Egress Windows: What You Should Know Before You Buy

Do you know what an egress window is? This article explores what egress windows are, why you should install them in your home and how to tell when they are required for your home. Read on to the end.

A 4-year study carried out by the National Fire Protection Association found out that on average 130 people were killed and 940 sustained injuries in below-grade residential fires each year. The study also established that an average 18,200 cases of fire were reported in lower living areas during the 4 years. These concerns over fire safety have made installing egress windows a priority for many home owners and builders.

Egress Window

So, what exactly is an egress window? To egress is to go out or leave a place. This is a type of window required in specific locations in a residence to act as an emergency exit. It must be large enough to act as an entry or exit in case of an emergency. Egress windows are normally installed below grade; mostly in the basement of a house.

Not every window can be an egress window. A window must satisfy certain size requirements to qualify as an egress window. These requirements are set by the 2006 International Residential Code. An egress window must be large enough for you to escape through and for emergency workers to enter through.

Egress windows do not only act as emergency exits in your dwelling. They also add more natural light to your basement and give it that warm and inviting feel.


Characteristics of Egress Windows

Characteristics of Egress Windows

Egress windows have unique features that distinguishes them from other types of windows. The characteristics of egress windows are as discussed below:

  • They are commonly lined with a window well with attached ladder for easy escape. The window well maybe an aluminum or plastic lining that prevents the egress space from eroding.
  • Egress windows are burrowed from the ground level to the basement level.
  • Without proper maintenance, egress window wells can fill with soil and other debris and become home to dangerous small animals. If your egress window installation is not done by a qualified professional, future problems may arise. For example, they may allow rain water to flow into your house.
  • Some local building codes require egress windows to provide emergency escape routes for below-ground-level rooms. These windows must be large enough for an adult to comfortably pass through.

Egress Window Requirements

These requirements are provided by the International Residential Code 2018. This code pertains to all single- and two-family homes. Section R30 of the code applies to Egress Windows.  This code requires that every room used for sleeping purposes should have an egress window.

Basement egress windows are designed to provide an escape route in case of an emergency. Local requirements for basement windows do vary but on the very minimum, these windows must meet the following requirements:

  • An opening width of not less than 20 inches
  • An opening height of not less than 24 inches
  • Minimum net clearing of at least 821 square inches. This refers to the actual free and clear space that there is when the window is open.
  • Maximum sill height of 44 inches off the floor
  • Basement windows must open from the inside as they are a way out. Bars and grilles may be installed over the window but they must be operational without keys or tools. This allows you quick exit or for emergency responders a quick entry into your home.

Where are Egress Windows Required?

Every room used for sleeping purposes should have an egress window. Egress windows are also needed in basements with habitable space. Also, if you install a basement bedroom or bedrooms, an egress window will be required for each bedroom.

need to install an egress window

An egress window is also needed where a sleeping room is added to an unfinished basement for an existing home.

If your basement is dark and dingy, you definitely need to install an egress window. An egress window will not only improve the air circulation inside the room but also let in sufficient amounts of natural light. This makes your basement more comfortable, safer and habitable.


What are the Benefits of Egress Windows?

Egress windows have numerous benefits. They increase the curb appeal and value of your home when properly installed. Below are the benefits:

  • Add Natural Light To Your Home and Save Energy

Egress windows with natural light

Egress windows let in more natural light into the basement of your house making it more comfortable and safer. Egress windows are large enough to let in a good amount of natural light into your home. Sufficient amount of natural light has several health benefits including improved quality of sleep. Natural light reduces dependency on artificial reducing the amount of money you spend on energy bills.

  • Safety

Boost the Safety with Egress Windows

Egress windows provide an escape route in case of an emergency. They are designed to be large enough to allow you exit through them and for emergency workers to enter through.

  • Added comfort

Egress windows comfortEgress windows brighten otherwise dark and dingy basement rooms. They are large enough to let in generous amounts of light into your basement. They also allow for circulation of fresh air in and out of the basement. This makes the basement more comfortable and safer.

  • Increase the value of your house

Increase the value of your house with Egress Windows

Installation of egress windows shows that you have complied with building regulations. A home that is compliant to the building codes is more attractive to prospective buyers. Egress windows make the basement habitable thus increase your home’s square footage.

  • Beauty

Beauty with Egress WindowsThese windows can also serve an aesthetic purpose. When properly chosen and installed, egress windows add to your home’s décor.


The Cons of Egress Windows

Egress windows have disadvantages as well:

  • Inconvenience

Installing egress windows is a big project that will take a good amount of time to complete. You will also have to dig and cut out concrete. A project of this scale always comes with unavoidable inconveniences.

  • Moisture issues

Moisture issues with Egress WindowsMoisture related problems may occur in the bathroom or basement areas. To avoid these problems, the window has to be dug to the proper depth below the window. Other preventive measures such as proper basement drainage systems should also be adopted. You also have to make sure the gutter system drains run-off water away from your home.

  • Local building codes

There is no standard national building code. Every town and city have their own local building codes. It is upon you and your contractor to acquaint yourself with the local building codes. Lack of knowledge in the local building codes may raise compliance issues and take you back to the drawing board.


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