We’re just building a new bedroom in our new extension, and it will definitely have a door fitted. But do bedrooms actually need doors, and can they even be classed as bedrooms without one?
Bedrooms have doors for privacy and safety. Having a bedroom door that closes for privacy reasons really doesn’t need much discussion. A bedroom door that closes – and is closed at night – is also safer. In case of a fire, a closed-door – even a cheap, hollow core door – is a barrier.
Let’s dive down into the subject of bedroom doors in more detail, and discover whether we have to have doors on the rooms we sleep in at all…
Why Do Bedrooms Have Doors?
Bedrooms have doors for privacy and safety. Having a bedroom door that closes for privacy reasons really doesn’t need much discussion. Obvs.
A bedroom door that closes – and is closed at night – is also safer. In case of a fire, a closed door – even a cheap, hollow core door – is a barrier.
When the door is closed, there’s less fuel for the fire. That’s because there’s just a small open space under the door. The oxygen inside the bedroom stays inside the bedroom.
Just as importantly, the space under the door is a small space for poisonous smoke to seep in. Sure, eventually a wooden door will itself catch on fire, but having a closed-door will give you precious time.
Some bedrooms have two doors. Building code requires legal bedrooms to have two forms of egress, or exit. One door gives access to the interior home, usually into a hallway, and one can lead to the outside of the house.
Here’s a link to the New York Times article on the deadly apartment fire (and open door) in the Bronx in 2022.
This is a Close Before You Doze campaign video showing two bedrooms after a fire – one that had the door closed and one with the door open. Yikes!
Can a Room Be a Bedroom Without a Door?
Real estate professionals say no. Bedrooms need to have at least one door to be considered a bedroom. But there are exceptions.
Consider a loft or an A-frame mountain cabin. Many times the loft or cabin bedroom is designed to be private architecturally. For example, when the bedroom is up a flight of stairs. Or when walls shield a direct view into the bedroom.
Is It Illegal To Have a Bedroom Without a Door?
Most bedrooms have doors that close. But there are exceptions here too. Safety code requires that there be at least two means of exit for a legal bedroom. One exit must go directly to a common area of the house, like a hallway, and one must have direct access to the outside of the house.
A loft bedroom might not have a door that closes, but it still could have and opening – an open space, hallway or staircase – that gives it direct access to a common area. For this example, the loft would have to have a second egress method, like a window, to the outside.
To be considered a legal bedroom, the International Residential Code (IRC) has four requirements.
Number one, egress. Safely exiting a bedroom in an emergency is number one priority. For that, a legal bedroom will have two methods to get out.
A bedroom can have two doors or a door and a window. One door must open onto the common space, usually a hallway. It cannot open onto another bedroom. The other door must open onto the outside. If the other method of exit is the window, then the window has certain legal requirements, too.
If one form of egress is a window, then it has to have large enough proportions for a large adult to get through it. A window on the ground (or first) floor is easy to get out of. If the window is on an upper level, then you also need an escape ladder.
Number two, size. For a bedroom to qualify as a legal bedroom, it must be over 70 square feet (check your local requirements, some states say 80 square feet or 50 square feet per person). Also, the shortest wall must be over 7 feet long.
Number three, ceiling height. The height of the ceiling must be at least 7 feet tall. If your bedroom is under the eaves on the top floor, then at least 50 per cent of the ceiling must be over 7 feet tall.
Number four, heating and cooling. The bedroom must have the same permanent heating and cooling system as the rest of the house. Nope, space heaters don’t count.
Here’s a good article with details about the legal requirements of a bedroom.
How Many Doors Should a Bedroom Have?
Most bedrooms have one door into the bedroom from a common area, like a hallway. Some bedrooms have two doors, one from an interior hallway and one that opens onto the outside of the house.
Safety code requires two means of exit – or egress – from a bedroom. A window is one form of egress but there are several safety restrictions to be met. A door to the outside is easier for code requirements and may be safer.
Are There Building Codes for Bedroom Doors?
Yup. If the bedroom uses doors for egress, either on the inside or the outside, then the doors must not be locked from the outside of the door, or have any other special form of opening.
Be aware that codes vary between states, cities and even counties, so check with your local authorities on bedroom codes.
Should Doors Open Into the Bedroom or Out Into the Hallway?
Professional builder rule of thumb here is that all interior doors should open into rooms, including bedroom doors.
The direction doors open is a little about aesthetics, but mostly about safety. A door swinging out and blocking most of a hallway is a safety hazard.
Can a Bedroom Be Accessed Through Another Bedroom?
Nope. Each bedroom needs to have independent access to a hallway or other common space.
What Else Can You Have Instead of a Bedroom Door?
If you can’t have a traditional door that closes to your bedroom, then try some of these ideas.
Try hanging curtains, either cloth or beads. Cloth doorway curtains are a great DIY project. If you are struggling to heat or cool an entire house or apartment, cloth curtains in a doorway can also help with electricity or gas bills.
If you aren’t a DIYer, consider shopping for window treatments that would fit a doorway, like Roman shades. Or, there are several types of accordion-style room dividers that will fit a doorway.
Use a room divider to shield a direct view of the bed. If you don’t want a traditional door, maybe some bifold doors will work, or Western-style swinging doors.
Barn doors are in and there are several styles to choose from. If barn isn’t your style, there are Japanese style (Shoji) doors, too.
Do Bedrooms Need Closet Doors?
There are no safety codes requiring bedrooms to have closets or doors. However, many real estate professionals say that for a modern home, closets with doors are required.
Conclusion: What Defines a Room as a Bedroom? (Is Having a Door Relevant?)
Of course, if you live in your forever home, then relevance is totally up to you. Other than safety concerns, we say – have your bedroom the way you want it. Lean in, live your best life and be happy.
But. If you are considering putting your home on the market, then you’ll have to revisit relevance. You’ll have to consider what the International Residential Code says, what your local real estate expert says, and then – what the market says.
When you take your home to market, you need to make your home as market-friendly as possible. And, even though you may have loved loved loved the beaded curtains in your bedroom doorway, the market probably won’t.
So, yes, having a bedroom door may be relevant. We certainly think it is 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James started Castle of Mine to bring you the best articles on home improvement, based on his years of experience in homemaking projects. Read more >