Is That Room Legal?

Homeowners, realtors and home inspectors can have different views as to what constitutes a habitable room. Why does this matter? Because a converted room, such as a porch, basement, or attic, finished into “living space” may not be quite as livable as expected. So let’s have a look at it here.

According to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the MN State Building Code, habitable rooms are used for cooking, eating, living, or sleeping.

Because a room does not meet a habitability requirement does not mean it is not legal. The term habitability is misleading in that a room can be used for whatever purpose the homeowner chooses.  The following rules are guidelines for existing homes and requirements for newly built homes; a room must have:

  • Light – sunlight through a glazed window equal to 8% of the room floor area.
  • Ventilation – open able window equal to 4% of the room floor area.
  • Ceiling height – 7’ minimum.
  • Total area – 70 sf. minimum.
  • Width – 7’ minimum.
  • Bedrooms must have an egress sized window, but do not require a closet.
  • Kitchens are an exception – they do not need to meet the size or window requirements, but would then be required to have mechanical ventilation ducted to the exterior.

Non-habitable rooms are bathrooms, laundry rooms, closets, and hallways. These spaces are not required to meet any of the above requirements; however, bathrooms must have either a window or exhaust fan ducted to the exterior.

When purchasing a home or finishing a room be sure to take these rules into consideration, it could affect your investment.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI certified inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

‘Pops’ Rob Leslie
Kaplan Professionals, Retired


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