Does a Bedroom in a Basement Count?

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A homeowner’s basement can absolutely count as a bedroom – as long as it meets a few requirements! We researched some of the critical details dictated by the International Code Council (ICC) and have some key insights into the renovation process to transform your basement into a bedroom.

A basement can legally be considered a bedroom if:

  • There is at least 7’ of clearance.
  • There is a stairwell.
  • There is an egress window.

A basement is considered a finished space and contributes to a property’s total square footage if these requirements are met.  However, there does not need to be a bathroom or a closet for the basement to be considered a bedroom.  Finished basements usually follow the rest of the house’s design theme and can be done on a large or small budget.

What exactly do you have to do to transform your space properly and maximize the value?  Is it even worth putting a bedroom in the basement?  Below is a breakdown of what needs to be done to renovate your basement properly.

A guest basement bedroom with cream painted walls, carpeted flooring, and two end tables with lamps, Does a Bedroom in a Basement Count?

Does A Basement Need Two Exits?

The simple answer: yes, a basement requires two exits.  The first exit is the main stairwell to the rest of the house.  The second exit is a window built into the house’s foundation or egress exit.

Egress Exit Window

An egress exit is specifically defined as an emergency escape or rescue opening. It is a precisely measured window intended for quick, efficient escaping and exterior accessibility for rescue responders like firefighters or police officers. There are several specifics regarding the location, size, and construction of an egress window. The dimensions for an egress exit are as follows:

  • Minimum openable area equals 5.7-sq.ft.
  • Minimum 20” width and 41” height.
  • Maximum 44” from the floor.

The size and placement of the window inside are not the only necessary components; the exterior requires:

  • Minimum 44” well clearing.
  • Minimum 36” of well projecting away from the house.
  • The minimum well is 9-sq.ft.
  • Outside window ladder attaching the bottom of the well to the window.

The cost of professional installation for an egress window can be high, and an improper DIY project could harm the house.  It is important to remember that building codes differ from state to state, and it is necessary to check your local ordinance before undergoing construction.  Let’s take a look further into the specific costs.

How Much Does It Cost To Put An Egress Window In A Basement?

Rustic inspired basement bedroom with light mint green beddings and walls

A multitude of costs is associated with putting in an egress window in a basement. The usual price range is roughly $2,000 to $6,000, depending on the quality of materials and labor descriptions.  For example, cutting a new window hole in a cement foundation is more expensive than installing a window in an existing opening.

The other construction costs can include window panes, well excavation, a window ladder, drainage, and gravel.  There are also hidden costs like hiring a land surveyor, structural engineer, and electrician to ensure your house is capable of the new additions.  The usual cost range for these are:

  • Each window: $100 to $250
  • Land excavation / Well: $500 to $2,000
  • Cut opening:  $700 to $1,000
  • Surveyor/engineer/electrician: $300 to $500 each

However, these are not the only costs that can accumulate from an egress window installation for your basement.  Things like repairing water damage, weatherstripping, and maintaining the well are vital to preventing long-term issues like mold, leaks, and wood rot.

Does Adding A Bedroom To The Basement Add Value?

Homeowners can dramatically increase the value of their home by remodeling the basement as a bedroom because it will increase the total square footage and room count of the house. Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association), responsible for most home mortgages in the U.S., does not include undeveloped below-grade space towards a house’s total square footage.  This means that partial or full basements are not counted towards the total room number or lot size.

Is Finishing a Basement A Good Investment?

Floral themed basement bedroom with flora wallpapers, hardwood flooring, and green floral bedding

Finishing a basement is almost always considered a good investment.  A full basement renovation can cost upwards of $30,000 with construction, furniture, and labor but will certainly increase home versatility and value.

The investment is more or less valuable depending on where you live and the price per square footage.  For example, the average price per square foot in San Jose, California, is $625, while Atlanta, Georgia, is only $123.  If the average home has a basement with 850-sq.ft., you can potentially increase the property by $50,000 to $500,000 by renovating a basement into a bedroom.

The Right Time To Remodel

Remodeling your basement and installing an egress window usually occur simultaneously. However, if your construction plans are estimated to take longer than a few months, it might be wise to try the strategy discussed below.

Install the egress window during the late spring or summer, and remodel the basement during the winter.  Egress windows and wells are difficult to install during rainy seasons and should be completed during the warmer months.  Basements can be remodeled as bedrooms during colder months because the construction is limited to inside.  Even though contractors usually work year-round, they are often busier during the spring and summer months.  You will likely get a better deal contracting workers during the colder months when they need the work.

Summary

Whether you’re a homeowner looking to maximize your living space or a seller looking to increase the property value, knowing what constitutes a bedroom is essential to making correct renovation choices.  Being aware of specific building codes can save homeowners hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, of repairs and code violations.  It is important to consider the legal guidelines to ensure individuals’ proper safety inside and allow rescuers outside an easy way into the basement.  Remodeling can be stressful, but remember to add your style and have fun!

You might also be interested in reading:

5 Types Of Basements Every Home Owner Should Know

Is The Basement Considered A Story?

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