What Are Egress Windows?
Does My Greenfield Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add extra space to your Greenfield home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to add larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide a secondary exit in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces need to have egress windows. Living spaces can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also involves unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
You don’t have much time to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become life-threatening in as little as 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 crucial substitute 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 built before World War II.
Homeowners during that era used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have preceded up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has skinny windows in the basement. Also known as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to circulate fresh air.
But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-geared first responder to enter through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Not sure if your existing basement windows meet modern requirements? All you need is a tape measure.
- Open the window as wide as possible.
- 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 taller and wider windows installed.
Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements
Building codes mandate the size of basement windows. This allows for a speedy 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 under ground level, you will need to have a well dug underneath 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 simple to install steps. Plus, you can add several small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's acceptable for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there needs to be enough space for an average-sized adult to get out.
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 an escape route, 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 vital that basement windows can fully open. The window sash shouldn’t impede the opening. This helps your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Greenfield building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and meet building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows operate like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.
Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with curtains.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large basements. These windows have to be wider and taller, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.
Sliding windows open by moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even easier operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Greenfield
Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Meet with our professionals at Pella of Greenfield. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.