Dear PoPville – Converting a Den into a Bedroom?

Photo by PoPville flickr user C. Michael Poole

“Dear PoPville,

I live in Washington, DC and I was thinking about converting a den into a bedroom. It has a door and 3 windows for egress. I have the space to build a closet 2 feet deep 5 wide and 6 feet tall but does the room have to be a certain square footage or width/length to be considered a bedroom?”

Anyone ever successfully (legally) convert a den into a bedroom? Anyone what are the exact rules/language that defines a bedroom?

16 Comment

  • pablo .raw

    All those things are regulated by the International Residential Code. Is this a house or an apartment? Some of these points may or may not apply.

    1. It doesn’t matter how many windows are there, the important thing is the window size. If you have sprinklers in the bedroom, egress window may not be a problem.
    2. You are going to need to install (if it’s not there yet) a CO detector inside, and one outside the bedroom.
    3. I think a minimum area is of 70 sq. ft. and one of the dimensions should be 8′.
    4. Maybe, depending on where you locate the door of the bedroom, there could be an alteration to the travel distance.

    That’s all I can think of for now….

    • It also has to be seven feet (or more) tall – with a few exceptions that are likely not relevant.

    • Bedrooms are required to have carbon monoxide detectors?? Is this only for new construction?

      The house I bought last year has smoke detectors in all the bedrooms, but no carbon monoxide detectors anywhere.

  • It is my understanding that you do not need to have a closet in a room to qualify a space as a bedroom. It is primarily about having two egress options and one must go directly outside of the dwelling and be of a certain dimension….I think ~5sq feet.

    Of course there are other things… if you are a condo you must have the sprinklers in each room or a fire escape, the ceilings must be above 7’…there are of course exceptions depending on the year a place was built or renovated. It really is complicated and a building inspector would know all of the smaller nuances.

    • Agreed about the bedroom thing. My house is considered a 3-bedroom even though one of the rooms doesn’t have a closet.

    • I heard that to list it as a bedroom for real estate purposes, if you ever sell the house, then it has to have a closet. But it might just be a rumor.

      • Pretty sure that’s a rumor, unless they were pretending the fireplace was a closet when they listed my house. Most of the houses in DC didn’t have any closests when they were originally built.

        • Agreed, I think that it depends on the age of a house really. If you are purchasing a house that is 100+ years old then it was much less common for bedrooms to have closets, so a buyer would not be surprised to see closetless bedrooms. If the house is new, then yes a bedroom with no closet would seem strange

      • That’s what I thought… but I think some real estate agents ignore that and list non-bedrooms as bedrooms anyway.

  • Psmitty311

    I’m glad I saw this since I am trying to convert our den into a guest room. There is no window, but then there isn’t a door either (yet), just a hallway that bends enough to provide privacy to the occupants. It has a massive closet and plenty of square-footage, but since we’ll rarely use it for guests, we’re looking into Murphy Beds to save space and use it as a multi-purpose room.

    I know it’s long shot, but in the interest of finding out if there are ways we could legally make it a bedroom and increase our property value, can anyone think of any links that would be good to research this subject?

    • pablo .raw

      Since it’s a small renovation and you’re probably not going to hire an architect, I would say you should go to DCRA and talk to somebody there about the requirements. They’ll also inform you in terms of what information you’ll need to provide for getting the permit.

  • I was wondering what constitutes a bedroom in DC recently and the only DC government information I could find was this:

    It does say that a bedroom must be at least 70 square feet (+50 ft if a second person is sleeping in the room) among other things but I doubt it is an exhaustive list – perhaps you can contact DCRA? I assume they get this question alot (and regulations can vary from state to state).

  • It’s commendable that you want to follow the law. As a renter, it frustrates me to no end that it most landlords I come across have no regards to these sorts of requirements, or even simply reigstering their units as rental properties.

    And since the number of landlords who flout the law seem to vastly outnumber the landlords who follow it, I can’t exactly protest it, or else I’ll have slim pickings in terms of housing. Anyway, thanks for being a law-abiding landlord.

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