What Are Egress Windows
Finishing your basement can add tremendous value and space to your home. The finished space can function as a family room, bedroom, or playroom. Depending on the basement, you might notice the need for a window or larger windows.
A window is necessary for any room designed for sleeping, making this a perfect project for a basement bedroom. If you have an older home, basement windows are rarely already installed.
Egress windows are large openings that offer an emergency exit in case of fire or other emergencies. Fire can spread rapidly, leaving as little as two minutes for you to escape safely. In the event of a fire, family members will feel secure knowing they have the ability to escape from the basement quickly. The term “egress” translates to “go out of” or ”to leave”.
These windows are crucial to home design because they provide an exit during emergencies. This also means they must legally be large enough for an adult male to fit through and must be accompanied by a ladder with steps if necessary.
Benefits of Egress Windows
Although safety is the main reason for installing egress windows, there are other benefits as well. They open up the dark space by providing natural light and make the living spaces much more inviting. By requiring them to be large, a substantial amount of light is allowed into the room. Egress windows can also increase the value of your home by adding extra square footage.
Although egress windows cost money to install, increasing the dimensions of your home adds to the total value of it. If you ever decide to sell your home, a finished basement is sure to add value. Egress windows are that perfect finishing touch to ensure peace of mind and added space.
The 4 Most Popular Egress Window Styles
There are a couple of options when it comes to choosing the perfect egress window. Casement windows are side-hinged windows that fulfill all requirements while taking up the least amount of space. They are ideal for basements or other small, confined areas.
Sliding windows are another contender when it comes to egress windows. They are excellent for adding more light to spacious basements, being wider and taller than other windows. Sliding windows must be shaped this way because of the sash, which slides horizontally. These windows open by shifting the sash from left to right.
Single-hung egress windows consist of two panes of glass. The top sash is stationary and only the bottom sash can be lowered or raised. The dimensions must be 28 inches to 60 inches wide and 23.5 inches to 60 inches high. Double-hung egress windows are the same, except they feature two panes of glass and are designed so both sides can be raised and lowered. The necessary dimensions remain the same.
The last type of egress window is known as an awning egress window. It normally has a hinge at the top and tilts outward to open. When open, they look extremely similar to an awning at a restaurant or store. Older versions of this window often do not open large enough to fit a person, so always make sure existing ones are up to code. New egress awning windows typically measure 3-4 feet wide by 2-3 feet tall. Because of their odd angle, these are mostly unsuitable for basements.
Window Size, Wells, and Installation
Building codes state the necessary size that basement windows need to be. These codes are calculated to ensure a quick exit in an emergency. The International Residential Code states that egress window requirements consist of a width of at least 20 inches, an opening height of 24 inches, a net clear opening of almost 6 feet, and a sill no more than 44 inches off the floor.
The International Building Code also states that “basements and sleeping rooms below the fourth story shall have at least one exterior emergency escape and rescue opening… Such opening shall open directly onto a public street, alley, yard, or court.”
The net clear opening refers to the actual space that is cleared that exists when the window is open. The size needs to be large enough that a firefighter can easily crawl through the window in full protective gear. It also needs to be operational from the inside without the use of keys or other tools.
If you have an older home with a window already in the basement, it may not be big enough to meet building codes. You may have to replace the window with a more updated egress window and may have to add a window well or area well. This is usually only necessary when the window sill falls below the ground.
Along with this, you will need a ladder to climb above ground if the well is deeper than 44 inches. The well must measure horizontally by 9 square feet and have a horizontal projection of 36 inches. The purpose of such a specific well is to prevent external elements from interfering if there were to be an emergency.
For example, basements are usually buried in the dirt. Exiting the window would be extremely difficult if you had to fight through the dirt and the mud. The well is made of plastic, stone, wood, or concrete to ensure a clear opening in case of emergencies. The well covers prevent the accumulation of rain or other groundwater into the well. Most well covers support up to 500 pounds but is light enough for a child to escape easily.
While the majority of new homes are built up to code, when renovating an older residence, homeowners may need to install replacement windows. These new windows need to be large enough for a firefighter to fit comfortably through. In the majority of cases, it is much easier to make a pre-existing frame taller rather than wider due to structural imbalances.
Creating a hole for a new window requires carpentry and construction experience. Over time, the egress window may need to be replaced with a newer, more energy-efficient model. Make sure you always contact any professionals needed throughout this process.
The costs of the installation of an egress window vary completely on the situation. The choice of windows, number, and whether you need a well or not are all factors in price. Above-grade windows should not amount to more than a regular. This is in the $500-$1,000 range for energy-efficient models.
For basement egress windows, the cost is higher. This is due to the location and the amount of time it takes to make the window up to code. For the basic basement egress windows, expect to pay in the $2,000 to $3,000 range. It’s not cheap, but it is necessary. You will always feel safe in your home knowing you can escape in case of an emergency.