Den Vs Bedroom – What’re the Differences?

Some people describe a certain type of room in their home as a ‘den,’ but the definition of what a den actually is is quite vague.

If you’re looking for a new home and have spotted some real estate listings mentioning a ‘den’ as one of the rooms, you might be wondering what sort of room this actually is and whether you could use it as a bedroom. Here we look at what a room needs to have to be classified as a bedroom and what a den will feature by comparison.

What is a Bedroom?

What is a Bedroom?

We all know what a bedroom is, a private area where you sleep, but many people don’t know what is actually required in a room for it to be counted as a bedroom. When it comes to the definition of a bedroom, you might assume that it is simply a room with a bed in it, but a bedroom requires several other components for safety and real estate purposes. The typical requirements as advised by both building code and realtors are listed below.


To meet the building code safety requirements, a bedroom must have two exit points. Typically one of these will be an internal doorway that opens up into the home, for example, into a hallway or living room. The other exit point could be an external door if the bedroom is on the ground floor or has a balcony, but most commonly, the second exit point in a bedroom will be a window. As building code identifies that this is a vital exit point in the event of a fire, a bedroom window must be a minimum size of 5.7 square feet and be no more than 3.6 feet from the floor of the room so that a person could reasonably pull themselves out of it.

The opening of the window should also be a minimum of two feet in height and 1.6 feet in width, allowing an average-sized person to fit through the window as a means of emergency exit. Building codes will differ depending on the governing body, but most will also detail that a smoke alarm will need to be fitted within a specific distance of a bedroom. Newer properties are often also required to have an arc fault circuit interrupter in a bedroom, which will interrupt the flow of electricity in the event of a house fire.

Real Estate

Real estate requirements are different from those set out by building codes for safety purposes. The amount of bedrooms a property has dramatically affects its sale price, with every additional bedroom adding significant value to the home. For this reason, some people might put a bed in a small office space or den to try to sell it as an additional bedroom and get more money on the sale of their house.

To prevent people from doing this and create more of a level playing field, most realtors agree to specific requirements which have to be met in order for a bedroom to be listed as such. This can vary from state to state, but generally, in real estate terms, a bedroom will need to have a closet, a window, and a door that closes to create a private space.

There are exceptions to these rules. For example, in an older house where fitted closets were not built as standard, a bedroom could have a freestanding closet to be categorized as a bedroom. In some states, a bedroom will need to have a minimum ceiling height or a minimum total square footage to be listed as a bedroom by a realtor.

What is a Den?

What is a Den?

A den is an ambiguous term that people use to refer to a variety of different room types. As there is no agreed distinct definition of what a den is, it tends to be more of a colloquial term used to describe a bonus room in a home. If a property has two living rooms, the smaller of the two might be described as a ‘den.’ This could be used for any number of purposes, for example, as a games room, a study, a library, a man cave, or a children’s playroom.

If a property has been extended, then the additional room achieved might be considered a ‘den,’ as it is not one of the primary living spaces in the home. Realtors use the word ‘den’ to describe a room in a property that could be utilized in any way the buyer likes, for example, if they have a specific hobby, such as playing the guitar or building model railways.

Is a Den the Same as a Bedroom?

Essentially, no, the words ‘den’ and ‘bedroom’ cannot be used interchangeably. A den does not need to have a window as it is not designed for people to sleep in. By comparison, a bedroom will contain people who are in a vulnerable state- asleep- for as many as 12 hours out of every 24. This is why it is essential that they have access to an emergency exit in case they are alerted to the presence of a house fire while they are sleeping. For this reason, though you might be tempted to use a large den as an additional bedroom for a family member by assembling a bed in it, this would be a very bad decision in terms of safety.

If you did want to convert a den to a bedroom, the best idea would be to do this by installing an appropriately sized window in order to meet the local building code requirements in your area. While a den should not be used as a bedroom, a bedroom can be used as a den. If you have unused bedrooms in your home, there is, of course, no reason why you can’t turn these into dens to accommodate hobbies within the family or create an informal space for teenagers to hang out with their friends.