Is It Illegal to Have a Bedroom in the Basement?

Whether your kids have grown up or you’ve got your parents coming to live with you, you might be in need of an extra bedroom.

Most people think that moving to a bigger house is the only way to accommodate the need for extra bedrooms.

However, one option that not many people consider is converting their basement into a bedroom.

Can a Basement Be Converted into a Bedroom?

You’ll be surprised at how many ways a basement can be used. You should count yourself lucky if you’ve got a basement.

A basement can be remodeled in numerous ways. From a library to children’s play area to gym to bedroom, there’s so much you can convert your basement into!

A basement can definitely be converted into a bedroom. Although it’s not as simple as building walls and moving furniture, it’s a possibility and many have even done it.

Also read: What Is a Non-Conforming Bedroom?

Is it Illegal to Have a Bedroom in the Basement?

The good news is that it’s not illegal to have a bedroom in the basement. You can convert your basement into a bedroom without raising any legal complications.

However, you can’t just get down to it just like that. There are certain legal requirements that your basement bedroom must meet to be considered a bedroom legally.

Why Build a Bedroom in the Basement?

Before we can move into what it takes for a basement bedroom to be qualified as a bedroom legally, let’s first see why converting your basement into a bedroom is a good idea.


If you need an extra bedroom and are planning to move into a bigger house, know that making a bedroom in your basement will be much cheaper.

While basement remodeling is one of the most expensive home improvement projects, the cost is quite less compared to what buying a new house or moving to a bigger house will cost you.


If you’re planning to move to a bigger house with more bedrooms, you should be prepared to go through the hassle.

From looking for a house that falls within your budget to packing to finding the right moving company to finally settling in the new house, moving homes isn’t easy.

In contrast, making a bedroom in the basement is more convenient. You don’t have to pack and unpack.

The basement renovation professionals will work in the basement, and your day-to-day life won’t be affected. You can go about your day’s tasks like you do every day on the upper levels of your house.

Enhances Your Home’s Value

Who wouldn’t pay a good price for a house that has got a greater number of bedrooms? A finished basement boosts the value of your house.

Building a bedroom in the basement enhances the value of your property.

Basement finishing may feel like a hefty expense right now but it offers excellent ROI that makes the expense worth it!

Offers Protection

In most houses, the basement is often neglected. People use their basements for the storage of old items that they no more use.

This often leads to the development of serious problems in the basement like pest infestation due to dirt and accumulated junk.

Neglected basements also present seepage and mold problems that spread out to the rest of the house over time.

However, if you build a bedroom in the basement and ensure that your basement is in your use and not neglected, you can avoid all the problems that might present themselves otherwise.

Also read: How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Basement?

Is Your Basement in a Good Enough Condition?

Before you can look into what are the legal requirements to make a bedroom in your basement, it’s important to evaluate if your basement is in a good enough condition to be used as a bedroom.

There are some very important considerations when evaluating if your basement can be converted into a living space.

Moisture Conditions

There should be look leakage problems in your basement. It’s common for water pipes to run through the basement.

If any of the pipes are leaking even slightly, you can’t make a bedroom in your basement before you get that fixed.

Another crucial consideration is to ensure the direction of drainage outside your house is away from your home.

If the water after washing the driveway or rain flows towards your house, the water may seem into the basement through the walls, rendering your basement unsuitable for a bedroom.


Basements are usually colder than the rest of the house. The basement will feel colder during the winters, so much that it’ll become unlivable.

If you wish to make a bedroom in your basement, your basement must be insulated. If it’s not, you’ll first have to insulate it.

Pest Infestation

Pest infestation is common in basements because people usually use basements for storage of old belongings that they no longer use.

You’ve got to ensure your basement isn’t infested with any pests before moving ahead with your plan to build a bedroom in the basement.


Radon is an extremely toxic gas that comes from ground areas. You’ve got to make sure your basement is radon-free before you can build a basement bedroom.

Once these basic checks are completed, you can then move on to the legal requirements for building a bedroom in the basement.  

Legal Requirements for Building a Bedroom in the Basement

As we’ve already said, it’s legal to build a bedroom in the basement. You don’t have to worry about legal consequences.

However, there are some strict building codes in place that you must comply in order to give your finished basement the legal status of a bedroom.

You must remember that you can build a bedroom in the basement only if there’s a window or if a window of a certain size and height can be fitted in.

If not, you can’t make a bedroom in your basement. It would be illegal if you do. A window in the basement will ensure there’s a way to exit the basement in case of an emergency.

Let’s look at the various requirements for giving your basement bedroom a legal status.

Window Measurements

We’ve already explained the purpose of a window in the basement. Let’s look at it in detail.

If the basement bedroom has only one exit, which is the staircase, and in case of an emergency this exit is blocked, the chances that people in the basement will be able to escape are slim.

This is why, there has to be a window in the basement to serve as an exit in case the only exit is blocked.

The window must be big enough that people can use it to get out. Also, it must be at an approachable height because if people can’t reach it, it’s of no use.

According to the building code, the basement window should open to the outside. And one must not have to put in a lot of effort to open it. It must open easily and swiftly.

The window must be at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches high. If the windowsill is lower than the outside ground level, you’ve got to build a window well outside the window.

There’s another set of requirements for this window that you must comply with giving your basement bedroom a legal status.

The basement window should have the minimum clear opening of 5.7 square feet because that’s the space that would allow an average person to crawl.

This is the required size if the sill of the window is above the ground level outside. If the level of the window is below ground level outside, the minimum clear opening must be at least 9 feet.

The sill height of the basement window should be less than 44 inches over the basement floor.

If the window sill height is more than 44 inches, there should be steps or a ladder that a person can use to get to the window.

Another reason why the window measurements must comply with the building code is to allow adequate ventilation and light.

Building codes lay down specific requirements when it comes to natural light, and ventilation for the bedrooms, and basement bedrooms are no different.

Ventilation and Natural Light Requirements

It’s natural to feel good in a room that receives plenty of natural light and has got excellent ventilation. The room with adequate ventilation and inflow of natural light automatically feels livelier and fresh.

But did you know that there are specific requirements relating to the amount of natural light and quality of ventilation for a bedroom?

As per the building code, the area that your window covers must be at least one-tenth of the bedroom floor area or 8% of the floor area (it varies with the building code your region follows).

There are different requirements for ventilation, too, depending on which building code standard your region follows.

The window area must be at least one-twentieth of the room’s area, or it should be at least 4% of the room’s total area.

While these requirements may seem like too much right now, it’s crucial to comply because your safety is at risk in case an unexpected accident occurs.

While nobody wants to go through an emergency, it’s best to be prepared for one because it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Meeting the requirements for a basement bedroom might appear challenging, but once you get down to the actual work, it’s not that tough.

Once you’ve met all the legal requirements, you can enjoy an additional bedroom in the same house you live in!

The Role of Permits in Basement Remodeling

When it comes to remodeling your basement, obtaining the necessary permits is a crucial step. Permits are important for ensuring that any changes made to your basement comply with local building codes, ensuring the safety and legality of the project.

First, let’s discuss why permits are required for basement remodeling. Local municipalities create building codes to establish safe building practices, and these codes are considered bylaws.

When you remodel your basement without a permit, you risk breaking these bylaws, which could lead to fines and penalties.

So, obtaining a permit not only keeps your project legal and compliant but also makes sure that your new basement bedroom is safe and comfortable for use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do basement bedrooms need egress windows?

Yes, basement bedrooms typically require egress windows for safety reasons. Egress windows provide an escape route in case of emergencies, such as fires, and allow for easy access for emergency responders.

These windows must meet specific size requirements and be easy to open without the need for keys or tools.

What building codes apply to basement bedrooms?

When converting a basement into a bedroom, you must ensure that you are adhering to your local building codes.

These codes may vary by region, but they usually outline requirements for egress windows, minimum ceiling height, electrical safety, ventilation, and insulation. It is essential to check with your local building department for the specific codes that apply to your area.

What are the requirements for basement ceilings?

Basement ceilings may have specific height requirements, often stipulated by local building codes. In most cases, a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet is required for habitable spaces, including bedrooms.

However, it’s crucial to verify the exact requirements with your local building department to make sure your basement complies with regulations.

How does a basement bedroom affect home appraisal?

Adding a basement bedroom can increase the value of your home, as it adds more living space and potentially increases the number of bedrooms in the house.

However, for the bedroom to be included in the home’s appraisal, it must meet the legal requirements for a bedroom, such as having an egress window, adequate ventilation, and meeting other building codes.

Is egress window the only requirement for sleeping in the basement?

While an egress window is one of the main requirements for a legal basement bedroom, there are other factors to consider as well. These may include proper ventilation, adhering to building codes for electrical safety and insulation, and meeting the minimum ceiling height.

It is important to ensure your basement meets all the necessary requirements before using it as a bedroom.

What is a non-conforming bedroom?

A non-conforming bedroom is a room that does not meet the legal requirements for a bedroom. This may involve not having an egress window, failing to meet building codes, or not meeting minimum ceiling height standards.

While you can still use a non-conforming bedroom as a living space, it cannot be officially listed as a bedroom when selling or appraising your home.

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