What is the “Requirement” for a Bedroom?

Ever wondered what constitutes a bedroom?  It is common for listing agents to list homes with number of “functional bedrooms” vs. legal bedrooms.  A functional bedroom is a room that, although not a legal bedroom, can be used as a bedroom by guests in a pinch. However, a home should not be listed with these rooms counted as bedrooms. Homes are assessed and appraised based on the number of legal bedrooms.

So what is a legal bedroom?

The biggest misconception is that in order to be a bedroom, it has to have a closet.  But this actually depends on if it’s common for the area. If the home is older, from a time before closets were common, then it is not required for a bedroom to have a closet. Pre-1930, it was more common for people to store their clothes in armoires and dressers.

According to ANSI (American National Standards Institute) a bedroom is any room that you can fit a conventional bed into.

More specifically, the legal requirement of a bedroom is controlled by state building codes.  Individual towns can also enforce more stringent requirements.

Most building codes have specific requirements for what constitutes a legal bedroom, below are the most common requirements:

1) Two means of egress: Bedrooms should have a window or door which provides an emergency exit.  A window that provides natural light and ventilation is also needed. A bedroom must have one other method of egress beyond the entrance point. A door to the exterior works as an exit point, and so does a window. According to the ANSI, a bedroom window must be no greater 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.

3) A bedroom must be a minimum size of 70 square feet.

4) No horizontal dimension can be less than 7 feet.

5) Minimum ceiling height of 7 feet for at least half of the ceiling.

6) A bedroom must be able to be heated to at least 68° at all times from a permanent source of heat.

7) Two electrical outlets or an outlet and a light fixture.

8) Private access.  The room cannot be a throughway to another room.

Bedrooms can add $10,000-$50,000 in value to a home. So, whether you are buying or selling, understanding what is a legal bedroom versus what can be used as a bedroom functionally, is very important.  Additionally, if the home is on a private septic system, the system will determine the maximum number of bedrooms allowable by the Board of Health in the town that the house is in. If it is unclear how many bedrooms the septic system is designed for, a call to the local town Board of Health will answer this question. Every septic system is on file at the Town Hall, or City Hall, and each septic design is designated for a certain amount of bedrooms.


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