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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Rochester Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add extra space to your Rochester home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.

As you plan your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to add bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer a secondary exit in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more welcoming.

Basement bedrooms and living spaces must have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also involves unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.

Time is limited to escape a house fire. It can become life-threatening in only 2 minutes and overtake a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to get out, big egress windows are a critical altermative exit.

Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small

Basements in older homes were not created to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes made before World War II.

Homeowners back then used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have been built before up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.

If you have an older home, there’s a good chance it has skinny windows in the basement. Also called hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to provide fresh air.

But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-geared first responder to fit through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Uncertain if your existing basement windows meet present-day requirements? All you need is a tape measure.

  • Open the window completely.
  • Measure the width and height of the opening.
  • Multiply the width by the height.

Is your measurement equivalent to the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have bigger windows installed.

Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements

Building codes mandate the size of basement windows. This allows for a fast 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.

What if My Basement Windows are Below Ground Level?

If your basement windows are below ground level, you will need to have a well dug at the base of the window frame. This well needs to be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches long. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, it will need an attached ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to install steps. Plus, you can include several small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.

It's OK for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there must be enough room for an average-sized adult to escape.

There should be at least 36 inches between the top of the window well and the bottom of the deck or porch joists.

Other Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements

Because basement windows are a way out, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removable from the inside without keys or tools.

It’s also important that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t interfere with the opening. This helps your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Rochester building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and fulfill building code requirements.

Casement Windows

Casement windows are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows operate like a door, swinging free to provide a spacious opening.

Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of shades.

This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.

Sliding Windows

Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large basements. These windows have to be larger, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.

Sliding windows open by pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even more effortless operation.

This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Rochester

Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be lifesaving equipment in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Rochester. We can help when you're updating your basement.

We can also help you find the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.

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