What Are Egress Windows?
Does My Victoria Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add more space to your Victoria home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you get ready for your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to put in 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 inviting.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces need to have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also affects unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Time is limited to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become fatal 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 get out, correctly sized egress windows are a crucial secondary exit.
Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small
Basements in older homes were not intended to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes made before World War II.
Homeowners during that era used this type 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 shorter opening.
If you live in an older home, there’s a good likelihood 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-equipped first responder to enter through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Unsure if your present basement windows meet today’s requirements? All you need is a tape measure.
- Open the window completely.
- Measure the width and height of the opening.
- Multiply the width by the height.
Is your measurement equal 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 at the base of the window frame. This well should 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 uncomplicated to add steps. Plus, you can add a couple small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's OK for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there should be enough clearance for an average-sized adult to exit.
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 exit, 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 interfere with the opening. This helps your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Victoria building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several types 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 work like a door, swinging free to provide an ample opening.
Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt 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 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 pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers provide even smoother operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Victoria
Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Victoria. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also assist you in finding the right window that matches your project, budget and local egress requirements.