Can a room by any other name be a ‘bedroom?’

By Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

What is a bedroom?

That is the question. Well… maybe not the question but it’s certainly a question worth thinking about.

Bedrooms, their number and size, are key features for home buyers and as one real estate professional was quoted as saying:

“It’s no surprise that homeowners want to slap the ‘bedroom label’ on as many rooms as possible. Sellers can usually set and get a higher price the more bedrooms a home has.”

The one I really love is “one and a half bedrooms.” What on earth is a half a bedroom? One and a half bathrooms I get. So what can we call a bedroom? It depends…

“Who’s to say what defines a bedroom?” says Steve Watts, Codes and Standards Coordinator for the Office of the Fire Commissioner. “It depends on the building code you are following.”

Fire Safety

In BC, as in most jurisdictions, the key factors that define a proper bedroom are its fire safety features, says Watts. If you follow the BC Building Code, a room has to have egress to the outdoors in case of fire.

Even though the technical definition of a bedroom is hard to pin down, it is not difficult to figure out what home buyers are thinking a bedroom means. The expectation is a room with an interior access door for privacy, an opening outside window big enough to escape through in case of emergency, heat, a closet and a reasonable floor area and ceiling height. They want a decent space for a bed, a dresser, and side table. Although older homes won’t have built-in closets most people today expect a bedroom to have a closet as well.


This is why we need to be careful when we describe the features of a home so that we don’t run the risk of misrepresentation. Exaggeration will almost always turn around and bite you. If you bring a client to a showing and they’re expecting a three-bedroom and the home only has two, that’s going to be a problem. If it’s really a den, call it a den. If it’s a storage room in the basement, just say so.

If the homeowner wants to turn an alcove into a bedroom, that’s his business. But for the purpose of providing information that represents a listing accurately, be truthful.

Do you know what the building code in your area says about bedrooms? We have seven different municipalities in our Board area. Are there differences? It’s not easy to find out.


Let me know what you know and think about this. Let’s pool our collective insight and look at coming to an agreement on what we will call a bedroom so there will be no confusion in our representations.

Together we are better, smarter, stronger, faster and more useful and valuable to our clients.

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