What are code requirements for bedrooms?

Monday, August 20, 2018

The building code seems to use the words “bedroom” and “sleeping room” interchangeably, with a sleeping room being simply a room used for sleeping, although neither words are included in the definitions section of the code. For example, both International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) state that a smoke alarm should be installed “in each sleeping room” and then, on the next line, specify that an alarm should also be installed “outside each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.”

   Bedrooms must further comply with a minimum size requirements for any room defined as a “habitable room.” Here’s the International Building Code (IRC) specs:

  •  Minimum area of 70 square feet
  •  Minimum horizontal dimension of 7 feet
  •  Minimum ceiling height of 7 feet. If a sloped ceiling then a minimum of 50% of ceiling must be minimum 7 feet.
  •  Must have an installed heating system capable of maintaining 68º F. A plug-in space heater or window unit does not count.
  •  Needs an openable window or mechanical means of ventilation.

   Some jurisdictions will have a higher standard for defining a habitable room. But the basic premise is simple: you can’t call a closet-size, unheated room a bedroom.   

    Then there are the multiple safety requirements for a bedroom or sleeping room that, once you consider that it is a place where people spend long hours unconscious and in the dark, make sense:

    Each bedroom must have an egress window. Egress is “a way out,” and an egress window in the building code is defined as a required alternate route out of the home in an emergency, typically a fire. All sleeping rooms must have a window of adequate size opening for a person to get out and a rescue fireman with a backpack to get in. The minimum specifications in the International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code (FBC) are: 

  • Minimum width of window opening: 20 inches
  • Minimum height of window opening: 24 inches
  • Minimum square area of opening: 5.7 square feet (5.0 square feet for ground floor)
  • Maximum window sill height: 44 inches
  • Must be openable without keys, tools, or special knowledge.
  • To learn more, go to our blog “What is an egress window?”

    Smoke alarms are required in each bedroom and adjoining access room. They must be interconnected, so that the activation of one alarm sets off them all.

     Carbon monoxide alarms must be installed outside sleeping areas of residences with fossil-fuel appliances or with an attached garage. To find out more about carbon monoxide alarms, visit our blog Are carbon monoxide alarms required to be installed in homes in Florida?

   Requirements for egress windows, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have been implemented over the last several decades and older houses are not required to meet the new bedroom safety standards unless certain types of remodeling or additions are done to the home. But if your are concerned about your family’s safety at home, upgrading to meet the current bedroom safety standards is a good idea. 

    For the purpose of a real estate transaction—but not the building code—it is generally expected that a room must have a closet to be defined as a bedroom. If there’s no closet, then it is a den, library, bonus room, man cave, or any other innovative name you may choose to call it—but not a bedroom. An exception would be older houses because it was not standard in the early 20th-century for all the bedrooms to have a closet.

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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about STRUCTURE AND ROOMS:

What are the building code requirements for notching and boring holes in a wall stud? 

What causes dark or light "ghost" lines on ceilings and walls?

Can you access or exit a bedroom through another bedroom?

What is the difference between a carport and a garage? 

What are simple ways to find the cause of a ceiling stain?

What is the minimum size of habitable rooms in a house according to the building code? 

Why is my garage ceiling sagging? 

How can I identify what kind of wood flooring I am looking at?

Why does my concrete floor slab sweat and get slippery?

What is the minimum ceiling height for rooms in a house? 

Why are there score line grooves in the concrete floor of the garage?

How much can I cut out of a floor joist? 

How can I tell if my floors are sloping?

Why do the floors slope in this old house? 

What are the common problems when a homeowner converts a garage to conditioned living space, such as a family room?

• How can I tell if a wall is load-bearing? Which walls can I take out? 

   Visit our STRUCTURE AND ROOMS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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