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What is an Egress Window and Do I Need One?

 A basement home improvement project  is one of the best interior home projects you can do for your home, but it is often overlooked. A basement refinishing not only increases the overall square footage of your home, but it also adds a new living space for your family to enjoy. However, basement projects need to meet all building codes, and this can include an egress window. If you are unsure what an egress window is, it is a window that can serve as an emergency exit from a living space underground. Do you need one in your basement? It depends. Let us take a look.

Does My Basement Need an Egress Window?

Egress windows are designed to be used as an exit in an emergency. There are several building codes that cover not only the necessity of the window, but also the specific structural and size requirements of the unit itself.

Essentially, this means the main situation where you need an egress window is if you include a bedroom in your finished basement design. What defines a bedroom? Any room that is at least the size of a typical bedroom and that has a closet could be classified as a bedroom, and therefore require an egress window.

Are There Any Benefits of an Egress Window (Even with no Bedroom in my Basement)?

Even if you do not have a bedroom in your basement, you may still enjoy the benefits and features of an egress window, such as:

  •   Natural light: Due to the nature of egress windows, they are designed to be large enough for a person to exit to the exterior of the home, which means they offer a large amount of natural light and  can brighten up any dark basement.
  •   More bedrooms: Egress window is required to include a bedroom in the design of your basement.  Adding a bedroom is not only beneficial while you live there, but also adds considerable value to it if you ever intend to sell your home.
  •   Added safety: Egress windows are designed for safety, so even if you do not have a bedroom in your basement, in the event of an emergency, your basement can serve as an escape route.

Requirements for an Egress Window

If you have an older house, you might already have a window in the basement, but may not be big enough to qualify as an egress window. According to the International Residential Code (IRC), the window must meet the following requirements:

  • The window sill can’t exceed 44” from the floor.
  • The minimum opening area must be at least 5.7 square feet.
  • Opening height has to be at least 24 inches.
  • Minimum opening width is 20 inches.

You may need to have a window well or area well. The wells are commonly required when the window sill falls below the ground. Depending on the design, You may also have to provide a ladder so that you can safely climb out of the well onto higher land. If you do not have at least one window in your basement, you need to cut into the existing foundatation to create the opening for an egress window. However, even if you have one window and it doesn’t meet the above requirements, you may have to make these alterations to have an egress-compliant window installed. 

Are There Any Other Requirements Needed for an Egress Window?

When installing an egress window, it must also meet the following requirements. An egress window must open from the inside without the use of a key or tool; all grilles, bars and screens on or around the egress window must also open from the inside without the use of a key or tools; and finally, the egress window must be able to fully open (wide enough for an exit.)

Do I Need a Professional to Install it?

When it comes to installing a new window, it is a task always best left to professional home improvement contractors. You need the right skills, equipment, and knowledge to correctly and safely carry out the job, especially if it is to be up to code. At Windows on Washington, we are specialists in new and replacement windows, so get in touch today to see how we can help. Or, if you are still unsure if you need an egress window, we can help you determine if your basement needs one.

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Topics: Windows, Home Improvement, Home Improvement Contractor