The definition of a legal bedroom in Virginia is typically determined by local municipality zoning codes as generally established by the International Residential Code (IRC). The definition can vary by jurisdiction, building type and zoning for a particular lot. The requirements for a legal bedroom can be confusing and often times misunderstood by consumers. A universal requirement and general starting point for a bedroom is a safe means of egress in the event of a fire – exit door and window. Occupants must be able to safely exit in the event of an emergency and first responders must be able to easily enter.
Often times, people can confuse other characteristics used to determine a bedroom’s legality. For example, one common feature in a bedroom is a closet, but it may surprise some to learn that a closet is not required to define a legal bedroom in Virginia. A closet is simply considered a general feature of building practice and convenience.
Below is a list of considerations that can be generally used to help determine whether or not a bedroom can be considered legal in Virginia. This is only meant to be a guide. Please consult your local jurisdiction’s zoning codes and a licensed professional on the subject matter for a specific ruling on your particular situation and to ensure compliance with all applicable and current regulations.
Here are some requirements for bedrooms that apply state-wide:
1. Means of Egress: A bedroom must have two ways to exit: one that leads to the rest of the home and one that leads directly to the outside. In most cases, the outside egress will be a window. A bedroom egress window must be at least 5.7 square feet. It can be no more than 44 inches from the room floor, unless there is a permanent step installed. In addition, it is illegal to have locking bars or grates covering an egress window.
In order to be considered a legal bedroom, its sole entrance must not be through another bedroom. The bedroom must also have access to a bathroom without going through another bedroom.
2. Closet: Contrary to popular belief, Virginia has no closet requirement for a bedroom.
3. Square Footage: The minimum size of a bedroom is 70 square feet with a minimum of 7 feet in one direction to disqualify certain spaces like a hallway. If more than one person occupies the room, then there must be 50 square feet per occupant.
4. Ceiling Height: Ceiling height must be no less than 7 feet in a certain percentage of the room.
5. Heating and Ventilation: Every bedroom must have access to natural ventilation (i.e. to the outside air), and must have a heat source to maintain a certain minimum temperature (usually 68° F). Portable heaters do not count as an adequate heat source.
6. Other Possible Considerations: The bedroom window(s) may have glazing (glass) requirements – total glass area in relation to floor area. The area of the window(s) when open may also have a specific requirement in relation to floor area. Bedroom areas must have a minimum number of electrical outlets. If the home is not connected to a public sewer system, then this may impact the legality of the bedroom, because a home usually cannot have more bedrooms than the septic system is designed to accommodate.
Hopefully, this article provides some useful information if you happen to be considering the requirements for a legal bedroom. Please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information, or if you should need the contact information to your local jurisdiction’s zoning department.
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I’m happy to be known as the “Always Be Helping” Northern Virginia Realtor®. I have an unyielding commitment to being an open and honest advocate for my clients, ensuring they reach their desired outcome as efficiently and professionally as possible.
I am a full-time, licensed Realtor® who has established deep roots and knows the region. I was born and raised in the Northern Virginia area, graduating from Chantilly High School and then James Madison University with degrees in Economics and Finance. I live in Fairfax with my wife Liz and our seven year old son Robby. I’m a homeowner myself and understand the important decisions my clients face when they’re buying or selling a home. In addition, I’m an owner of investment property, including a multi-family apartment building. I have a penchant for helping people having taught adult education courses in investing and personal finance, and helped numerous clients, friends and colleagues in creating a path to wealth creation. I also serve as the trustee for a private charitable memorial fund.
I have been working in the real estate industry helping clients for over 25 years. As a Listing Agent, the value I create for my sellers is to help them elevate and showcase home condition. I use multiple valuation techniques to pinpoint market value for my sellers. I use cutting-edge marketing strategies to promote widespread buyer awareness and produce the maximum selling price in the fewest days possible, while protecting my seller’s best interests throughout the complete selling and settlement process. As a Buyer’s Agent, I help my buyers locate the home that changes their life. I guide my buyers in structuring the most compelling offer that can win seller acceptance, while retaining the most value and equity possible for buyer benefit and in a manner that protects their best interests throughout the complete buying and settlement process. I have worked with clients in the purchase of investment property, helping them to prospect property as well as evaluate all the financial metrics important to making the investment. My real estate experience includes working in the development, construction and operation of real estate infrastructure projects, closing over $500 million, as well as supporting several commercial real estate clients in the pursuit of reaching their objectives. My experience spans across consulting with clients on remodeling and home improvement projects to negotiating land purchase agreements and easements, to negotiating residential and commercial leases. There are few areas of real estate that I haven’t touched and it continually has been with an “Always Be Helping” and superior customer service mind-set.