Every habitable room in the house must have at least one openable window. Sometimes doit-yourself homeowners finish off an area in the basement or attic for use as an extra bedroom even though there is no window in the room. If you find such a room, be advised that it is a potential fire hazard.

When a room is used as a bedroom, certain items are necessary as fire-safety measures. As a means of escaping in the event of a fire, each bedroom should have at least one outside window whose sill height is not more than 44 inches above the floor. The window should also have a minimum net clear open-able area of 5.7 square feet with no dimension less than 20 inches in width and 24 inches in height. If a bedroom is located two stories above the ground, a rope ladder or equivalent device should be provided in the room to enable the inhabitants to escape once they climb through the window. Some municipalities have local ordinances against converting a third-level attic into bedrooms without adequate fire protection. If you find bedrooms in a converted attic, you should check with the local building department to see if a certificate of occupancy had been issued for those rooms.

Last, from a fire-safety point of view, every bedroom must have an entry door. This door should be closed when the occupant goes to sleep. A closed door reduces drafts, thus reducing flame-spread time, and drastically reduces smoke infiltration. Check to see if there is a smoke detector on the wall or ceiling. There should be. In new construction most states require that all of the smoke detectors in the house be hard wired and interconnected. Check the operation of the detector. If it’s interconnected with the others, hold your ears. The alarm noise is quite loud.

Don’t forget to look for a closet. Is there a ceiling light fixture in the closet? More often than not the light fixture is a porcelain base with an exposed incandescent bulb. Check to see if the bulb is relatively close to the closet shelf. If it is, it’s a potential fire hazard. If clothing or other fabrics come in contact with a bulb that has been inadvertently left on for an extended period of time, they could ignite and start a fire. In some homes where bedrooms have been added, closets are omitted in the renovation. There should be a closet in every bedroom. If there isn’t one, record that fact on your worksheet.

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