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A basement egress window in a basement dramatically brightens an otherwise dark, dingy room, but it also has a more serious purpose. It’s large enough to offer a safe exit from the basement in the event of fire or other emergency. Adding an egress window is essential any time you remodel your basement to make a new bedroom, office or other living space.
Basement Egress Windows: If you have decided to finish to basement, or are considering renovating your basement, you will most likely find that your town requires the installation of basement egress windows. Most building codes, if not all mandate that egress windows be installed in order to provide an adequate escape route in an emergency situation, such as a fire. Besides adding safety and increasing your home's value, egress windows can greatly increase airflow and light, changing what was once a dark basement into a light, airy living space.
Egress means "to emerge" or "a path out." Egress windows are openings specifically designed to provide an escape route in an emergency. Local and national building code regulations define the specific minimum requirements for these windows to ensure that you can get out and rescue personnel such as police and firefighters can get in. Egress windows must meet these specifications, and are required to be installed in every habitable sleeping area such as bedrooms and basements.
An egress window must satisfy four International Residential Code (IRC) criteria:
The horizontal dimensions of the window well shall provide a minimum net clear area of 9 square feet with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches.
The window must have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft. Net clear opening refers to the actual free and clear space that exists when the window is open. It is not the rough opening size or the glass panel size, but the actual opening a person can crawl through.
The window opening must be operational from the inside without keys or tools. Bars, grilles and grates may be installed over windows but must be operational without tools or keys and still allow the minimum clear opening.
You might assume that a 20-in. by 24-in. window would be acceptable for egress. However, those dimensions would yield a net clear opening of only 3.3 sq. ft. To achieve the required net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft., a 20-in. wide window would have to be 42 in. high. Likewise, a 24-in. high window would have to be 34 in. wide.
Basement remodeling can be the most affordable option for increasing your living space. Years ago, there were no building codes regarding egress windows and doors. Please do not chance that your loved ones will be aroused quickly enough by the smoke detectors or alarms to escape up the stairs and out the main floor exits during an emergency.
Basement egress windows and wells are not only a priority safety feature but also an invaluable investment that should be carefully planned, selected, and installed for any living space remodeling project. Besides escape, egress windows and wells allow emergency personnel easy access to assist any trapped inhabitant. Ensure that there are adequate windows and wells to meet both Section 310 of UBC and the IRC 2003 Building Code.
Basement egress windows and wells are offered in attractive colors that will blend with the exterior of any home and complement the chosen interior decoration theme. Added features include windows with terraced steps molded in the wells, ensuring ease of escape, instead of contending with the traditional ladders. Because these egress systems allow a good deal of natural light to filter in through the windows, they decrease your energy cost.
Egress window specifications are set by the International Residential Code, and may be slightly adjusted in local building codes, so check with local laws and regulations to ensure your choice of windows comply. Minimum specifications state that the opening area of an egress window should be at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches tall, with an opening path of at least 5.7 square feet. The window should be easily opened from the inside without the use of keys, tools or other equipment, and the sill should be no more than 44 inches from the floor.
So named because of the way in which they open and close, slider windows are mounted upon tracks or runners. These tracks allow the window to slide to one side. The window can slide horizontally or vertically depending on the style of the window. Size requirements are an issue when considering using a slider as an egress window, 48" x 48" or larger egress slider windows will be able to serve as an egress window.
Casement windows are a fine choice for an egress window. These types of windows offer large panes with hinges along the side. These hinges allow for complete opening of the window, swinging outward, to provide easy exit or entrance in times of emergency. They are great for basements and bedrooms because they occupy such little wall space but offer an easy route for escape.