Everyone loves a bonus. When you get a bonus at work or receive bonus frequent flier miles, it's a moment of joy. Likewise, if your home happens to have a bonus room, it’s a great thing. Unlike predefined areas like bathrooms or kitchens, bonus rooms are blank slates that can add extra room for living, working, or playing. Before you jump into your bonus room remodel, understand its advantages and limitations, as well as how to best tailor this space for your use.
What Is a Bonus Room?
Bonus rooms, sometimes called flex rooms, are extra spaces within the home that have no clearly defined purpose and often do not meet building code requirements for habitable rooms.
Homebuilders sometimes add dedicated bonus rooms or areas to attract home buyers. The bonus room might be a side room with no windows or doors. Or the builders may have partially built out the attic as a bonus room; lightly finished the basement; or constructed a full-size bonus room above the garage.
Bonus rooms are sometimes disregarded by appraisers and inspectors as bedrooms or living areas. Bonus rooms often do not appear on the tax rolls. Thus, in areas that base a homeowner’s property tax on the number of rooms, the homeowner’s tax may be adjusted accordingly.
General Requirements for Remodeling a Bonus Room
Before picking up a hammer, clearly define the function and purpose of your bonus room remodel. Establishing parameters will guide you with the remodel, helping you avoid unnecessary remodels or remodels that do not meet code.
Because bonus rooms are multipurpose rooms, it is up to the homeowner to push the room in the direction of their choice. Most bonus rooms lack water supply and drainage plumbing, as well as major features like closets and cabinets. Some bonus rooms may even lack doors, windows, and electrical outlets. The bonus room is effectively a raw box that is ready for anything the homeowner wants to make of it.
Check with your local building department and permitting office for code requirements when remodeling a bonus room. Aside from purpose-specific requirements, your bonus room will need to be up to code with general requirements for outlets, smoke detectors, and lighting.
Bonus Room Remodel Ideas
To remodel your bonus room into a laundry room, you first need enough space: 16 square feet, minimum, to accommodate the washer and dryer footprint, with space in the rear for connections such as the dryer vent and power cord and space in front for door opening and for use.
Laundry rooms are energy- and water-dependent. Electric dryers require a 220/240-volt outlet. Gas dryers require a natural gas line. For venting the dryer, one of the bonus room’s walls must be an exterior wall. Washers need dedicated hot and cold water supply lines, along with a drainage point.
If the bonus room has one exterior-facing wall and another wall that is shared with a kitchen, it likely can successfully be remodeled into a laundry room. Opening up the shared wall by removing drywall would provide the bonus room with water supply lines and drainage. The open wall also would provide access to run a new 220/240-volt electrical line for the dryer. Gas dryers may be able to run off of existing gas lines servicing the kitchen.
Carve out a quiet work area by converting your bonus room into a home office. Many homeowners find that the limited services and accessories found in bonus rooms do not impede work and, in fact, may even help with concentration. As long as the bonus room is up to code for electrical outlets and lighting, it can be outfitted with an Ethernet connection or you may even choose to locate your router elsewhere and work wirelessly.
Entertainment rooms tend to work well in bonus rooms. Darkness is a requirement for projector systems, and even large TV screens benefit from lower lighting. So, if your bonus room lacks fenestration, count that as a blessing if you want to enjoy distraction-free entertainment.
Stay in shape by turning your bonus room into a home gym. For yoga and light exercises, you'll need to do little more than paint the walls a pleasing color and roll out the yoga mats. If you plan to set up a weight machine or free weights, install gym flooring compatible with that intended use.
Give your house guests their own space by turning your bonus room into a guest bedroom. Generally, as long as the bonus room has a window of sufficient size, it can be used as a bedroom. Bedrooms are required to have egress in the form of a window with a minimum width of 20 inches and a minimum height of 24 inches, for a minimum total opening of 5.7 square feet. Since this is a critical fire safety requirement, check with your local permitting office before converting your bonus room into a bedroom.