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Though local laws might differ, there is no IRC rule on whether a bedroom door should swing in or out. The general practice is to install bedroom doors to swing into the room. The swing direction of a door can be influenced by factors like room size, architectural design, and personal preference.
Comfortable and relaxing are two basic requirements for a bedroom. To ensure this, you have to make sure your bedroom door functions practically and safely, even though this consideration only typically crops up when you have to install the door in a new construction, or your door opens one way and drives you crazy every time you see or use it.
If you aren’t sure of the best swing direction for your bedroom door, then you’ve landed in the right place. I’ve highlighted the benefits of inward and outward swinging bedroom doors, the most secure bedroom door swing direction, and the best swing direction for en-suite bathroom doors.
Building Codes Do Not Govern Swing Direction
The International Residential Code (IRC) guides the construction, repair, remodeling, and renovation of residential buildings.
It only states that staircases without landings cannot have any doors swinging out over the staircase (Section 188.8.131.52). This is sensible. Just imagine if your bedroom door opened over the staircase and your frantic rush to the bathroom first thing in the morning ended up knocking your parent, sibling, spouse, or child down the stairs!
I always insert this caveat when I speak about the IRC: Most local codes work with the IRC but they can make adaptations and additions. So, it’s important to check the building codes in your city before you proceed.
Benefits of Inward-Swinging Bedroom Doors
With the exception of a few rooms, most residential buildings have their interior doors swing in an inward direction, so into the room itself. Many homeowners swear that this option is best for bedrooms. Here are some advantages of inward-swinging bedroom doors.
- The inward-facing hinges of in swing doors are best for bedrooms because if you get locked inside by accident, then you can jimmy the door off it’s hinges and get out.
- In swinging bedroom doors are easier to break down from the outside, which is great if you have small kids who are just figuring out how to turn locks! This is not a problem if you have a lock and key set up because you just take the key out of the lock. However, with privacy locks, it can become an issue.
- Because the door opens inward, it cannot be barricaded from outside. Instead, you can prevent unwanted visitors by barricading the door from inside the room. This gives you a security advantage, although I hope you never need to take advantage of this benefit!
- For emergencies like burst water pipes, fire outbreaks, or earthquakes, inward swinging doors give you a level of control should there be debris or obstructions on both sides of the door. If there is something blocking the door on both sides, with an inward swinging door, you can remove the obstruction on your side of the door and then proceed to remove those on the other side after the door is open.
- An inward swinging door wouldn’t cause obstructions that can lead to inconvenience with hallway traffic. This makes it ideal for multi-occupant homes or homes with small hallways. Also, some bedrooms lead to other rooms in the house so, having your bedroom door swing inward is ideal.
- You are also not at risk of hitting someone who is walk down the hall when you open the bedroom door.
- If you have an inward swinging door on your child’s bedroom, it is more convenient to keep it open during the day while you child plays or takes a nap, so you can still monitor them and hear them if they call out or wake up.
- It’s general practice to swing bedroom doors in an inward direction, so it suits the natural disposition of most people. Some may find it incredibly difficult to adjust to pulling a bedroom door open, strange as that sounds, but it can become a pet peeve.
When Are They Not Great?
Inward swinging bedroom doors have few disadvantages, but there are two notable ones that carry a lot of weight in the decision of which way your door should swing.
The first major downside of having an inward swinging door is that it takes up space inside the room. This swing option is not always advantageous to people with small rooms. The door takes up both wall space and floor space, limiting not only furniture but also wall mirrors, paintings, etc.
The second downside is that if someone passes out, falls, or suffers any kind of medical episode that makes them unresponsive and they fall in front of the inward swinging door, then it is difficult to get to them. Opening the door may injure them further, particularly if the door was locked and requires force to open it.
Benefits of Outward-Swinging Bedroom Doors
An outward swing is a prudent choice for cramped bedroom spaces. Since the door opens outside the room, it wouldn’t encroach on the much-needed bedroom space.
In the event that you’re locked out of your room without a key or the jam gets stuck, you can open the door from outside by removing the hinge pins. Also, if you’re stuck inside the room, it’s easier to force open an outward swinging door.
Should a family member or guest fall against the bedroom door as a result of incapacitation or if the fall caused incapacitation, then you can still open the door and provide them with medical assistance.
Why They Aren’t Often Ideal
Here are some reasons an outward swinging bedroom door might not be suitable for your bedroom:
- Outward swinging doors are not ideal for emergencies like fire outbreaks and earthquakes. For instance, during a fire outbreak, debris might fall on both ends of the door. An outward swing makes it impossible to exit the room without help from outside.
- An outward swing can cause domestic accidents. You might not be aware that someone is walking past or standing on the other side of the door. So, unless it’s opened slowly, the door can smack into anyone on the other side of the door.
- An outward swinging door isn’t ideal for homes with tight hallways.
- You are more inclined to keep the bedroom door closed so that the door is not sticking out into a common way. While this is not always problematic, parents with small children find this to be a significant disadvantage.
Most Common Bedroom Door Swing Direction
Since the swing direction of bedroom doors isn’t covered by law, it is usually decided based on the preference of the homeowner or contractor. Most homes in the US adopt an inward swing for their bedroom doors.
Safest Way for a Bedroom Door to Swing
An inward swinging door is also, overall, the safest way for most bedrooms to swing.
En-Suite Bathroom Door Swing Direction
There are plenty of benefits and drawbacks of both outward and inward swinging bathroom doors. Many of these factors become less important for an en-suite bathroom.
For example, if you have an en-suite bathroom, then the privacy benefits of an inward swinging door are less important. You are either sharing with your spouse or you are not sharing with anyone at all.
Additionally, the door can swing out with less chance of causing injury or inconvenience as it would if it opened onto a hallway.
Ventilation is a major issue to consider when determining the structure of a bathroom’s features. Though a window or exhaust fan can help to prevent humidity in a bathroom, it’s best to combine them with an open bathroom door, especially immediately after taking a shower. As such, for an en-suite bathroom, it is often best to choose the direction based on the best ventilation strategies.
Of course, you can also just opt to forego the en-suite bathroom door entirely.
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