Everyone knows that you need a closet in a bedroom to call it a bedroom, right?  While this is a universally accepted standard, good luck finding any type of authority that will back this up.

The funny thing about the ''requirement' to have a closet in a bedroom is that there isn't anything in the International Residential Code (IRC) that requires a closet in the bedroom.  There's also nothing in the Minnesota State Building Code that requires a closet, and there's nothing in the Minneapolis Maintenance Code.  So where does this so-called 'requirement' come from?  I can't tell you.

The city of Minneapolis has a set of definitions right at the beginning of their maintenance code;  Minneapolis defines a bedroom as "A habitable room within a dwelling unit which is used, or intended to be used, primarily for the purpose of sleeping, but shall not include any kitchen or dining room." Minneapolis also requires the following for any sleeping room:

  • Seven foot ceiling height
  • Seventy square feet of floor area, not including any closet area
  • A source of natural light (8% of the floor area)
  • A source of  natural ventilation (4% of the floor area)
  • Can not be arranged such that access to a sleeping room can be had only be going through another sleeping room or a bathroom or toilet room.  If the home was built prior to 11/2/1920, this situation is grandfathered, however.
  • Proper Egress - the requirements for this are long and complicated, and depend on when the building was built and when the last windows were installed.

ArmoireThere are a few other requirements, but there's nothing about a closet.

What exactly is a closet?

The IRC defines a closet as "A small room or chamber used for storage."  A chamber is "a natural or artificial enclosed space or cavity".  This means that a 6" box with a door that's installed on the wall could be called a closet.  Ok, maybe that's silly.  How about an armoire or a wardrobe?  I've seen plenty of houses with only wardrobes in the bedrooms, and nobody had a problem calling them bedrooms.

The bottom line is that bedrooms do not need closets to be called bedrooms.  The next time you hear someone tell you that a bedroom needs a closet, ask them where they heard this requirement.  If you find an authoritative reference that says a bedroom needs a closet, please share it with me.

By the way, don't let rules get in the way of common sense... everyone still needs a place to store their stuff.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Minneapolis Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluator


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