How Wide Should A Hallway Be?

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When you draw out the first blueprint of your dream home or new addition, how wide your hallways should be may not be foremost on your mind. But it’s a feature that is bound to come up as you come closer to construction. It’s important to have hallways that will be comfortable and accommodate how you plan to use them. We’ve done the work to give you guidance on how wide a hallway should be.

The minimum hallway width by law is 36 inches. However, this may seem very narrow to most inhabitants, and the generally accepted standard is 42 inches in width. There may be a need for a greater width of 48 to 72 inches in several circumstances, such as accommodations for furnishings, wheelchair accessibility, and L-shaped hallways.

So now you know basically how wide your hallway should be, but there is much more that could go into your building plans with respect to hallways. Keep reading to learn more.

Entrance hall with a beautiful interior. How Wide Should A Hallway Be

Minimum Hallway Width

The minimum width for a hallway in a home is 36 inches or 3 feet. This is according to Section R311.6 of the 2018 International Residential Code.

The reason for this is that the powers-that-be have determined the minimum amount of space first responders and rescue personnel could possibly require to deliver and administer aid to an inhabitant of the home if the need arises.

The hallway must be able to accommodate a gurney, as well as a first responder standing next to it. It must also be able to accommodate a firefighter, their equipment, and one other person. They have determined this is the amount of area needed in that case.

If the required hallway width was narrower than 36 inches, emergency personnel might have great difficulty reaching a person in need of help. So the building code includes this regulation.

Reasons To Go Wider

Accommodating Furnishings

Most of us imagine the way our home will be decorated and furnished, even down to what will line the hallways. The problem is, if you have hallways as narrow as 36 inches, you may not be able to add furnishings and decorations as you planned. If you do, they will quickly begin to feel like a tunnel. 

To add console tables, plants, and other furnishings, we suggest going with at least 42 inches in width for your hallways. Alternatively, 48 inches wide would be even better.

Handicap And Wheelchair Accessibility

Creating larger hallways is a must if there will be those living in or visiting the home who are handicapped or require a wheelchair. Most wheelchairs are between 25 to 32 inches wide, and this means that there is a minimum of 36 inches of space needed to make a full turn. 

According to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements, the minimum hallway width in a handicap-accessible property is 48 inches wide. This is to accommodate both a person in a wheelchair as well as an additional person aside.

The reality is that it is always easier and cheaper to plan for wider hallways in the original construction than to make changes later on. If you plan to retire in the home or want the home to be attractive to future buyers who may need handicap accessibility, it’s a smart move to build larger hallways.

L-shaped Hallways

Hallways with turns can pose a challenge for moving furniture in and out of the adjoining rooms, especially if the hallway is too narrow. For hallways that are planned to be built in an ‘L’ or another shape, it would be a great idea to build them wider. 

Not only would it make for a much more convenient move, but it would also add comfort to the home. As this hallway may be long and not feature any windows, it may feel very closed in and dark if built at the minimum width.

Can A Narrow Hallway Be Widened?

Once the home has been framed, this may not be an attractive option. That is unless you are willing to eat into surrounding rooms or add square footage for a larger hallway. In which case, you also have to be cautious not to take away weight-bearing walls and other architectural features that are essential to the integrity and safety of your home. 

A licensed contractor may be able to create a plan to widen a hallway if that is your desire, but it could cost you dearly in other areas. Fortunately, there are ways to make a narrow hallway look larger without such drastic measures.

Lighting

When considering choices for lighting in a narrow area such as a hallway, it’s important to be sure that the light will be ample enough and hitting all of the areas in the hallway to make it look larger. It’s also important to choose sources of light that will not take up too much space.

Some good choices for wall lighting could be sconces and wall lamps. They are decorative, but they also send light downward to hit the floor and reflect up toward the ceiling, creating an illusion of a higher ceiling and greater width.

Take a look at this wall sconce we found on Amazon.

Another idea for making a narrow hallway look larger is by utilizing uplighting. Fixtures that send light upward, hitting the ceiling and reflecting about the space, are a great way to add dimension and make a small area look wider. 

Decorating Wide Hallways

Furnishings

A wide hallway is a blessing, to be sure, but it can seem very bare if left without furnishings and decor. Fortunately, a greater amount of space opens up your options for placing household decor. We suggest wall mirrors, console tables, or floating shelves for medium-width hallways such as 42 to 48 inches.

For especially large-width hallways, you may even consider constructing a seating area, either with two armchairs and a table or a decorative sofa. 

How do you light a hallway?

Large halls speak grandeur, and this is why it could be appropriate to go with oversized lighting in this area of the home. A large pendant or chandelier can be used in a sector which you would like to draw attention to, such as a seating area or decorative painting. 

Check out this industrial chandelier we found on Amazon.

Another option for light fixtures in a large hall could be a line of pendants. This is especially fitting if the hallway has tall ceilings, as it will accentuate this feature.

Related Questions

What Is Considered A Hallway?

A hallway is a passageway between two rooms in a residence. For a hallway to be considered a hallway by the International Residential Code, it must be at least 36 inches in width and connect rooms within a residence. The amount of rooms is not specified. 

However, if a passageway extends outdoors in any way to connect two buildings, this is not a hallway, but a corridor

What Is The Minimum Width For A Residential Main Entrance?

The main entrance of a home is referred to in the International Residential Code as an egress or escape door. The concern of those creating the code is the inhabitants’ safety, and thus the issue is whether the door is large enough for those in the home to escape easily if necessary. 

According to the building code, an egress door must be 32 inches in width and 72 inches in height. Not only will this allow people to leave with ease, but it should also allow emergency workers to enter the home if need be.

Most front doors sold today for residential homes are 36 inches in width. However, older homes may have been built with smaller entryways.

In Closing

Your hallways, including their width, are a vitally important feature in your construction plans. The minimum hallway width specified by law is 36 inches. Nonetheless, the standard among builders is 42 inches in width, and failing to create large enough halls could result in tunnel-like, uncomfortable passageways in your home.

We suggest taking into account your plans for furnishings and decor, needs for handicap or wheelchair accessibility, and hallway shapes and uses before deciding between narrow or wide hallways. As always, do what will fit your own needs and make you feel cheerful in your home.

Want to learn more about styling and decorating a hallway? Visit these related posts:

21 Wall Decor Ideas For Hallway

What Size Should A Runner Rug Be For A Hallway?

How Tall Should A Hall Tree Be?

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