Does a Bedroom Have to Have a Window? (Legal & Reasons)

It is nice to have a home with well-light rooms, but sometimes it is impossible to have a window in every room. Therefore, you may wonder does a bedroom have to have a window and how crucial it is to have one there. As you know, windows allow sunlight and fresh air to come inside the room, so they are necessary for the room where you sleep.

By the law, you can’t consider a room as a bedroom when it doesn’t have at least one window. Therefore, you can advertise your property and include a windowless room in the description, but only as an office or studio, never as a bedroom. However, some states have different regulations, so you should check them before renting your house.

The Legal Definition of a Bedroom

By law, a bedroom is a room with at least two openings. In other words, you can’t consider space without windows adequate for sleeping. However, many old houses have an additional room converted into a bedroom due to lack of space.

You can use it in your home the way you like, but it is forbidden to advertise such a windowless space as a separate bedroom when renting or purchasing your property.

Besides, you should follow the International Residential Code guidelines and established legal definition of habitable space. Even though exact codes can vary depending on the state, it is possible to recognize a few total standards each bedroom needs to fit to.

Square footage

Your bedroom needs to meet a required minimum for square feet to be legally considered a space for sleeping. Since it is necessary to have enough space to place a bed inside, an average bedroom should measure at least 7 by 10 feet (2 x 3 m) or 8 by 9 feet (2.5 x 2.7 m).

That means a minimum square footage standard is 70 sq ft (6.5 m2) of floor space. Be prepared that these numbers can lightly vary by city standards, particularly when the law considers the number of people per square footage.

For instance, Michigan requires a minimum of 50 sq ft (4.6 m2) per person sleeping in the bedroom. So, it can’t be smaller than 100 sq ft (9.3 m2) when two people sleep there.

Be careful when renting or buying a home in New York City or Chicago since many people tend to present a 5 by 7 feet (1.5 x 2 m) room as a bedroom. It is unacceptable and against the law!

Horizontal and vertical footage

A standard horizontal measurement requires every bedroom to have at least 7 feet (2 m) high ceilings. It allows most people to stand up straight. The rule is a bit different for bedrooms placed in the loft space. In this case, at least half of this room needs a 7 feet (2 m) high ceiling.

Window size

As I have already mentioned, every bedroom must have at least one window. Plus, many cities regulate this window’s minimum size requirement according to a means of egress.

The law says that the window needs to be of the appropriate size to allow escape in an emergency. In most cases, the window glass must equal at least 8% of the floor area. Only that way, it can allow the minimum required amount of sunlight inside.

The recommended window’s opening area is at least 4% of the floor area to allow uninterrupted airflow and natural ventilation.

If your bedroom has multiple windows, it is required that at least one is placed 24 to 44 inches (51 cm – 1.1 m) above the floor. It must have a minimum surface of 5.7 sq ft (0.5 m2). The simple math shows that an average window size in this case is:

  • 24 inches (61 cm) high
  • 20 inches (51 cm) wide

Only that way, most adults and kids can successfully exit the bedroom when necessary. Plus, windows of those dimensions will provide enough natural light and proper ventilation, making the room habitable.

Besides these basic requirements, state or local building codes sometimes have additional requirements. Therefore, checking them before installing a window in your bedroom is essential.

Means of egress

A bedroom window is considered one of the crucial escape routes, meaning it must have two means of egress. Therefore, you must provide access through at least one door and one window, necessary for an emergency, particularly a fire.

Sometimes, you can count the second door as a means of egress, but only when it is directly connected to the room’s exterior side. In some states, skylights that fulfill required standards can be considered an exit.

Be aware that residential houses didn’t have hallways until the late 19th, and you can often find historic buildings with bedrooms without direct exit to the outside. They are typically only accessible through other bedrooms.

There is no need to worry about living in one of these houses, particularly on the East Coast. The law recognizes these historical floor plans and doesn’t require access to the bedroom demanded by regular zoning codes.

Temperature regulation

Most state laws require that bedrooms have heating or cooling sources. As expected, the regulations in warmer states focus on installing cooling units, but it is only a recommendation because a window allows enough air circulation.

On the other hand, colder states with temperatures below 60 F (15.5 C) during the winter require heating units installed inside bedrooms. Be aware that the law doesn’t recognize space heaters as heating units.

Closets

Interestingly, some states, like Alabama, require bedrooms to have a built-in closet. Since such regulation is new in American architecture, it doesn’t apply to already built houses, particularly in states, like California, with numerous historic homes.

 

Reasons for Bedroom Windows Necessity

Does a Bedroom Have to Have a Window? (Legal & Reasons)

You can recognize a few crucial reasons why it is essential to have a window in your bedroom, including:

Safety

A window in a bedroom is an exit in case of an emergency. Without it, it is necessary to invest in reliable gas and fire detection equipment.

Additionally, you are always at risk of carbon dioxide build-up in a bedroom without a window. Since you sleep for approximately 6 to 8 hours a day, breathing in such a room may make you feel tired after waking up.

Ventilation

Windowless bedrooms always have cross-ventilation issues. In such a case, a lack of fresh air results in stale air in the room, making it suitable for bacteria and mold development.

Health

Numerous studies show how beneficial everyday exposure to natural light is to human psychological health because sunlight stimulates the brain. Therefore, a bedroom without at least one window deprives you of natural sunlight and negatively affects your physical and mental health.

 

Bedroom Window Requirements by States and Cities

As I have already mentioned, you can consider a particular space in your home as a bedroom only when it has at least one window. The law regulates this issue, but some states and cities have local regulations managing it in more detail.

New York

In NYC, a room without a window and smaller than 80 sq ft (7.5 m2) can’t be a bedroom legally. It needs to feature a window with a size of at least 8% of the room‘s floor or a minimum of 25 sq ft (2.3 m2).

Chicago

Bedroom requirements are complicated in this town, meaning this room must have a light source from:

  • A window
  • An adjacent room if you have a loft bedroom

That window must provide access to a fire escape if you live in a high-rise building. Additionally, it needs to be big enough for a firefighter in full gear to come inside.

Washington, DC

A single-occupancy bedroom in Washington, DC, needs to be at least 7 feet (2 m) high and have 70 sq ft (6.5 m2) of floor space. It is necessary to add at least 50 sq ft (4.6 m2) for each additional person sleeping there.

You also must provide a 24 x 20 inches (61 x 51 cm) window for the emergency exit with an opening of a minimum of 5.7 sq ft (0.5 m2).

Florida

According to Florida law, you need a bedroom with a means of egress to the outside. It includes a door or window large enough for an adult to fit through in an emergency. If it is a window, installing one that can quickly open from the inside is crucial.

Virginia

The Statewide Building Code in this state requires that your bedroom’s ceiling is at least 7 feet (2 m) high. Plus, it needs an exit, a door or window, sizable enough to allow an adult to pass through. The required minimum for the window is 5.7 sq ft (0.5 m2), and it can’t be placed more than 44 inches (1.1 m) from the ground level.

 

Summary

As you can see, the law doesn’t recognize a room without windows as a bedroom. You can use such space occasionally as a guest room or a room to store your stuff, but avoid sleeping inside.

Windows are crucial to allow enough fresh air during the night and room airing during the day. Therefore, you should consider installing at least a small window or skylight to make your sleeping healthy and comfortable.

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