Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry: I’m a loan officer and am currently processing a purchase loan for a home with a basement bedroom. The appraiser says the basement room is not a legal bedroom because it has no windows. In another transaction, an appraiser discounted a bedroom because it did not have a closet. Could you please list the standard requirements for a legal bedroom? Michael

Dear Michael: According to the International Residential Code (IRC), a legal bedroom must be at least 70 square feet in area, with a width not less than 7 feet. The minimum required ceiling height is 7 feet 6 inches. If the ceiling is sloped, the required height applies to at least half of the ceiling. As for windows, the appraiser is correct: Bedrooms must have windows for light, ventilation, and emergency escape. If a basement room does not meet these requirements, it cannot be considered as a legal bedroom.
The minimum size requirement for bedroom windows that provide natural light is at least 8% of the floor area of the room, and minimum size for openable windows is at least 4% of the floor area of the room.

For emergency escape, the openable window must have a sill height of no more than 44 inches above the floor. The size of the opening should be at least 5.7 square feet, measuring no less than 24 inches in height and no less than 20 inches in width. Windows should also be openable without the use of a key or a tool. Screens and bars are permitted as long as they can be opened or removed from inside the dwelling, also without the use of a key or a tool.

The code makes no mention of bedroom closets because these can be provided by means of portable cabinets.

Dear Barry: I just purchased a brand new condo, and one of the bathroom sinks does not drain as quickly as it should. Whenever I run the faucet, the sink fills up faster than it can drain. The funny thing is, it doesn’t do this every time, just sometimes, and gurgling occurs at the drain when the water is going down. What could the problem be? Lisa

Dear Lisa: The gurgling sound indicates that there is a problem with the drain vent. Lack of adequate ventilation can cause slow draining. If the slow draining is intermittent, it may be occurring only when water is draining at another fixture, such as when a toilet is being flushed or when the washing machine is draining.

This needs to be corrected by the builder of the condo or by the plumbing contractor who did the installation. And don’t accept excuses from them. This is not normal plumbing performance, and they should take responsibility for it.

If you bought the condo without a professional home inspection, now is the time to correct that oversight. A truly qualified home inspector will find additional defects for the builder to repair.