Can you imagine your bedroom without your closet? To the average mind, the bedroom and closet go hand in hand. After all, where would you keep your clothes? Where would you keep other personal items? Where would you store things? A bedroom without a closet just doesn’t seem right.
So why then would we wonder if closets are even required in bedrooms? As we read on, we’ll learn that a closet is actually not a requirement for the bedroom. In most states, building codes do not require bedroom closets, meaning that spaces without closets may still be qualified as a bedroom. The only state that requires an accessible clothes hanging space in the bedroom is Arizona. With that said, buyers usually expect bedrooms to have closets, so a house may be harder to sell if the bedrooms doesn’t include closets.
But how can this be, when it seems to be the standard. After all, a new home under construction would not even be considered being built without a closet. So, it should be a requirement, right? Still, the answer is no.
The IRC Do Not Require Bedroom Closets
Let’s understand a little more about how building codes work. The International Building Code (IRC) is the basic code for residential buildings that creates minimum regulations for one- and two-family dwellings of three stories or less.
While the IRC is the standard and minimum requirements, states and local entities can build on these minimum requirements to establish their own codes. Building codes are strict regulations set by state agencies that dictate building standards. These codes outline everything from plumbing and electrical to window size and smoke detector requirements, and they will vary by state. Thus, each state may be different.
In most states, building codes do not require bedroom closets, meaning that spaces without closets may still be qualified as a bedroom. Some bedrooms in homes built in the 1950s and 60s were not always equipped with closet space, and most building codes take this under consideration. Thus, making it easier for states to relax the standard for closet space.
The IRC defines a closet as “A small room or chamber used for storage.” A chamber is defined as a natural or artificial enclosed space or cavity. This means a 6″ box with a door could be called a closet, or an armoire or a wardrobe could be called a closet.
What Requirements Are a Bedroom Based On?
Requirements of a bedroom are based on three things:
– Homebuyers will pay more for a two-bedroom home than a one-bedroom home if all other things are equal. An extra bedroom is an added value. Likewise, if a home has an additional room without an official name, but can be used for as much as the buyer’s imagination can take it (be it a den, knitting room, or some other type of room), it adds value to that buyer’s purpose.
– A bedroom just as with any other room in the home has code requirements. The codes are established for safety purposes to protect public health, safety, and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures.
– A house should not be misrepresented, especially if it involves contracts (buying and selling). Sellers and real estate agents should be careful not to misrepresent what they are selling, for this could lead to legal action.
Remembering the importance of these three things may help to make sense out of the standard requirements for a bedroom.
What A Bedroom Must Have
According to the IRC, these are the requirements for a bedroom:
- A bedroom must have an entrance and exit. Some would think two doors (one interior and one exterior) would meet these criteria. However, the exit should be a form of escape outside of the home (egress). So, this reference is desiring one door and one window. The bedroom must have a door and window. But it doesn’t end there. There are criteria also for the window.
- The window within the bedroom must be a minimum of 5.7 square feet of a clear opening area; a minimum of 24 inches of height opening; and a minimum of 20 inches of width opening. This size applies to any room that is to be labeled a bedroom regardless of where it’s located within the house. Yep, even in the basement or attic.
- A bedroom must also have a minimum area and size per the International Residential Code (IRC). The floor area must not be less than 70 square feet. The rooms also must not be less than 7 feet in any horizontal direction.
- A bedroom must have a minimum ceiling height. At least 50% of the ceiling needs to be a minimum of 7 feet in height.
These space requirements are important to protect the humane rights of individuals. Otherwise, a person could end up sleeping in someone’s broom closet. In better terms, adequate space would provide sufficient space for the person(s) sleeping in it to actually be able to place a bed in the room to sleep on.
The overall thinking is that a bedroom should support someone living comfortably in the space. That means having enough room to put a bed, nightstand, and other pieces of furniture as necessary. A bedroom that has the four requirements above, in most states, would legally meet the qualifications for a bedroom. Some of the room dimensions vary by state.
According to where you live, there may be a few other requirements. Since states can modify the IRC to add additional requirements, do not be surprised if some states required the following:
- Lighting and ventilation specifications.
- At least two electric outlets.
- If a house has a septic system, the number of bedrooms may not exceed the septic capacity.
What a Bedroom Does Not Need to Have
While we’ve listed the things that are requirements for bedrooms in order for them to be identified as such, the one thing that may surprise you is a bedroom does not have to have a closet.
While buyers would probably expect a house they purchase to have closets in the bedrooms, the IRC does not mention closets as a requirement for bedrooms. So the lack of a closet does not necessarily mean a room cannot be a bedroom. However, there may be state or local codes that may apply.
States With Different/Additional Bedroom Requirements
While most states stay within the realms of the IRC for their bedroom specifications, we were able to find a few that may have modified their specs a bit.
-In Arizona, the guidance for new homes in construction is that bedrooms have the minimum square foot space according to IRC, and “every room designed for sleeping purposes shall have accessible clothes hanging space with a minimum inside depth of 22 inches and shall be equipped with a rod and shelf.” To some, this could imply a closet, but it does not imply that it has a door.
-In Massachusetts, for a room to be counted as a bedroom, it must meet the requirements for floor space, and have electrical (1 outlet and a permanently installed light or 2 outlets with no light) and window (sufficient natural light and ventilation). There is no mention of closet space.
-The city of Minneapolis defines a bedroom as “A habitable room within a dwelling unit which is used or intended to be used, primarily for the purpose of sleeping, but shall not include any kitchen or dining room.” They also require a 7 feet ceiling height, 70 square feet floor area, a source of natural light, a source of natural ventilation, and proper egress. There is nothing that stipulates the bedroom must have a closet.
Virginia, Maryland, Washington, DC
-The Virginia Statewide Building Codes sets the standard for what constitutes bedrooms. Their standards include IRC guidelines as they pertain to the ceiling height, egress, entrance, and square footage. They also have requirements to meet regarding heating and air. There are no legal requirements that a bedroom must have a closet.
A bedroom with a closet is a nice perk, and most people expect it, but it isn’t a legal requirement. The only legal requirements are in regard to dimensions, windows, and egresses. That said, the next time you’re home buying and run across bedrooms – all with closets, maybe you should consider it a luxury.