Can you add a bedroom to an apartment in NYC?
In NYC, you will need a permit to add a bedroom or change the number of rooms in an apartment or house. Bedrooms and habitable spaces have room requirements regarding size, dimensions, windows, accessibility, and fire protection. Adding a bedroom to an apartment involves many code issues, planning, and design.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture, an NYC-based architecture firm. We get many inquiries from people wanting to add a bedroom to an apartment. Adding a bedroom is a relatively common practice. Let’s discuss some rules and protocols for adding a bedroom to your apartment. The rules listed below are based on New York City regulations.
Adding A Bedroom / Adding A Room
If you live in an apartment building, you will want to ensure your Condo, Co-Op Board, or management company has no objections to changing the number of bedrooms in your apartment. All renovations must be approved by your building’s board and the Department of Buildings. You can read our article on Alteration Agreements for more information on this process.
The first step in adding a room will be to hire an architect. The architect will determine the legality of the work. In New York City, your architect will file an alteration with the Department of Buildings (DOB).
Rules For Bedrooms and Living Rooms
There are many building codes for rooms in a residential space. The following is a brief synopsis of some of these regulations within the New York City Building Code and the Multiple Dwelling Law. Dining rooms, kitchenettes, and bathrooms have different rules that we won’t be addressing in this article. The codes set rules for habitable rooms which are:
“All rooms and spaces within a dwelling unit in Group R or I-1, including bedrooms, living rooms, studies, recreation rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, and other similar spaces”
Another post we wrote goes deeper into NYC Code requirements for habitable space if you want to learn more. All new rooms and existing rooms must comply with the following:
Minimum Room Size:
- Rooms must be a minimum of 80 square feet.
- One room must be at least 150 square feet.
- Do not count closets or wall thickness for the floor area of rooms. Room areas are net measurements, not gross.
- Rooms must have a minimum height of 8 feet.
- The room width and depth must have a clear space of 8 feet as its minimum dimension.
- For bedrooms in an apartment with three or more bedrooms, half the rooms can have a minimum dimension of 7 feet.
- By half the rooms: we round down, so if there are three bedrooms, one can be 7 feet wide.
- The bedrooms that are 7 feet wide still need to be 80 square feet minimum.
- Rooms cannot have a space more than 30 feet from a window.
- With some exceptions
Natural Light and Air for Legal Rooms:
- Each room must have at least one window.
- The window must be at least 12 square feet, or it does not count for natural light and air.
- The total aggregate window area, must be at least 10% of the room floor area for natural light.
- For example, if you have a 240 square foot room, you need 24 square feet of window. You can have (2) 12 square foot windows.
- If your room is less than 120 square feet, you still need a 12-square-foot window.
- For a dining room, the rule is 1/8 the floor area.
- You need half the required light for Natural Air, so 5% of the room floor area. When the windows are all open, the open area is 5% of the room floor area.
- Windows on a shared property line do not count unless you have a legal agreement with your neighbor approved by the DOB, such as a zoning lot merger. The windows must comply with all required clearances.
- The top of at least one window must be at least 7 feet off the floor.
General Room Requirements:
- If your building is required to be handicap accessible, then the new rooms must all be ADA compliant.
- You will need to get a permit.
- Dining rooms, bathrooms, and kitchenettes (under 80 square feet) have different rules.
- Before filling with DOB, you must get approval from your Co-Op, condo, or management company.
Adding a Bedroom to Your Apartment Examples
Below are some diagrams of apartments where we added bedrooms. Adding a room will only work in some apartments, but it is often relatively easy for us to assess the feasibility.
One Bedroom to a Two Bedroom Conversion:
This apartment conversion was in Manhattan on the East Side. In this project, the client wanted to divide his relatively large living room into a second bedroom and a living room. We added the second bedroom (see 3D floor plan for before and after). The converted plan maintained a sizeable living area by adding only a small bedroom of just over 100 square feet. This is a good example of adding a room with minimal impact on the surrounding space.
2 Bedroom to 3 Bedroom Conversion:
This apartment was in a prewar building in Manhattan, where we made a two-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom. We relocated the kitchen, opened it to the new living room, and converted the living-dining room to a bedroom.
Studio Apartment To 1 Bedroom Conversion:
This studio apartment was in Chelsea. The clients had an alcove that opened to the living area. To give them privacy and separation, we built a new partition wall with double pocket doors. While the doors create a separate room, they still preserve the expansiveness of the space when the pockets are left open. Adding a room to this apartment gave the owners a real sense of privacy and seclusion that studio apartments don’t have.
Studio Apartment To 1 Bedroom Conversion:
This studio apartment is in Chelsea. The clients had an alcove that opened to the living area. We built a new partition wall with double pocket doors to give them privacy and separation. While the doors create a separate room, they still preserve the expansiveness of the space when left open. Adding a room to this apartment gave the owners a sense of privacy and seclusion that studio apartments don’t have.
Divide a Room into Two Bedrooms
Below is one of our projects where we divided one bedroom into two bedrooms and added a door for the second bedroom from the open living room.
Adding a Room in NYC
This article reviewed some basic concepts concerning adding a room in NYC. As an architect, I study NYC DOB rules and regulations, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition but provides a general overview of the topic.
Thank You for reading our post on Adding a Bedroom to an Apartment.
I hope this article was helpful to you. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you are planning, contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.