Egress windows are large openings that offer a secondary exit in case of an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also involves unfinished basements. Egress windows are important and serve as a peace of mind in case a house fire were to happen.
Building codes mandate the size of basement windows. This allows for a quick exit in an emergency. According to the International Residential Code, basement windows must have:
An opening width of at least 20 inches.
An opening height of at least 24 inches.
A net clear opening of at least 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet.
A sill no more than 44 inches off the floor.
If your basement windows are beneath ground level, you will need to have a well dug underneath the window frame. This well must be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches long. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, it will need a fixed ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to add steps. Plus, you can incorporate a couple of small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plants.
It’s acceptable for basement windows to be under a deck or porch, but there needs to be enough clearance for an average-sized adult to exit. There should be at least 36 inches between the top of the window well and the bottom of the deck or porch joists.
Because basement windows are a way out, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removed from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also vital that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.