Residential - What is considered a bedroom ?

goldstar

Senior Member
With respect to smoke alarm locations I was under the impression that a residential bedroom was any room used for sleeping that had a "built-in" closet. I've recently been informed by the building official in my town that my interpretation was not exactly correct. His interpretation is if a sleeping room is 800 sq ft (8 x 10 or larger) it is considered a bedroom. Does anyone else have a different perspective on this ?

I was recently in a small log cabin house that had (5) rooms, all on the sleeping level of the house but (1) had no built-in closet. The BI had me install a 10 yr. battery operated smoke alarm in that space. Is he correct ? Thanks.

Sorry - typo. I meant 80 sq ft,
 
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480sparky

Senior Member
Your AHJ would be the one to ask. Building codes can vary widely, so what is considered a BR in your area may not be in others.
 

growler

Senior Member
I was recently in a small log cabin house that had (5) rooms, all on the sleeping level of the house but (1) had no built-in closet. The BI had me install a 10 yr. battery operated smoke alarm in that space. Is he correct ? Thanks.
This is just my opinion. It has been my experience that every jurisdiction has their own way of deciding what is and what isn't a bedroom.
I did win one argument with a BI a few years ago but I normally wouldn't even bother. Putting in a smoke detector wouldn't have been a problem but he was trying to say that what we had listed as a dressing room on the prints was in fact a bed room. If it was a bedroom this would have required a bigger window and this just wasn't going to be possible without a great deal of changes being made. This was in a basement and there just wasn't room for a larger window above grade. The BI was using the fact that part of the dressing room was separated off as a clothes closet that it was a bedroom and had to conform to those regulations.

Back to my opinion: If all they want is a battery operated smoke detector I would install it and not even try to argue the point.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Going from memory, in NJ you need two paths for egress, minimum ceiling height of 7', closet is not required. Can't remember the minimum square footage but if I had to guess I would say about 80 square feet.
 

charlie b

Moderator
Staff member
I have only heard of the "what is a bedroom" question from real estate-related TV shows. They look at things from the opposite point of view. It's a question of how many bedrooms you can claim, when you sell the house. I believe the rule is that you can't count a room as a bedroom unless it does have a closet. I don't know where the question of windows comes into the discussion.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Going from memory, in NJ you need two paths for egress, minimum ceiling height of 7', closet is not required. Can't remember the minimum square footage but if I had to guess I would say about 80 square feet.
Yours is correct. All but the sq ft. It’s 70.
this requirement comes from the IRC.

the IRC is adopted by all states but Wisconsin...
don’t know why they are a holdout..
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
Here it is...


1) Entrance: A bedroom needs at least two methods of egress, so it should be accessible from the house (commonly through a door), and then have one other exit (window or door).

2) Ceiling Height: A bedroom ceiling needs to be at least 7 ft tall. It’s okay if some portions of the ceiling are below this level, but at least 50% of the ceiling needs to be a minimum of 7 ft in height. Most ceilings tend to be at least 8 ft tall, so ceiling height is not usually an issue (R305.1).

3) Escape: 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 International Residential Code, a bedroom window can be between 24 and 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(R310.1).

4) Size: The room should be at least 70 sq ft, and more specifically the room cannot be smaller than 7 feet in any horizontal direction (sorry, that 1’x70′ room won’t work) (R304.2 / R304.4).
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
It's a question of how many bedrooms you can claim, when you sell the house. I believe the rule is that you can't count a room as a bedroom unless it does have a closet.
For realtors that seems to be an issue but from the perspective of the building code the closet is not required. I would guess that the tax assessor doesn't care about the closet either.
 

goldstar

Senior Member
Here it is...


1) Entrance: A bedroom needs at least two methods of egress, so it should be accessible from the house (commonly through a door), and then have one other exit (window or door).

2) Ceiling Height: A bedroom ceiling needs to be at least 7 ft tall. It’s okay if some portions of the ceiling are below this level, but at least 50% of the ceiling needs to be a minimum of 7 ft in height. Most ceilings tend to be at least 8 ft tall, so ceiling height is not usually an issue (R305.1).

3) Escape: 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 International Residential Code, a bedroom window can be between 24 and 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(R310.1).

4) Size: The room should be at least 70 sq ft, and more specifically the room cannot be smaller than 7 feet in any horizontal direction (sorry, that 1’x70′ room won’t work) (R304.2 / R304.4).
You are correct. I got this exact info (verbatim) from a real estate blog authored by a guy in Sacramento, CA. However, there is another real estate agent from the same city that added a 5th reason and that was that the room must have a have a method of heating it, which makes sense to me. Here is the link to the article :

https://www.thebalance.com/does-bedroom-need-closet-1798997

To add to the scenario, this is all well and fine for new construction and as mentioned, every state or locality may have their own requirements. This became an issue for me recently when I was doing some work for a real estate agent who was trying to sell a house in my town. The house was an old log cabin on the lake. It had (1) hard wired smoke alarm outside the master bedroom. I came to find out that this was a bare minimum requirement if there had been any renovations or additions made to the house. As it turned out the master bedroom was added in 1984 and thus the HO met the minimum requirement. Now, in order for the agent to re-sell the house we had to install battery operated units in all the bedrooms (5 total including one that didn't have a built-in closet) and (1) additional one on the lower floor. In addition, because the master bedroom was more than 10' away from 3 other bedrooms I had to install (1) additional battery operated combo unit in the hallway closest to these rooms.

I was also under the false impression that you needed a combo unit on each level. Some manufacturers try to sell you on that idea (and I think it's a good one) but it is only required in the hallways outside the bedrooms.

Just goes to show - you have to pay for your education.
 

Jraef

Moderator
Staff member
The definition is subject to local jurisdictional changes.

My wife managed an old Victorian house used as a rooming house in San Jose near the University. It had a hall closet, about the size of a child's mattress, but it had a small round window in it. Of course it didn't have a closet, it WAS a closet.The landlord told her to rent it out as a "bedroom". She didn't want to for ethical reasons and called the City housing dept., who told her it qualified as a "bedroom" because it had a door and a window.

So she rented it to a student that put a kid's mattress on the floor, then mounted a dresser on the wall so that his feet could fit under it when he laid down, and a desk made of a piece of plywood on hinges that folded down from the wall...
 

MAC702

Senior Member
...So she rented it to a student that put a kid's mattress on the floor, then mounted a dresser on the wall so that his feet could fit under it when he laid down, and a desk made of a piece of plywood on hinges that folded down from the wall...
That's the kind of student that probably got a good job after school.
 

Hv&Lv

Senior Member
You are correct. I got this exact info (verbatim) from a real estate blog authored by a guy in Sacramento, CA. However, there is another real estate agent from the same city that added a 5th reason and that was that the room must have a have a method of heating it, which makes sense to me. Here is the link to the article :

https://www.thebalance.com/does-bedroom-need-closet-1798997


it was a good C&P.
i didn’t feel like going through the code books here.
 

goldstar

Senior Member
The definition is subject to local jurisdictional changes.

My wife managed an old Victorian house used as a rooming house in San Jose near the University. It had a hall closet, about the size of a child's mattress, but it had a small round window in it. Of course it didn't have a closet, it WAS a closet.The landlord told her to rent it out as a "bedroom". She didn't want to for ethical reasons and called the City housing dept., who told her it qualified as a "bedroom" because it had a door and a window.

So she rented it to a student that put a kid's mattress on the floor, then mounted a dresser on the wall so that his feet could fit under it when he laid down, and a desk made of a piece of plywood on hinges that folded down from the wall...
It has to be a window you can escape from in the event of a fire.
 

goldstar

Senior Member
You are correct. I got this exact info (verbatim) from a real estate blog authored by a guy in Sacramento, CA. However, there is another real estate agent from the same city that added a 5th reason and that was that the room must have a have a method of heating it, which makes sense to me. Here is the link to the article :

https://www.thebalance.com/does-bedroom-need-closet-1798997


it was a good C&P.
i didn’t feel like going through the code books here.
You don't have to go through the Code books. If there's a different ordinance in your area so be it. NJ adopted this from the 2018 IBC and IRC. The BI in my town verified the first (4) conditions but left out the heated room requirement.
 

LarryFine

Master Electrician Electric Contractor Richmond VA
Methinks there is a bit of cross-conversation here, comparing being able to call a room a bedroom vs. having to call a room a bedroom.
 

kwired

Electron manager
The definition is subject to local jurisdictional changes.

My wife managed an old Victorian house used as a rooming house in San Jose near the University. It had a hall closet, about the size of a child's mattress, but it had a small round window in it. Of course it didn't have a closet, it WAS a closet.The landlord told her to rent it out as a "bedroom". She didn't want to for ethical reasons and called the City housing dept., who told her it qualified as a "bedroom" because it had a door and a window.

So she rented it to a student that put a kid's mattress on the floor, then mounted a dresser on the wall so that his feet could fit under it when he laid down, and a desk made of a piece of plywood on hinges that folded down from the wall...
Did greedy landlord want same rent from that occupant as the others?
 

PaulMmn

Senior Member
I have only heard of the "what is a bedroom" question from real estate-related TV shows. They look at things from the opposite point of view. It's a question of how many bedrooms you can claim, when you sell the house. I believe the rule is that you can't count a room as a bedroom unless it does have a closet. I don't know where the question of windows comes into the discussion.
My house back in NJ was a >100 year-old stone house. When I bought it, it had 4 bedrooms, only one of which had a built-in closet. When I sold it, it had 3 bedrooms, and only one built-in closet but not the room that had the closet to start with! That room now had an 'alcove' I had used as a desk! It sold as a 3-bedroom.
 
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