Can You Use a Basement as a Bedroom?

Many homeowners use their basements for a variety of reasons. They store goods, do laundry, play ping pong or foosball. Sometimes basements aren’t even a finished space and are used as a hangout space or a place for old furniture. But often, families grow, and you may decide to optimize that space as another bedroom. Can you use it as a bedroom? Is it legally considered a bedroom? Can you add value to your home with a bedroom in the basement? This article will cover all you need to know about having a bedroom in the basement!

Can You Use a Basement as a Bedroom?

So, can you use your basement as a bedroom? In short, yes. You can use your basement as a bedroom, but you have to ensure that it complies with the proper building codes. Basement living spaces require an emergency exit and rescue openings, also known as an egress code. These codes don’t just protect you, but they also allow firefighters or first responders to carry their gear through these openings.

Egress Codes in Oklahoma

An egress window allows for escape so that occupants in case of an emergency may exit the building. A home will have a door to the main yard, but a basement will also include an egress window that meets the International Building Code’s requirements. 

In Oklahoma, basement window requirements for an egress include a minimum opening of 5.7ft² above grade, 5ft² below grade, minimum width of 20 inches, and a minimum height of 24 inches. Window wells can also be used to satisfy the egress code as long as the window well meets these requirements: minimum width of 36 inches, minimum projection of 36 inches, a maximum depth of 44 inches without an egress ladder, and an unlimited depth with a permanent egress ladder. 

Legality

It isn’t illegal to have a bedroom in the basement. You have all the right to put one in or convert your basement into one as long as you respect the building code requirements. Any room that has a closet or is attached to a bathroom is considered a bedroom. It’s also essential to have a smoke detector. Radon detectors are highly recommended. Some states require that your basement be tested for the appropriate radon level since radon is the highest in the basement. 

Adding Value to Your Home

Your basement may not come to mind when you think about adding value to your home. Usually, you think of a space that’s dark, damp, and covered in cobwebs. With the proper vision and ventilation, you could transform your basement into an appropriate area of living. Adding a bedroom in the basement does add value to your home. If you end up selling your home later, buyers are always looking for functional space and are often willing to spend a little more for it. 

You can use this new bedroom space as a guest room or a room for elderly parents or college-aged kids. If your basement has a door to the yard, you can easily convert it to an Airbnb or use it as a rental. 

Adding a bedroom in the basement won’t increase your property taxes as much as an above-ground addition would. So, even though it does increase, it won’t rise as much as an above-grade addition. 

A finished basement adds to appraised value, but just how much? Your local county assessor’s office determines the appraised value. Since a basement is below grade, or underground, they aren’t appraised as square footage. Rather, its value is accounted for separately in a section called “Basement & Finished Rooms Below Grade.”

If you’re looking for someone to help you convert your basement to a bedroom or any other home project, contact a Tulsa construction company!

A Bedroom Defined

You should check with your local building code for the exact specifications, but there are a few ways you can differentiate a bedroom from another room. The size and number of square feet you have matters. Generally, 70 to 80 square feet is an acceptable minimum. A bedroom should measure at least 7 feet in a horizontal direction. This applies to the horizontal footage and the minimum ceiling height. Traditionally, there should be two forms of egress: a window and a door. Two other requirements include the minimum window size, as previously stated, and a heating and cooling system

A Finished Space Defined

A “finished basement” is subjective and varies among homeowners and real estate professionals. A basement is finished when the basement level is as complete or similar to the upstairs living areas. Typically, this includes the heating, electrical system, floors, level ceilings, finished walls, and an accessible stairway or entrance. If you have a bedroom, it should have a closet and egress window to be defined as a bedroom. Although, there is debate about whether a closet is necessary to define a bedroom. 

Here are a few things that can help you determine if your basement is a finished space:

Heating and Cooling System

If your basement uses the same heating and cooling system, then it’s considered finished. If your basement uses a window AC unit or other means to cool it down and a wall heater to warm it, it isn’t considered finished. To be “finished,” it must have a permanently installed cooling and heating unit with a constant power source. Consistent power sources include electricity, natural gas, an HVAC system, heating oil, or a permanently installed propane tank.

Matching the Rest of the House

Do your basement floors and walls match the rest of the house? If they are concrete and don’t match the wood, tile, carpet, vinyl, etc., your basement is unfinished. Any painted or exposed plywood or concrete is considered incomplete. The floors must be covered entirely. Just like the floors, the basement ceiling and walls must also be covered. Ceilings and walls that are only painted concrete or don’t have drywall, then it’s also considered to be unfinished. There also shouldn’t be any exposed poled or beams. 

Access to the Basement

A basement that is considered finished must be directly adjacent and accessible to the rest of the house. If your basement doesn’t have direct access or permanent stairs, it’s deemed unfit to be a living area. Spaces, such as loft areas that are only accessible by ladders, are not considered living areas. 

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Both of these alarms are necessary for new construction. Carbon monoxide alarms detect carbon monoxide gas. At least one carbon monoxide detector should be installed for each floor of your home. This includes the basement. Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling near the bottom of the stairs that lead to the next level. They should be installed at least 10 feet from cooking appliances as well. 

Before You Hire a Contractor

Before you hire a contractor, you should take the time to visualize how you want your basement to function. Think about what activities and tasks you accomplish within the space currently and what you would want it to look like for the future. The decor and floor plan affect the look and placement of the bedroom. 

It’s essential that you check for moisture and dampness before installing insulation, closets, wallboard, or shelving. If you find moisture issues, you should get waterproofing services or instructions from a home improvement professional. 

Your Basement Bedroom’s Look

It’s important to remember that there several factors that influence the look of your basement bedroom. When you decide on a paint color, keep in mind that the natural light is often blocked in basements. Generally, lighter colors work better at lightening a basement bedroom. Also, a basement bedroom may not be the best place for an accent wall. 

If Your Basement Doesn’t Meet the Minimum Requirements

If your basement doesn’t end up meeting the minimum requirement, you can still change your basement to be labeled as something different. If you’re trying to attract buyers, you could convert it to an office, den, nursery, or an extra room. Real estate agents often call additional space in a house a “bonus” room. A buyer can use this as they see fit, and it makes for a more attractive home!

If you aren’t interested in selling your home, you can use your bonus room for your personal use! If you have a hobby or like to have a creative place, you can use the additional space in your basement for these things. Whether you use this space as a place for friends to gather or a place you use to focus on your passions, this bonus space can transform your home!

No matter what you decide to do with this space, ensure that you follow and comply with the law and regulations. Make sure that you understand the local laws regarding bedrooms before you decide to call your basement a bedroom.

Matt McWilliams
matt@mcwilliamsmedia.com

Hi there! My name is Matt and I write for Expert Home Report. I enjoy writing about everything related to home improvement, home tips and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either spending time with my family, doing a DIY project or learning a new skill.