In today’s real estate world, there is much debate and outright confusion when it comes to the true definition of a bedroom versus den. Taking a look through the MLS, builder plans or real estate websites, it’s no wonder why. It seems as though everyone is trying to stretch their definitions to make dens into bedrooms, even carving out dens from next to nothing!

And why would people want to market a space as a bedroom over a den in their advertising? It usually comes down to the almighty dollar; a bedroom is quite simply worth more than a den.

I wish I could give you a definitive answer on what constitutes a bedroom, but it has been left open to interpretation. From a real estate sales perspective, the generally accepted parameters for a bedroom, is that they consist of a window, closet and door.

There are definitely exceptions though. For example, a bedroom that has no closet yet has a window, door and a substantially sized room – say 100 square feet or larger. That surely cannot be considered a den, can it?

Another common example that comes to mind are bedrooms in a condominium unit with no window, yet has a door, closet and substantial size. These are usually located adjacent to the interior walls of a suite, and are advertised as bedrooms. Are these not technically bedrooms as well?

According to the Ontario Building Code (section 9.5.7. Bedrooms or Spaces in Dwelling), to be considered a bedroom, the space must be a minimum of 7 square metres or approximately 75 square feet. There is no requirement for a closet, although if a closet if present the size requirements would decrease slightly according to the code. No requirement for a door is mentioned.

Finally, the requirement for windows is briefly mentioned in a later section of the code, and states: “Minimum Unobstructed Glass Area With No Electric Lighting 5%”. The same requirement is stated for bedrooms with electric lighting as well. Does that mean that a minimum of 5% of the wall in a bedroom must be a window? According to many experts interpretation of this requirement; this glass area could be “borrowed” from another room, like a living or dining area, provided it is unobstructed. This leads me to believe that if you can see 5% glass area from another area in the living space, the requirement has been satisfied.

To complicate matters, many municipalities have their own requirements for a bedroom. As with every rule, there are special exceptions to bedroom requirements in various circumstances that would go beyond the scope of this article.

Instead of getting caught of in the semantics of the various requirements at different levels, I would suggest that a buyer employs some common sense. It may be challenging to delineate a bedroom from photos or floor plans, but if the option to view a condo unit in person is a possibility, you will likely be able to make this distinction. Viewing a potential bedroom in person will allow you to determine, for your own personal needs, whether a room would make a suitable bedroom for your lifestyle. As the reader mentioned is their question, can a bed comfortably fit in the space would be a good start in making this determination.

The issues discussed in this article have been the source of much debate amongst professionals and consumers alike. Further public education and more clarity within the various codes would only serve as a positive for the industry as a whole. I hope in years to come that industry and government address this issue in a more transparent manner.

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