This would be in Charlotte, NC, Mecklenburg County. I vaguely remember hearing somewhere that rooms that are below grade are required to have a full size window in them or they can't be considered part of the square footage calculation or are a safety hazard or something like that.

Any truth to that statement?

3 Answers 3


I can't speak for your local codes, but in general codes (in the US anyway) require a minimum ratio of the area of window to area of the room for it to be called "living space". There are also requirements for egress in that you should have two ways to get out of any "living space" room, usually satisfied by a door and a window. An egress window has to meet minimum requirements for area and either width or height of the opening, and with a basement window, you have to have a window well that's large enough that you can climb into it from inside the house.

  • I'll need to research what those numbers are; will add them later.
    – Niall C.
    Mar 1, 2011 at 20:53
  • 1
    I'm not sure of the "living space" requirement, but I believe in most jurisdictions (if not all) all rooms used as bedrooms must have an egress window (and I think there are minimum dimensions to qualify). There are also requirements for the exterior (think fire escapes, window wells). Bottom line, if someone wakes up and there's a fire, there needs to be at least two separate ways for them to get out.
    – gregmac
    Mar 1, 2011 at 21:56
  • 2
    A basement room only has to have an egress window if it is bedroom. Mar 1, 2011 at 23:50
  • 1
    @shirlock: not exactly true in my locality (Portland, OR): Basements with living space and all sleeping rooms: must have at least one egress window or exterior door for escape or rescue in case of an emergency. An egress window or an exterior door in a sleeping room located in the basement satisfies the requirement for at least one egress window in the entire basement. (source: portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?c=45053&a=93019)
    – Niall C.
    Mar 2, 2011 at 2:16
  • Many states or municipalities have codes that exceed the national code. That is why it is so important to check locally. Mar 2, 2011 at 7:50

The only requirement for egress windows are in bedrooms for new construction, rental properties and second floor bedrooms without a second door and stairway. There are lots of "grandfather" rules as well. An under grade casual living space has no such requirement. I pull permits all the time for cellar rooms and no window specs are in effect in the newest IRC. You must check your local ordinances which may exceed IRC requirements.


Mecklenburg County refers to the North Carolina Residential Code, which requires not only a second means of egress from any bedroom, but also a smoke detector in the room or immediately outside the room. Here is a document where the county makes an interpretation of the residential code:

http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/CodeEnforcement/ResidentialBuilding/Documents/Sleepingroom.pdf (PDF)

The City of Charlotte also has ordinances that impact your ability to use a basement as a legal bedroom. Part II, Chapter 11, Article III:


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.