Can a bedroom *not* have an exterior wall?

There is a 19th century mercantile building for sale in a town nearby. I daydream of buying it and turning it into a bed and breakfast. The upstairs is an an open plan of about 5000 square feet. Because of the current layout it makes sense to me to put all of the bedrooms in a block in the middle, two bedrooms wide and several deep, and have hallways running around the perimeter.

I think that most fire codes require that each bedroom have a second means of egress. Usually, this is done by having a window in each bedroom, but is it required if the bedroom is in the middle of the house? I guess that I could also have a service hallway running between each row of bedrooms. Would this work, and would it be the only way to do it?

Depends on your local/state building code, I would think.

I know you didn't ask this, but unless the views or traffic outside the building are dreadful, don't people generally want windows in their rooms?      For a B&B, I'd want a view, preferably with a balcony.   And if you have no windows, your lighting and air conditioning bills are going to be higher.     

Even if you have skylights, I can’t imagine that would count as a second egress.

Personally, if I arrived at a B&B and found out that the room didn’t have a window, I’d ask for my deposit back, drive away and never come back.

A bedroom without a window sounds horrible to me. Perhaps that’s just my personal issue, but I can’t see it being popular.

Also, even if the law for some reason doesn’t require another exit I’d prefer not to have a deathtrap on my hands I think.

What about bedrooms around the outsides and some other useful rooms in the middle?

Perhaps this explains it. I know I’ve never lived in any house that had any room without an exterior wall besides a bathroom. In fact I can’t think of any house I’ve been even in that had one. When my father was looking at what I call “Victorian McMansions” (i.e. large Main Street dwellings within easy strolling distance of a small town shopping area, which are today typically funeral homes or B+Bs ;)), none of them had interior rooms, either.

wouldn’t bother me not to have a window

I’ve stayed in a couple of places where some of the rooms didn’t have exterior walls. In one place ( a dude ranch), there were windows onto a hallway. In the other, the hotel originally had a courtyard of sorts, with an outdoor pool. The courtyard was enclosed, and those rooms kept their windows overlooking the former courtyard. I don’t think I could stay in a room with no window at all. But in the second case, and in fact, in most hotels I’ve stayed in, the window isn’t a second means of egress. They frequently don’t open and often the room is too high to leave through the window. I would imagine that hotels have different requirements than homes, and it’s possible that due to the location and/or zoning, this building might have to meet hotel requirements rather than those for private homes.

You need the egress, unless it’s grandfathered in as an existing bedroom. But then, if you are trying to operate it as a B&B, you probably can’t get a license or insurance with that layout.

My niece bought a mansion in Oregon and converted it to a bed and breakfast. The outside perimeter was a 6ft walkway surrounding the house front and back on both levels. On the top at the level on the rear of the house she enclosed the walkway effectively creating interior bedrooms but they still have windows in them. I stayed in one and really didn’t give it much thought as I still had a forest view.

There’s no such thing as “a bedroom” in the complete abstract, so you need to specify a purpose for which you would like to know if the rooms you describe are “a bedroom.”

Assuming you are specifying the fire code of the jurisdiction where such building is located as such purpose, then no one here will be able to answer your question. Mainly because you haven’t told us the name of the jurisdiction.

Thanks, all. The building is in a small town (in Texas, if it matters), and finding out what is actually allowed is probably just a matter of calling one person with many hats at City Hall. This is more of an academic exercise for the time being. Actually buying the building is just out of reach at this time, but it would make for a dream home for retirement. Making it a B&B is just a way to justify actually buying it.

I could put the bedrooms on the outside, and it may be the smartest idea when it comes to cooling something that it this big and intermittently occupied. Putting the bedrooms against the side walls could leave a large hallway (about 20 feet wide) running from the common areas to the back of the house. Putting them on the inside would make room for a wide walkway that runs around the house and would allow the mechanical to be more centrally located. The kitchen could also be centrally located at the front and have a back wall.

I guess that I’m not asking if I should put the bedrooms in the middle; I’m more asking how it could be done.

Would it be practical to create a mini courtyard?

If the walls are on the lot line, you may not be allowed to add windows unless you own the buildings on both sides. As noted, the best bet is probably to create an open-air corridor on the second floor, starting about 20 feet back from the front wall, with the rafters forming a pergola overhead. Thus you have a U-shaped second floor, which can be divided into rooms that open onto the corridor. I think, however, that this will not be all that cheap because of the work to create a weatherproof outdoor courtyard from what used to be a simple lightweight second floor, and the work to fireproof things that were never intended to be much more than a barn.

The only boarding facilities I’ve heard of that fit your description are dog kennels and jails. From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, most realtors will tell you that, to be a bedroom, it must have a closet, window and reasonable access to a bathroom. I’ve seen older houses where the seller has tried to claim an interior room as a third or fourth bedroom, but it’s misleading. That’s a den.

Put a fire pole in each room.

My fireman husband says, yes, it can be done, but it’s very expensive.
The hallway would have to be rated. No light switches, or outlets in the drywall, lights have to be controlled from another area. It would need fire doors at certain intervals.
All areas would require sprinklers and smoke detectors.
The building has to have at least 3 sides accessible to fire equipment.
If it has a basement, there are even more restrictions.

Remember, fire codes for commercial buildings are more stringent than for homes. A B&B is a hotel, not a home.

The Britannia Hotel in Manchester is a converted cotton mill and has internal rooms with no windows. They’re a bit cheaper than the windowed rooms. The strange thing is that the interior rooms are also the designated smoking rooms and get pretty smelly with nowhere for the smoke to go.

I once stayed in a chain (Hampton Inn, maybe), where I got literally the last room available, and it was an internal room that had been converted from some sort of storage space. It had a window, but the window just opened into the hall, with no exterior view. It was a bit comical to look at.

I saw a few floor plans in Toronto and Vancouver where the condos had 1-1/2 bedrooms. the second room could be an office or bedroom, but due to the long-narrow plan, the room had no exterior wall. The outward-facing wall met up with the living room or a breakfast nook or something. They used some sort of trick like frosted glass french doors (as well as the regular interior door) to provide exterior light to the room but keep privacy.

Of course, with a high-rise apartment made of concrete with only 1 door into the unit, details like “fire proof” and alternate exit" don’t really apply. The outer wall and floor will not burn, so the issue is smoke from other units or burning contents.

Due to changing a set of pre-approved plans, we ended up with a (big) room with no windows on the lower level. B&S would not approve it as a bedroom, would not allow it to be hooked up to the central HVAC and required it to be labelled “storage” on the stamped plans. FYI.