What Is A Non Conforming Bedroom? [With Expert Opinion]

The implication is huge when you have a bedroom that does not conform to specific requirements like the necessary egress window. There is a health hazard, fire hazard, and so many other hazards when you don’t care about such codes.

But then again, what is a non conforming bedroom?

Once you figure out and learns exactly what codes have to have complied, you can take action or force your landlord to comply with the law.

Or if you are a landlord, you can take action before you get caught by a home inspector.

A conforming sleeping room is for your own safety and betterment, no matter who you are. In this article, you will learn all about it no matter where you live in the U.S.

Conforming vs. Non-conforming Bedrooms

non conforming bedroom

When your bedroom does not comply with the minimum requirements like the International Residential Code (IRC) and more importantly, if it does not comply with the local municipal authority’s building code requirement, you got a non-conforming bedroom.

The differences between a conforming bedroom and non-conforming bedroom are very little. So, if you don’t know all the requirements and why some homeowners do not like to conform to the codes, you won’t find any differences.

Apart from the requirements set by the International Residential Code (IRC), regulations set by the local municipality will vary from state to state. So, it’s very important you learn about those local regulations.

However, you can call a bedroom non-conforming if it does not meet the following criteria set by IRC:

  • Entrance

The rule of thumb is: every bedroom should have at least 2 methods of egress. So, in addition to the door, there should be an egress window. Any sleeping room in the basement without such an arrangement can’t be called a bedroom.

You don’t have to get paranoid about the size of the window. But if it does not fit a fully-grown adult person, it’s not conforming!

  • Height of Ceiling

If the ceiling height is not at least 7 feet, it’s not a conforming bedroom. Now, a small part of the ceiling can be under that requirement for interior design or other purposes; but more than half of the ceiling has to that taller.

  • Size of The Bedroom

Though it totally depends on your local building codes, as per regulations a tiny room can’t be called a sleeping room. The minimum area has to be at least 70 square feet.

However, in any horizontal direction, it has to be at least 7 feet. Here is an interesting line for you: Just because you have placed a bed in a room does not necessarily make it a bedroom!

  • Emergency Escape & Rescue Route

Without such an escape and rescue opening, the sleeping room is not only non-conforming but also a punishable offense as well. Your basements should have such openings too if there is any sleeping room as well.

Let’s get a little bit technical since it’s so important.

Whereas the minimum height of the emergency opening should be 24 inches, the width should be at least 20 inches. The minimum net clear opening should be at least 5.7 square feet.

The opening has to be functioning from the inside without using any keys, tools, or special skills.

The consequences of not having such a route may bring catastrophic outcomes. If there are any hazards like fire or other natural disasters, the rescue team won’t be able to help you. You can find such incidents a lot. Just do a google search and you will be horrified!

  • Window Wells

With 36 inches’ width, there should be a minimum of 9 sqft. the horizontal area of the window well including a minimum horizontal projection.

The idea of it is to ensure that the window well will allow the emergency escape and rescue opening to be opened fully. Without the window well, your bedroom is non-conforming.

  • Bulkhead Enclosures

It’s required to comply with the bulkhead enclosures so that there is easy access to the basement.

  • Bars, Covers, Grills, And Screens

You can place such stuff over the window wells, bulkhead enclosures, emergency exits but you have to ensure the minimum clear opening size meets the local building codes.

Also, all of them have to be easily removable from the inside without any difficulty. Meaning, no one has to use any special tools, keys, etc. to get rid of them during an emergency.

What To Do With Non-Conforming Bedroom?

That depends on the status. Are you a tenant, a homeowner, a landlord, or just looking for a new home to buy? Well, I believe you have got all of the relevant information, and no matter what status you have, just use it at your disposal.

Just don’t call a non-conforming bedroom conforming to avoid legal implications and jeopardize people’s lives. You can still convert a non-conforming basement bedroom giving it a new look and features like egress window, closets, high ceilings, and minimum area.

If you have a plan to sell it and wondering whether converting the basement room as a bedroom will help you get some extra value, I don’t think it’s true.

It will be very hard to find a new buyer to buy the home considering it as an extra bedroom unless it is aesthetically pleasing to look and live.

You can use the nonconforming basement bedroom for other purposes as well. Why not use it as a gym? You can rent it as a gym!

You can use it as a sewing room, storage, office, etc. If you really don’t have to use it as a bedroom, don’t bother investing in the egress window at all.


After all of this talk, you should no longer be wondering what is a non-conforming bedroom and I am pretty sure you got the main points of Conforming Vs Non-Conforming Bedrooms.

I know some rules and regulations of IRC are ridiculous but they are there for you. Never sleep in a non-conforming bedroom to avoid deadly events. Again, conforming and nonconforming bedroom can be tricky to understand. So, here is expert opinion for you.

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1 thought on “What Is A Non Conforming Bedroom? [With Expert Opinion]”

  1. Thank you for information. But what is the law in Omaha for basement bedrooms non conforming. It’s hard to believe. All remodeled with no permits in basement. No egress. Put kitchen in basement. So small of a home.

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