Designing a bedroom can be tricky – not only do you need to consider style, but there are also laws you must keep in mind. While different jurisdictions have different laws, most of these laws generally align to the International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC has set guidelines on the minimum requirements that qualify a room to be a bedroom. As it turns out, a pretty important step is to add a window to it.
A windowless bedroom is illegal. However, the definition of what constitutes a window varies. So what is illegal in one area could be perfectly within code in another.
Having a high number of bedrooms can raise the value of your property. However, not all rooms can qualify to be a bedroom. Read on to find out what codes you need to adhere to before you qualify a room as a bedroom.
What Are Regulations About Windowless Bedrooms?
According to IRC regulations, every bedroom must have a window that looks outside. The IRC imposes a minimum window size of 5.7 square feet, a minimum opening width of 20 inches, and a minimum opening height of 24 inches.
The window sill should not be higher than 44 inches above the ground. This is to allow egress, or in other words, exit during an emergency.
The window sill shouldn’t be lower than 24 inches from the floor. This is to prevent toddlers from accidentally falling out. Windows should be easy to open from the inside without tools or specialized knowledge.
Two Means of Egress
Additionally, the IRC laws require bedrooms to have a minimum of two means of egress. That means there should be two entryways going into and out of the room.
One of the egress points goes outside the house while the other could be internal. In most cases, one egress will be a window facing outside the building and a door leading to other parts of the building.
One of the most common windowless rooms to be converted into a bedroom is the basement. Basements are generally built with small windows high up the wall. The windows are normally too small for egress and are rarely up to bedroom code.
To qualify a window basement as a bedroom egress, you may have to install window wells and also improve access. A window well enlarges the window area and the well’s base should be no higher than 44 inches above the basement floor.
If the window well is higher than 44 inches above ground level, you will have to install permanent ladder stairs for the basement to qualify as a bedroom.
However, the ladder can’t be sent away from the walls by more than six inches. The window well itself will have to be at least 36 inches wide and extend 36 inches from the window.
These details not only ensure adequate ventilation for the occupant. They also make it possible for emergency service personnel, such as firefighters, to access the basement bedroom.
One should also note that the codes described above are the minimum requirements. Larger windows will offer better ventilation, more natural light, and faster access during emergencies.
Egress window manufacturers will usually create windows that conform to local codes. The manufacturers will use the egress minimums for the space inside the frame. The codes do not refer to the window frame’s dimensions. Here’s the list of minimum measurements for windows and wells.
- Window opening area at least 5.7 square feet.
- Opening 20 inches wide and 24 inches high.
- Bottom at least 24 inches and not more than 44 inches from the floor.
- Opening the window should be simple for anyone inside and shouldn’t require tools or specialized knowledge.
- Well must have a horizontal area of 9 square feet.
- Distance from the window to the far wall should be at least 36 inches.
- For wells deeper than 44 inches, there must be a permanent ladder projecting at least three inches from the well’s wall.
- The ladder rungs must not be more than 18 inches apart and each rung should be at least 12 inches wide.
Is It Against The Law To Not Have A Window In The Bedroom?
In most jurisdictions, it’s against the law to not have a window in the bedroom. Before you list a room as a bedroom, you better confirm with your local authority codes. Building inspectors, real estate sellers, buyers, agents, appraisers, and mortgage providers may all have differing opinions on what qualifies as a bedroom.
Some additional requirements by different jurisdictions include:
In Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia, the window to a bedroom should open to outside the building. Additionally, for single-entry rooms, the door should not pass through another bedroom. It should open to a common area such as a corridor or living room.
In Ohio, bedrooms should have windows in line with the 2018 IRC codes R310 and R311 which require two means of egress. One to the outside and another to the interior.
New York City
The New York City Housing Maintenance Code spells out rules for habitable spaces including bedrooms. The codes spell out minimum sizes, natural light and ventilation requirements, and temperature requirements.
The NYC code states that every habitable room should have a net glazed area of windows of 12 square feet and 10 percent of the room floor area. So if the room is 100 square feet then it must have at least 10 square feet of glass in the windows.
The Housing Improvement Regulation Act states it’s illegal to have a bedroom without windows.
Though not expressly stating it as illegal, the European Housing and Health Standards highly recommends having windows in bedrooms.
Can You Rent A Room Without A Window?
It is illegal to rent out a room without a window to function as a bedroom. The biggest drawback to having a sleeping area without windows is that they are risky. If you plan to sleep often in a room without windows, ensure you take extra precautions.
For instance, make sure you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Test the detectors often and replace batteries frequently. Make sure the door is easy to open, even from the outside. Emergency services could need to urgently get in to save a life.
Rooms without windows can be dark and unpleasant. The room may also be prone to mildew and pest infestation. To make the room pleasant, comfortable, and bright, you can add:
- Large art
- Bright lighting
- Internal windows
- French doors
- White walls
- Well-lit aquarium
- Wall mirrors
- Frosted glass