Have you converted your attic into a finished room? If so, you may wonder if you can now list that attic as a bedroom when selling your home. We’ve researched it, and we have some answers for you.
Whether a converted attic counts as a bedroom depends on whether it meets building codes for a bedroom and not on the fact that it had previously been an unfinished attic space. To officially be a bedroom in most locations, a room needs to meet these requirements:
- Minimum of 70 square feet
- At least 50% of the room has ceilings 7 feet or higher
- At least 7 feet in any horizontal direction
- Two means of exit
- A means of heating and cooling
If your converted attic meets all of those requirements, it most likely counts as a bedroom.
Below, we will discuss in more detail what it takes for you to consider your converted attic a bedroom, so be sure to keep reading.
All About Attic Bedrooms
Many homes have an attic that at some point in time someone converted into more usable space. Sometimes this is just a spare room, but sometimes people use it as a bedroom. It makes sense that a homeowner would want to call that space a bedroom if possible so they can get the most out of their home when selling it.
But can you call that space a bedroom? That depends on a few things. The very first thing it depends on is whether the space is actually finished or not. If it hasn’t, you almost certainly cannot call that space a bedroom.
Most areas in the United States base their building codes on the International Residential Code. According to the IRC, there are specific requirements that a room has to meet before you can call it a bedroom. So let’s take a look at each of these individually.
If you’ve converted an attic and want to count it as a bedroom, it has to have at least 70 square feet of space. This is large enough to fit a bed and a small dresser. While a 7 x 10 bedroom is not spacious, it would fit the legal requirements in most locations.
To consider a room a bedroom, it must have a ceiling that is at least 7 feet high. If the area has a sloping ceiling, at least half of the ceiling must reach 7 feet. Any part of the ceiling that is less than 5 feet above the floor will not count in this calculation, and that portion of the room cannot count toward the square footage of the room.
For you to officially consider a space a bedroom, it must have a minimum of 7 feet in all horizontal directions. Essentially, you should be able to take a board that is 7 feet long and turn it in all directions on the floor. If you can’t, you can’t consider the room a bedroom.
For safety reasons, a room needs two ways out, in case of a fire or other emergency. Consider a situation where someone was in the attic/bedroom and there was a fire directly outside the exit back down into the house. What would they do?
This is why there needs to be a second means of exit. Usually, this is fulfilled by a window or door that exits to the outside. The escape route, whether window or door, needs to have at least 5.7 square feet of opening space. And a window sill cannot sit higher than 44 inches above the floor.
Heating And Cooling
To consider a room a bedroom, it must have heating and cooling. This doesn’t necessarily mean the room must have a vent as part of your central heat and air system. It just means that the room is heated and cooled appropriately when the rest of the house is.
A window in the room takes care of the cooling part. The heating is the harder part. You may have to install a mini-split or other type of heater specifically for that room to meet these requirements.
Real Estate Listing
To call a room a bedroom by code in most places, a room must meet all of the requirements above, with some cities or states having added requirements. But does that mean a real estate agent won’t list that attic space as a bedroom if you don’t meet those codes?
Most of the time a real estate agent is going to try to stay close to the legal definition when they are counting the number of bedrooms. They have their own code of ethics, whether there are specific laws in place or not that govern this in an area.
But in some real estate markets, they can be even pickier than the code. In some areas, people expect a bedroom to have a closet, for example. Sometimes an agent will not list a room as a bedroom without the expected closet, even if the room meets the legal definition of a bedroom. Agents have to balance legal definitions and codes with common practices and expectations in their area.
In practice, what this means is that even if you meet all the requirements to make your attic space a legal bedroom, a realtor may decline to list it as such when you go to sell.
Does Finishing An Attic Add Value?
Finishing an attic will add value to your home most of the time. While you would want to talk to a local real estate agent to get their opinion on exactly how much it will add, most people say it doesn’t add as much as they spent on the project.
The most common advice from experts that we found was that you should perform the remodel if you want to use the space, not to increase the resale value. The likelihood is that you will not recover the expense of finishing the attic. Most people seem to get about 50-60% of the money they spent in added value. If you are staying in the home and would like to make use of the space yourself, then it may be worth it to you!
What Qualifies A Room As A Bedroom?
Most building codes follow the IRC, which has the following minimum requirements before you can officially call a room a bedroom:
- Minimum of 70 sq ft. of space
- Minimum 7 ft. ceiling height over at least 50% of the room
- At least 7 ft. in every horizontal direction
- Two means of egress
- Proper heating and cooling
That is the minimum standard the International Residential Code sets, though some local codes are more strict. For example, some areas require more square footage and some require a closet.
What Is The Minimum Area For A Bedroom?
In most locations, the minimum area for a bedroom is at least 70 square feet. Some areas may require more than this. New York requires 80 square feet, for example. You should check your local code if you aren’t sure if your city follows the IRC minimums.
What Are Non-Conforming Bedrooms?
A non-conforming bedroom is just a bedroom that doesn’t meet the legal requirements. You typically find this with a home built long before the current codes came into existence. The room met what they considered a bedroom at the time, but no longer meets the current building code requirements for a bedroom.
You sometimes see this when a real estate agent lists an older home. The bedrooms may not meet the current regulations for a bedroom, and they are trying to fully disclose this to potential buyers. At the same time, they want to let people know that the original design and use of a room are as a bedroom, even if it doesn’t meet building codes. So they list it as non-conforming to make sure everyone understands and is aware of the deficiency.
Can A Loft Be Counted As A Bedroom?
Generally speaking, if you can close the loft area off for privacy and it meets the minimum standards we discussed above, then you can consider it a bedroom. While some locations may have stricter building code requirements, many do not. If that is the case in your area, that is about all that it will take for you to call your loft area a bedroom within code.
Most people would not consider a loft area a bedroom if it had an open side, however. It may be common for people to use the loft as their sleeping area, but if it is open to the room below then it lacks the privacy that you typically would require in a bedroom area.
For an attic to count as a bedroom, it must meet the code requirements for a bedroom, as we have described. Whether finished or not or whether you are currently using it as a bedroom, it isn’t technically considered one unless it meets those requirements.
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