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Having a bedroom without windows is a bigger deal than you might think.
Occasionally, people are given the option to buy or rent a property that has a bedroom without a window. However, they may not realize that a lot more should go into their decision than just thinking about how much they care for natural light. We’ve laid out the pros and cons of windowless bedrooms below; read them over to get a sense of what you need to think about before living in a property with this particular feature.
How does a window fit into the legal definition of a bedroom?
Believe it or not, a room has to meet certain requirements in order to legally be considered a bedroom. Unfortunately, those requirements have nothing to do with the presence of a bed. Rather, in order to be considered a habitable space, bedrooms have to meet the guidelines outlined in the International Residential Code (IRC), which is a building code that governs all residential dwellings.
The guidelines outlined by the IRC are as follows:
- Sufficient space: In order for a room to be considered a bedroom, it must be at least seventy square feet. It must also measure at least seven feet in any given direction. The ceilings must also be at least seven feet high, leaving enough room for most people to stand up straight.
- Means of egress: A bedroom must have two separate means of egress, or ways of accessing the outdoors in the event that there is a fire. At least one of those methods must be an egress window.
- Temperature control: Since a window could technically satisfy a cooling requirement, the IRC only specifies that a bedroom needs a dedicated heat source, not an air conditioner. However, you can't just buy a space heater and call it a day. The heat source needs to be installed in the room.
That said, keep in mind that these are the base requirements for a room to be considered a bedroom. Your state or local building code might have additional requirements that need to be followed as well.
What are the emergency egress requirements of a bedroom?
Beyond simply having two separate ways to exit the bedroom, there are also additional emergency egress requirements that must also be taken into consideration. For example, the window must be of a certain size in order to count as egress windows. Here's an overview of what to expect:
- The bottom of the window cannot be more than 44 inches from the floor.
- The complete opening of the window must be at least 5.7 square feet.
- The opening height must be at least 24 inches high.
- The opening width must be at least 20 inches wide.
- To allow the minimum required amount of natural light to come into the room, the window must have a glass area that is equal to at least 8% of the room's floor area.
- To allow the minimum required amount of ventilation, the egress window must have an opening that is equal to at least 4% of the room's floor area.
If you're working on putting together a basement bedroom, you may have some additional choices for egress than you would with a bedroom that's located elsewhere in the house. Many people choose to augment their emergency egress window by adding a door that provides access to the outside. That counts as one of your forms of egress and provides added functionality.
What are the benefits of a bedroom without windows?
Truth be told, there aren't too many benefits of a room without windows. If you have the choice between a windowless room and one with windows, we're willing to bet that most people would choose the windows every time. However, it really is a matter of personal preference. With that in mind, here are some benefits of a windowless bedroom.
You'll likely receive a discounted rate on the property
The good news is that if you're renting an apartment or buying a house that offers a windowless bedroom, you'll probably get it at a discount. Since there is no window, that bedroom can't technically be considered a habitable room, meaning that the real estate agent can't market it as such. With that in mind, you'll likely be charged a rate that's commensurate with a smaller property.
It's an efficient use of space
Sometimes there's just no getting around having a room without windows. However, rather than having the room just function as dead space or a storage area, making the room into a small bedroom can help add more functionality to your home. In particular, these spaces make good guest rooms. Since they're only used occasionally, the fact that they're windowless can be dealt with more easily.
They may be more energy efficient
Sometimes windows, especially older ones, can make a house less energy efficient by allowing warm or cool air to escape the home. In a windowless bedroom, this is obviously no longer an issue. You'll likely save money, too, since you'll never have to worry about purchasing replacement windows for that space either.
What are the drawbacks of a bedroom with no windows?
For all the benefits, there are also some serious drawbacks to windowless bedrooms. Read them over and keep them in mind so that you have a good idea of what you're getting into before you buy or rent a home that has one of these spaces.
It's not technically a bedroom
If your home has a room without windows, it will, unfortunately, likely be a negative when you go to sell -- especially if that room happens to be the master bedroom or the only bedroom in the home. Again, building codes dictate that you cannot consider that space a habitable room, so you'll likely face a price cut compared to other homes of a similar size.
You'll have to get creative to bring light into the room
Numerous studies report that regularly being exposed to natural light is very important for our mental health. To that end, when you're working on designing a room without windows, finding an appropriate workaround for the lighting is especially important.
However, there are ways that it can be done. For example, if you have the money to spend, you could add skylights, or ceiling windows, to the room. Or, if you're trying to keep things more affordable, you can leave the ceiling as-is and use a French door to bring in added light from the outside.
By far the biggest drawback of bedrooms without windows is that they're unsafe. While no one likes to think that anything bad could happen to them, it's important to have safeguards in place in case of an emergency. That's why there are so many stipulations as to what counts as proper egress and ventilation.
If you have a windowless bedroom in your home, it is absolutely crucial that you make sure to put proper smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in place and test them often. It really could end up being a matter of life or death.
The bottom line
In truth, bedrooms without windows aren’t technically bedrooms at all. While these rooms can technically be used as sleeping spaces in certain circumstances, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account. If you’re considering buying or renting a home with a windowless room, read over these pros and cons first so that you can be sure you’re making an informed decision before moving in.
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