Does a Room Need a Closet to Be a Bedroom?

The answer often surprises sellers, buyers, and even agents

Image shows a bedroom with two windows, a door, a radiator, a dresser, desk, bed, and rug. Text reads: "The international residential code's bedroom requirements: proper windows (specified by the code); at least two exits (including windows and doors); at least 70 square feet in size; installed heating; ceiling at proper building code height"

Image by Maritsa Patrinos © The Balance 2020

Contrary to popular belief, a room does not need a closet to be considered a bedroom. Closets are commonly found in bedrooms, especially in newer homes, but they aren't legally mandated for a room to be a "bedroom."

While closets aren't required, there are a set of requirements that a room has to meet before it can be classified as a bedroom by a real estate agent or home appraiser.

General Requirements for a Bedroom

Every appraiser has a little bit of leeway when it comes to interpreting building regulations and requirements, but they must adhere to the International Residential Code (IRC). The IRC doesn't require closets in bedrooms, but six other guidelines define a true bedroom. For some of these points, the exact measurement requirements will vary by state.

Ample Floor Space

A bedroom's layout must meet a minimum size requirement of 70 square feet. To qualify as a bedroom, the room must not only support someone sleeping in it, but it should support someone living comfortably in the space. That means having enough room to put in a bed, a nightstand, and other pieces of furniture like a dresser or work desk.

Comfortable Dimensions

Just because a room is 70 square feet, that doesn't mean it meets the space requirements to be a bedroom. There's an additional requirement that bedrooms measure at least seven feet in any direction. That's to prevent landlords and real estate agents from classifying hallways or other skinny rooms as bedrooms. This extra layer of protection ensures that residents will actually be able to fit a bed into their bedroom.

A Window

A bedroom should have a window that looks outside. The IRC dictates a minimum window size of 5.7 square feet, a minimum opening height of 24 inches, and a minimum opening width of 20 inches. The window sill must be no more than 44 inches above the floor. Local building codes may impose further specifications on this point.

2 Ways Out

Bedrooms need "two means of egress." In other words, you need two ways into and out of the room for it to be a bedroom. Furthermore, one of the exits should go directly outside. Both of these exits don't necessarily need to be routes that would be regularly used, they just need to function in case of emergency.

In many bedrooms, a window satisfies the egress requirement.

Room to Stand

Technically, this falls under the dimensions requirement, but a bedroom ceiling has to be at least seven feet tall. You can get away with shorter ceilings in part of the room, as long as half of the bedroom ceiling is seven feet tall or more. This allows for loft areas to become bedrooms.

Temperature Control

Finally, a bedroom needs a way to control the temperature. This point primarily requires a heat source, since a window will likely satisfy the cooling needs. A space heater won't cut it — the heating system needs to be installed into the room.

Check for Mistakes

Builders and county officials sometimes make mistakes while appraising a home. Spaces in some homes that were converted into an extra bedroom option could be erroneously noted as garage footage, for example. The first thing to do before putting your home on the market is to check and correct these types of errors in public records.

Failure to correctly note your square footage and room type can cost you money when you sell.

In general, the more living space square footage a home has, the more that home is worth. More bedrooms can also increase the value, even if some of those bedrooms lack a closet.

The Bottom Line

Having a closet in the bedroom is a nice perk, and many residents expect it, but it isn't a legal requirement. The only legal requirements concern dimensions, windows, egresses, and temperature control.

That said, agents and brokers sometimes skirt around these requirements to market homes as having a range of bedrooms. For example, a four-bedroom home with a loft might be advertised as a four-to-five-bedroom home or a "flexible four-bedroom." Who's to say a new buyer won't use the loft as a place to sleep?

Article Sources

  1. International Code Council. "The International Residential Code." Accessed March 14, 2020.

  2. National Association of Realtors. "What Is a Bedroom? Make Sure You Know the Legal Requirements." Accessed March 14, 2020.

  3. American Society of Home Inspectors. "What Is the Legal Requirement for a Bedroom?" Accessed March 14, 2020.