This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013 & 2014. Please submit your questions via email.
Q. I can’t seem to find a real definition of a bedroom for Arlington County. I purchased a condo in Clarendon a few years ago that was marketed as a 2 bedroom/1.5 bathroom. Arlington property records and the original floor plan call it a den. Upon refinancing my mortgage, the appraiser told me it can’t be considered a two-bedroom unit. Luckily, the appraisal still came back where I expected, but it was still quite a surprise. A Google search gave me some general guidelines of which my unit meets all (mainly number of entrances, methods of egress, minimum square footage, HVAC), but each noted that the definition varies by local jurisdiction. What are the rules in Arlington?
A. Before getting out my tape measure and calculator, the things I normally look for to initially determine if a room is a bedroom are the following: an egress large enough for a fireman to exit the home with all of his/her equipment, heating, ventilation and a reasonable size.
For a more technical overview of how a bedroom is defined in Arlington, you can consult the 2012 Virginia State Building Code. This is the standard that Arlington has followed since July 14, 2014. I’ll paraphrase some of the pertinent items that apply, below.
Egress – Every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. The emergency escape shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches measured from the finished floor to the bottom of the clear opening. The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 9 square feet with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way. Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps.
Bedroom size – Habitable rooms shall not be less than 7 feet in any horizontal dimension with a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet.
Heating and ventilation – All habitable rooms shall have an aggregate glazing area (windows) of not less than 8 percent of the floor area of such rooms. Natural ventilation shall be through operable windows, doors, louvers or other approved openings to the outdoor air. Every dwelling unit shall be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68 degrees. Portable space heaters do not qualify.
Closets — Despite popular belief, closets are not required by the building code when defining a bedroom.
If you are still not sure whether you have a bedroom or not, you may want to consult an Arlington County code official.