Septic System!

Don't forget your septic design. 

Septic systems are designed for a certain bedroom capacity. The thought being the bedroom count dictates the maximum number of people that can use the house and the septic system.

If you have a three bedroom septic system, you can't add a fourth bedroom without increasing your septic system.

A Bedroom From A Buyer's Perspective

Legal requirements for a bedroom aside, there are expectations for a bedroom that a modern buyer will have.

First and foremost a reasonable closet will be expected in a bedroom from today's homebuyers. 

And, let's face it a 7x10 bedroom is going to be a tough sell no matter how you slice it.  A 9x10 bedroom is small enough but 70 square feet?

Often homebuyers want the bedrooms to be all in one area.  They don't want a bedroom her and another bedroom on the other side and one downstairs.

What About Basement Bedrooms?

Most people want a finished basement and often a homeowner will sneak an extra "bedroom" into a basement. 

Unfortunately, most basement bedrooms do not meet the IRC requirements for a bedroom.  First and foremost a basement bedroom do not meet the 2 egress requirements for a bedroom. 

For the safety of a person occupying the bedroom, there must be a second egress that leads directly to the outside of the home either in the form of a door or a window.


Home sellers, don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole.  If you want to call a room a bedroom, first make sure it fits the legal requirements for a bedroom and then make sure it makes sense as a bedroom.

Most importantly, whether you are a buyer or seller, make sure your bedroom is safe.  Having the proper egress is vital in an emergency for a bedroom's occupants to get out as well as safety personnel to get in.



Comments (22)

Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Kevin - when showing a home, some rooms need clarification for many reasons but I digress.  The definition of a bedroom is one that can be subject to interpretation but it is good to know the meaning when selling(and buying) real estate.  

Aug 05, 2020 10:02 AM
Kevin Vitali

Michael Jacobs I think the big take away here is safety.  Does a bedroom have that second egress to the outside so an occupant could escape and emergency personell can get in.

Aug 07, 2020 04:59 PM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Very good decsription of a bedroom Kevin. Years ago, I listed a home where the owners wanted me to count the exercise alcove as a bedroom. I refused. Not worth getting in trouble!

Aug 05, 2020 06:38 PM
Kevin Vitali

Good for you Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can! It annoys the heck out of buyers if brought in on that fourth or third bedroom that really isn't a bedroom.

Aug 07, 2020 04:47 PM
Thomas J. Nelson, REALTOR ® e-Pro CRS RCS-D Vets
Big Block Realty 858.232.8722 - La Jolla, CA
CEO of Vision Drive Realty - Coastal San Diego

In CA we need a closet and a window  to call it a bedroom. Many homes here do not have central HVAC and only a central gravity heater in the hallway.

Aug 05, 2020 06:49 PM
Richard V. Foster, Esq.
Law Office of Richard V. Foster - Henderson, NV
Broker (58356) - ABR/M, CREN, CRS, GRI, RRG, SFR

Speaking as an attorney, REALTORS need to avoid making ANY legal conclusions. Where is doubt, refer to a subject matter expert. Where not available, use escape words i.e., rather than hard wood flooring, that is actually laminate, use man-made wood flooring; instead of Corian,  a brand name, is a solid surface counter-top; replace Jacuzzi tub, again, another brand name, might be a jetted tub; and yes, a bedroom that may or may not be a legal bedroom, is a bonus room . . .

Just saying, do not play expert if you are not one; and NEVER make legal determinations unless you hold a law license.

Aug 05, 2020 06:56 PM
Bruce Minter

A great reminder of how to use terminology correctly. It's so easy to call it a Jacuzzi and the like without really thinking about it. Easy slips to make that could be problematic later.

Aug 06, 2020 07:30 AM
Kevin Vitali

Richard V. Foster, Esq. good advice, erring on the side of caution is always best when in doubt.

Aug 07, 2020 04:50 PM
Dana Hollish Hill
Hollish Hill Group, JPAR Stellar Living - Bethesda, MD
REALTOR * Broker * Coach

I wrote a post about this too. http://www.hollish.com/2013/05/02/what-makes-a-room-a-bedroom/

The thing I find interesting is that there really isn't any enforcement - agents list rooms that aren't bedrooms as bedrooms and there really isn't much of a consequence. 

Aug 05, 2020 07:22 PM
Kevin Vitali

Like I pointed out earlier Dana Hollish Hill ... It is not a problem until its a problem.  Say a buyer moves in and a week later and there is a fire and someone gets injured because they can't get out... there is going to be a problem for lots of people.  I think the big take away is the bedroom meet minimum safety standards.

Aug 07, 2020 04:53 PM
Dana Hollish Hill

Absolutely. I've also seen problems with the "bedroom" where the nanny or au pair are supposed to live. Safety has to be the primary concern. 

Sep 09, 2020 06:44 AM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I let my license go 15 years ago, so I'm not current with Idaho laws. However, when I was an agent, a bedroom had to have a closet and a window with a specific minimum size.

My husband was building custom houses and one client got into a battle with the building department over the window in her office. She did NOT want a window of the required size. It was an office, not a bedroom. They said "But you have a closet, you could use it as a bedroom." She finally won, but it wasn't easy.

Aug 05, 2020 08:13 PM
Kevin Vitali

Laws certainly change... but in that situation if a room has a closet the town will view it as you trying to use it as a bedroom.

Aug 07, 2020 04:54 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Kevin welcome back to Active Rain it feels like it has been years since we last saw you.... nice to see the MA contingent returning... having sold in Boston MA 24 years ago and now 23 years in Los Angeles nothing changes a bedroom is a bedroom if it has windows, an entrance and a closet:))Endre

Aug 05, 2020 08:55 PM
Kevin Vitali

Endre Barath, Jr. most states don't actually require a closet....  50 states fall back to the IRC. 

Aug 07, 2020 04:55 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Great education here, Kevin. The question of what makes a bedroom is a fairly common, and people, both buyers and sellers, commonly say you need to have a closet...but it depends on where you are and the local regulations.  And what about a closet and no window? Or a room with both opening into the garage?


Aug 05, 2020 10:26 PM
Kevin Vitali

Jeff Dowler, CRS definitely things to think about.

Aug 07, 2020 04:56 PM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Insightful post and I'll agree with Endre's response about defining a bedroom in California. 

Aug 06, 2020 12:06 AM
Deb McGuire CNE, ABR, SRS
Keller Williams Capital Partners - Columbus, OH

Very interesting. I hadn't realized there was a size requirement, but it makes sense. Many years ago we lived in a house in California that had a tiny 'bedroom' which just barely fit a crib for our new baby. I doubt it was 7 x 10! But it did have a closet, a window and a door.

Aug 06, 2020 04:23 AM
Janelle Ancillotti
Seneca Home Staging - Syracuse, NY
HSR Certified Home Stager, Syracuse, NY

According to these parameters, I have 7 bedrooms! Ironically, one room that doesn't qualify was advertised as a bedroom when we purchased our "6-bedroom" house. The sellers had been using a room with a door and windows that are higher that 44" from the floor as a bedroom, but they didn't count two other rooms that actually could be counted as bedrooms--one that they used as a sunroom and another that was just being used for storage.

Aug 06, 2020 05:34 AM
Kevin Vitali

There is certainly a diminishing return on bedrooms past 4 or 5 at least here in New England.

Aug 07, 2020 04:57 PM
Janelle Ancillotti
Seneca Home Staging - Syracuse, NY
HSR Certified Home Stager, Syracuse, NY

Oh, and as far as the septic issue--that was solved by previous previous owners (2 owners back) when they put in a 2nd system, so we're good.

Aug 06, 2020 05:38 AM
Anita S. Zahn
Advantage Realty 863-840-1420 - Sebring, FL
Highlands County Real Estate Source! I work 4 U!

I have seen some very creative Realtors specially when having a 2000+ sq 2 bedroom home.  Statement went something like this.  Easily can be converted into a 3 bedroom by enclosing the dining room.  That dining room was 10x10 had no windows and in the most awkward location for a bedroom, not to mention where would you put a closet or wardrobe making the room even smaller.  Yeah not even close to becoming a bedroom. The things that make us say hmmm. 

Aug 06, 2020 06:29 AM
Kevin Vitali

If its a stretch and the buyers want to make it work they will figure it out.

Aug 07, 2020 04:58 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Thanks for providing the defininition from the IRC.  Didn't know about the minimum SF but makes sense!

Aug 06, 2020 08:57 AM
Susan McCall - - Compass Realty Solutions
Compass Realty Solutions - Portland, OR
Listing and Buyer's Agent

You did a great overall deep dive into what a legal bedroom is.  I haven't seen too much overstating as information just left off,  Does this statement remove all "mistakes" or information not there which would be "helpful".  This is added to every listing in our MLS:



Aug 06, 2020 11:22 AM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

No, unfortunately, it does not.  I think all MLS's include that statement yet there are lawsuits all the time over misinformation.

Sep 16, 2020 03:48 AM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Platinum - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great information.  Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful day!

Oct 10, 2020 06:22 AM
Peter Burr
The Buyers Agency, "Empowering Atlanta Home Buyers" - Atlanta, GA
Regional Manager. Atlanta, GA

Thanks Kevin;  this is very usefull information.  Much appreciated!

Nov 07, 2020 05:11 AM
Kevin Vitali
EXIT Realty Beatrice Associates - Middleton, MA
Helping Massachusetts Home Buyers and Home Sellers

your welcome Peter Burr 

Nov 08, 2020 07:22 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Peter Burr Just saw this post from a re-blog. When questioning that space...

Here's what to call that extra room!

Nov 28, 2020 01:48 PM