Room to Live was recorded as a quick follow-up to Hex Enduction Hour, which had been released in March of the same year. It was to be Marc Riley's last album with the group.
The group had originally entered the studio to record a single but Mark E. Smith prevailed upon the group to record more songs, all of which were new to the band and had not previously been rehearsed or performed live. In accordance with this experimental approach, members were deliberately excluded from certain tracks. Smith also stated of the songs that "some of them are just me and Karl double-tracked" Whilst these remarks resulted in considerable conjecture amongst fans, the exact line-ups for each track have never been properly confirmed. In a letter to City Life magazine in April 1984, Smith noted that Riley only played on two tracks on Room to Live, and in 2008 Riley confirmed via his BBC6 radio show that he did not appear on all tracks. Despite this exclusionary policy, there was still room for guests, one of whom, Ludus' Arthur Kadmon (credited as "Cadman"), has a claim for having the shortest tenure as a Fall member – he was introduced to the group by Smith, recorded approximately sixteen seconds of guitar on "Hard Life in Country" and was then dismissed.
The album was completed prior to the group's tour of Australia and New Zealand in July and August 1982, and thus songs from the record feature heavily on the live album Fall in a Hole.
The German pressing of the album added their 1981 single "Lie Dream of a Casino Soul" and its B-side, "Fantastic Life", to the end of side B. This inclusion was repeated on the first UK CD edition of the album issued via Cog Sinister in 1998 (mastered from a particularly noisy German vinyl copy) but removed on the 2005 remaster (from the original master tape), since the two tracks had since been included on the Slates reissue. Other contemporaneous bonus material was added in its place.