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Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Posted by janesylvia (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 23, 13 at 18:31

The living room is big. I'd like to have a contractor add a wall to separate out a room (as a computer room or office). A venting skylight and closet are also planned to be added. I went to permit office in the bay area, and was told skylight cannot be accessed at emergency so the room cannot be considered as a bedroom.

There is no code requirement for a bedroom, but there is requirement for habitable rooms. It says "All habitable rooms shall have an aggregate glazing area of not less than 8% of the floor area of such rooms. Natural ventilation shall be through windows, doors, louvers or other approved openings to the outdoor air. Such opening shall be provided with ready access or shall otherwise be readily controllable by the building occupant. The minimum openable area to the outdoors shall be 4% of the floor area being ventilated."

Would the velux skylight (46.5x46.5, 12% of room floor area for a room of 120 sq ft) meet the venting requirement (4%)? The lady at the permit office said I can make it as a den but not as a bedroom since the skylight cannot be readily accessible at emergency. A house in our neighborhood sold in mid last year separated a room with skylight and was shown on zillow and redfin as 4 bedrooms instead of 3 bedrooms. Their remodel was done last year. Do I need to apply permit for a den? Would adding a den increase the house value if I sell it soon?

Any input is GREATLY appreciated.

This post was edited by janesylvia on Thu, Oct 24, 13 at 1:07


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

What is legally a bedroom and what is a real-estate bedroom are sometimes 2 different things.

Call it a den or an office, or ...

As to whether it affects resale--you need to talk with a realtor familiar with your location and market. If you are considering selling soon, it will be good for you to have an experienced realtor in and get their opinion.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

You ask the wrong person, the wrong question because sleeping rooms do have specific codes.
A bedroom must have two forms of egress. If a window is the second form, it must have a sill with a max. height of 42" above the floor, with the window area of 5.7sq.ft. and have a min. opening of 27" in any direction.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

If you are intending to use it as a bedroom, please reconsider. The requirement for emergency egress is for the safety of those who might be sleeping in it and a fire break out. They need to be able to escape if the doorway would be blocked by the fire.

Frankly, if the room is too large, it sounds more like a decorating issue than a construction issue. Focus on creating separate spaces in it through the layout of the furniture. You wouldn't get any bump in price by splitting it into another room. It would be a money losing project by the time you factored the cost of the project in.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

There seems to be a bit of confusion between the definition of a bedroom and a habitable space.

A habitable space is not a bedroom. It is a living room, den, kitchen, dining room, office, play room, etc. Bedrooms are sleeping rooms. Rooms that are NOT habitable spaces or bedrooms include bathrooms, closets, utility rooms, storage rooms, halls, and passageways.

If you intend to make this a den or office, it's a habitable space. The skylight will provide the required natural light. Ventilation may be "natural" from a door or window, or it may be "mechanical" in the form of central forced air or even a bathroom-style "fart fan"


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Yes, there does seem to be some confusion about habitable rooms.

For building code purposes, a bedroom/sleeping room IS a habitable space.

The requirement for a habitable room cannot be met with a "vent" or an "exhaust" system; the requirement is for "ventialtion" by means of a readily accessible operable opening to the outside air OR a mechanical means for delivering outside air to the room.

When "egress" is used as a general term it can apply to any way of getting out of a building but national residential building codes like the IRC have two separate sections addressing this issue.

The "Means of Egress" requirement is for a single path through doors and corridors with a clearance of 36" x 80" that does not pass through a garage.

The "Emergency Escape and Rescue Opening" requirement is only for bedrooms and basements. The size of the opening can differ with the jurisdiction and also for renovation vs new construction but typically it is 5 s.f. for the ground floor and 5.7 s.f. elsewhere. The maximum sill height is 44" and the minimum dimensions are 24" high and 20" wide.
The den can be considered part of the adjacent space if the separation wall is half open. The bedroom requirement can be avoided by using an opening larger than a standard door 40"+. Some jurisdictions will drop the escape requirement if there is no closet.

It seems to me that the building official only told you that the room cannot be used as a bedroom so tell them it is not a bedroom, find a way to supply fresh air and get a permit.

A bathroom exhaust fan with an integral fresh air supply duct might be adequate.

Here is a link that might be useful: energy recovery bathroom fan


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Considering the fact that your project will require alterations to your home's HVAC and electrical system, the expense of the project would just be taking money out of your pocket with no gain in the home's value. Most home construction projects fit that mold, actually. They LOSE money. The "return on your investment" is measured in how much of the money you spend that you could possibly "recoup" at resale time, and it NEVER approaches 100% of the money you spent.

Even a project with high return rate, like a kitchen redo under 15K, you end up losing 20% of the money you put into it as you only get 80% of that back as a higher home value, and that only if you sell immediately while the remodel is still fresh. Give that project 10 years, and it won't add anything to the home's value as it will be 10 years old.

Now, a project that adds usefulness to the home, that might be worth spending money on for the time you spend in the home. But only if you view it as an expense that adds to the convenience of living in the home, not as an "investment" in the home. An investment it's not.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Have you been taking notes?


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

How can anyone say what a modification would add to the value of a house if they have not seen the house, the design or the neighborhood? Too many TV renovation shows I suspect.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Greendesigns: << The "return on your investment" is measured in how much of the money you spend that you could possibly "recoup" at resale time, and it NEVER approaches 100% of the money you spent >>

Right! And it's an exercise in frustration to point this out, because people are absolutely convinced they'll make a profit!


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

In a market where homes often sell for above list price, it is abolutely worth the money to put in a remodel.

In a market where people are making a profit by flipping homes, how did they make this happen without extensive remodel?

Yes, it's true that your average homeowner, in a flat market somewhere in suburbia, doing things the way they like, will get negative return on investment by having a contractor grade remodel.

A professionally designed remodel adds significant value to a home, but that return on investment is highly variable based on location.

Rennovator, Sorry for stating my points incorrectly. When I said "A habitable space is not a bedroom" I meant that a bedroom must meet additional criteria.

You said: "For building code purposes, a bedroom/sleeping room IS a habitable space." which is totally correct, and not contradicting my point at all!

And instead of a "fart fan" which is set up for blowing air in the exhaust direction, an inline fan would be better. It would be installed to blow air in the supply direction. That's what i really should have said.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

In a cold climate it is not desirable to blow air into any space so a small energy recovery unit is a good idea. The smallest ones are designed as bathroom exhaust fans. An inline fan is quieter, more expensive, and more difficult to service.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Flipping a house is completely different. They seek out properties they know they can profit on by identifying properties with potential selling for a relatively low price. They calculate before hand how much they think it will be worth with the needed fixing, how much the fixing will cost, and what they think they can buy the property for. If it would be profitable, then they might buy. Then they turn it quickly.

That's different that then investing in remodels for an occupied home that is not going on the market. With all the updates we've been doing, the only projects I think will break even at selling are the kitchen wiring because there are actually lights now vs just a fan and sink light, and the utility closet because it only cost me $200 to make it actually function much better. The rest of the kitchen, and all the other stuff, are probably between almost nothing (fireplace redo) to probably about 50%. But they make it better for us living here, and hopefully it will show better than the neighbors leading to a quicker sell.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

aiden asked In a market where people are making a profit by flipping homes, how did they make this happen without extensive remodel?

You look for the cosmetic disasters, the trashed by renters, and other homes where the problems can be fixed quickly, preferable without needing permits, and still leave a profit. You cultivate a handful of good subcontractors who work quickly (and you pay them promptly). You know how to estimate the repair costs. You develop a good relationship with the building permit people by bringing them well-drawn plans that are in code (if the project needs permits). You learn to say no to houses that are going to be money losers, no matter how low the price is.

Many wanna-be "flippers" lost track of this in the great housing bubble, assumed they could resell at a price that was ever-increasing, and got stuck with a house they sunk too much money into.


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RE: Apply for permit if separating a den out of a living room?

Thank you very much for all the responses, which are very helpful.


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