What Are Egress Windows?
Does My South Burlington Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add extra space to your South Burlington home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to add wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer another way out in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more appealing.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living spaces can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also involves unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Time is limited to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become deadly in as little as 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to leave, correctly sized egress windows are a crucial 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 built before World War II.
Homeowners at that time used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have preceded modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a smaller opening.
If you own an older home, there’s a good possibility 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 present basement windows meet today’s 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 bigger windows installed.
Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements
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.
What if My Basement Windows are Below Ground Level?
If your basement windows are beneath 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 a fixed ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to install steps. Plus, you can include a couple small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's all right 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 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 essential that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct 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 South Burlington building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several kinds of windows that work well for basements and fulfill building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide a spacious opening.
Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate 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 big basements. These windows have to be bigger, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.
Sliding windows open by shifting the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even smoother operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of South Burlington
Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of South Burlington. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also recommend the right window that matches your project, budget and local egress requirements.