No, I don’t mean a bed, or dresser, or even a closet! That is correct, you read it right; a bedroom doesn’t need a closet. Of course we would love a nice, big closet in every bedroom – I actually think we’d love a closet in every room – but let’s get back to this whole bedroom thing. By law, a closet is not required for a room to be considered a bedroom. Did you know closets in bedrooms were not typically put into use until after WWII? Yet oftentimes, rooms without closets are listed as dens, or offices, that “could be” used as bedrooms… but can they be?
According to the State Board of Building and Regulation Standards Mass State Building Codes a bedroom is defined as: A room providing privacy, intended primarily for sleeping, and consisting of all of the following:
- Playing in bed
Isn’t a bedroom so much more than a place used “primarily for sleeping”? Sleeping is what bedrooms are meant for, but they are also quiet spaces where you can take a breather and relax. Bedrooms are the place you go for comfort when you’re sad, to scream into the pillow when upset, and to tell secrets to a friend. It’s the room that holds your most prized possessions, or shows off your true personality. “Wanna come see my room?” “We should have a sleepover!” — phrases that have excitedly passed the lips of youth, as well as grownups for generations past, present, and future. Now that’s what a bedroom is and what it’s made for. But what is it technically supposed to consist of?
- Mass Code
Getting back to the law, which in terms of housing is a system of “codes”, when a home inspector comes in for a buyer to inspect a home, they may say something is not “up to code”. That means it is breaking the law according to the code system that are in place. So how do you know if a bedroom is “up to code”, and can be used as a bedroom?
Let’s start with safety… I know your mind is still on this whole NO CLOSETS thing, but safety is important. Imagine you wake up in the middle of the night, smoke filling your room. Coughing, disoriented you reach for the door… ouch! The knob is hot, and you need another way out. You can’t open the window without the AC unit in it because you painted them last year and never bothered to check this one to see if would open. New plan; push the AC out of the window, and just climb… just climb… You can’t fit. If the windows were up to code, the opening would have been at least 5.6 square feet total, and it would have a minimum of 20×24 inches of clear space in every direction so you can get out and rescuers can get in. You must also be able to open windows from the inside without making use of a key or tool.
- Bedroom Smoke Detector
Speaking of fires, Did you know new home construction must have fire/smoke detectors both in and directly outside each and every bedroom? Older homes can get away with them in the hallway outside of the rooms, but be safe and put them in the bedrooms, change the batteries, and test them once a month.
- Natural Light
Moving on to most people’s preferred exit, let’s talk doors shall we? A bedroom door must be at least 30 inches wide by 6.6 feet high. You don’t need to have a window as your exterior point of egress if the room has a door to the outside world. But bedrooms also need a source of light. If its primary use is for sleeping, why do we need light in there? I am not certain why that is a code, but it is. Hey, I don’t have all the answers! The code says natural or artificial lighting is sufficient.
- Curtains blowing in the tropical breeze
Onward and upward to ventilation. This too can be natural, or it can be mechanical. Natural ventilation would be a open window, allowing that summer breeze in, while mechanical ventilation would be an air vent with a fan, or just a ceiling fan. For those of you who have a door but no screen, and a window that doesn’t open, you’d need mechanical ventilation. Don’t forget about heat, and AC. Heat is required, and a space heater just won’t cut it. Heat needs to come from a steady source, typically whatever is being used throughout the rest of the house. Now, AC is a different story altogether… you don’t need it, but can always add it.
Lastly, how many bedrooms can you have in a home? Say your home has 7, but the septic is only rated for 3. Too many people not enough septic. It over flows now the yard is like a sewerage treatment plant, where there is no treatment, and all the plants are dead, not to mention the backup into the basement. Always make sure your septic requirements meet your housing needs, and check that before buying a home. Thinking you can add a bedroom here, or an addition there might just cause you more problems in the long run. You could end up… ‘Ahem’ up a creek without a paddle.