What is the definition of a bedroom?  This might sound like a trick question, but I assure you, this is a very serious question.  Most Americans will simply answer, “a private room where you go to sleep each night,” but what you might find interesting is that folks like home inspectors, Realtors, home appraisers, contractors and more each have their own definitions of a bedroom.

The reason could be because the amount of bedrooms a home has is a direct correlation to the home’s price. So when buying or selling a home it’s important to know legally what a bedroom is. (The last thing you want is an angry home buyer suing you somewhere down the road for bedroom count misrepresentation.)

The laws vary by state, but generally, for a room to be legally considered a bedroom, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. Square footage

The law is concerned with size. Depending on where you look, you will find that a bedroom should be at least 70 to 80 square feet, but the minimum square footage doesn’t tell the whole tale. A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction. International Residential Code (R304.2 / R304.4).

  1. Egress (A Way Out)

For safety, it is important that a bedroom – a place where someone would be sleeping – needs to have at least two ways to get out if necessary. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window. In addition, in most markets, a skylight would also qualify as that means of egress.

Fire code dictates the dimensions of the window, so check your local codes to make sure the window in your bedroom meets local requirements.

  1. Height

At least half of the bedroom ceiling has to be at least 7 feet tall.

  1. Temperature control

For a room to be considered a living space it needs to have a heating and cooling element.  It’s important to note that a space heater will not qualify, but a vent from the central heating or cooling unit or a window air conditioner will.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Contrary to popular belief, a bedroom does not have to have a closet to be considered official. A bedroom should probably have a closet since most buyers expect one, but technically the International Residential Code does NOT mandate a bedroom to have a closet.

The question then becomes, will buyers consider a room as a bedroom if there is no closet?  In a newer home, a bedroom should probably have a closet to meet buyer expectations, but in older homes, you can usually get away with no closet.

Before deciding to call a room in your home a bedroom, make sure you understand the local and national laws regarding bedroom counts.

Check with a local attorney or a qualified real estate agent.