Articles & Advice

Egress Windows Help Escape Tragedy

by Marc Dickinson

See if We Have Top-Rated
Window Contractors in Your Area

Related Articles

  • Find Top-Rated Pros
Need Help Financing
Your Project?

Find a loan that fits your project needs with HomeAdvisor's exclusive lender.

Learn More
Windows

Egress is literally defined as "a path out" or "to emerge," and these terms directly apply to the design principles behind egress windows. In case of an emergency, windows installed in any sleeping room must pass strict codes so that occupants can exit and rescue specialists can enter the bedroom. In other words, when a fire occurs, your bedroom windows have to be of a certain size so you can escape and firemen can come in. These requirements also include basement egress windows if you have a finished bedroom below.

The Regulations
Remember, when you're adding a bedroom to your home or basement, you have to keep certain requirements in mind:

  • Minimum width of opening: 20 in.

  • Minimum height of opening: 24 in.

  • Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor)

  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in.

These regulations are new so if you have an older house make sure you keep it up to code for your own safety. Another thing to keep in mind is if you're converting a basement storage unit or an attic office into a bedroom, you have to keep things up to date. Many times you will need an inspection when you renovate a particular space into a bedroom, but inspectors can't keep an eye on everything and probably won't be breathing down your neck, so do yourself a favor: take it upon yourself to do the right thing.

They may be a bit of pain to install if you have to widen or heighten a window space, and buying new windows can certainly put a strain on your wallet if they aren't factored into your original budget, but windows are actually vital lifesaving equipment, so this is not the time to be frugal or take short cuts. The safety of your family could be at risk someday, and these safety basement windows could prevent serious tragedy.

Use this link to hire one of our local contractors to install

Replacement Windows

Other Installation Tips
These windows not only have to be of a certain size, they also come with other necessities in order to enable peak performance. They must be operable from the inside without tools or keys. You can still have bars or grills attached as long as they too can be opened without tools and keys.

Plus, when these windows are ajar, they must have an opening wide enough to crawl through. Here are some tips about which window type may be best for you:

Casement Windows: These are the ideal basement egress windows. They take up little wall space for your bedroom renovation and their side hinges and wide openings allow for easy escape.
Double-Hung or Glider Windows: These windows can certainly pass code, but they have to be big. When these windows are open, there is still glass taking up half the opening. Therefore, to achieve the required size, these windows have to be bigger than you may want in your bedroom or basement.
Awning Windows: This type of window is a bit trickier. Since they swing out from the bottom these will not make very suitable basement egress windows; they may actually trap you in case of a fire. Plus, even in above-ground bedrooms, their opening hardware and hinges are centered in the middle and can block an easy escape.

Basement Window Wells
Basement egress windows have special requirements. Since you're below ground, you have to make sure that the window can still fully open without obstruction. Make sure the basement window well has enough area to move around in and if the well is especially deep, make sure you have a ladder attached to it for an easy getaway. Also, if the well is under a deck, make sure there is enough space between the deck and the window. In other words, give yourself enough room to escape. These specialty windows don't do anybody any good if there are other exterior obstacles that may end up trapping you.

It may take some extra renovation and you may have to invest some extra money, but egress windows are made for your safety, so make sure you plan ahead and always get the project inspected before, during, and after installation. Plus, it's always a good idea to look up your own local safety codes and get professional consultation prior to construction.

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.