I was showing a lovely older home the other day when the prospective buyers asked a common question.  “How can this be called a bedroom, it’s so tiny!”  It turns out the space was large enough to be called a bedroom, along with some other requirements that make a bedroom a bedroom.

How big does a room need to be?  Think of it as hitting lucky 7s on a slot machine (three 7s for those of you who don’t gamble).  The room needs to be a minimum of 70 square feet, with a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet for at least half the room, and a minimum floor dimension of 7 feet.  Since the room we were looking at was 7 ½ feet by 9 ½ feet the minimum square footage was attained as well as the minimum 7 foot floor dimension in each direction. The ceiling was 7 ½ feet throughout the room.

My buyer’s next question is again a common one: “But what about a closet?  I heard that it can’t be called a bedroom if there’s no closet.”  The short answer is no. 

The long answer is that a bedroom needs more than just the minimum square footage and ceiling height.  A bedroom must also have:

-          at least one window (the size of which is determined by the room’s square footage and whether it is the only outside egress).  The window must be able to be opened to provide ventilation

-          at least two exits from the room, and one of them one must exit directly outside (it can be a door or a window)

-          at least two electrical outlets, or an overhead light at a minimum of one outlet

-          a permanent heating source (no plug in electric or other type of movable source)

-          privacy – the bedroom cannot be a “walkthrough” (accessible only through another room) and must have a door

These requirements are in place in all 50 states as part of the International Residential Code.  Each state may also have additional requirements based on the age of a home.  For instance, newer construction in Massachusetts requires outlets every 6 feet, so you’d definitely have more than one or two outlets in a room (a good thing these days with all our technology). 

In the end, my buyers decided not to make an offer on this particular property, but they did learn something about real estate!