When Does a Home Need an Egress Window?

Egress WindowAn egress window is an important part of protecting your family in the case of a house fire. This window provides an emergency escape route for exiting the house when the entrances are blocked. If you are concerned protecting those who live in your home, you want to make sure that you have egress windows in the proper places. Here are some tips to identify when a home needs an egress window.

Size and Locations of Egress Windows in Your Home

The International Building Code states that basements and bedrooms below the forth floor require egress windows, according to the International Code Council. These windows provide exits for you and your family, as well as entry points for firefighters and other emergency personnel. An egress window should open directly to a yard, public street, court or alley.

Egress windows must have a net clear opening of 5.7 square feet. The height of the opening must be at least 24 inches, while the width of the opening must be at least 20 inches. Note that both height and width cannot be at the minimums in order to meet the area requirement. The bottom of the opening must be within 44 inches of the floor of the room.

Basement egresses also need window wells so the opening is not obstructed. The window must have enough room to fully open. The well area must be a minimum of 36 inches in width and length. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, there must be or stairs or a ladder out. The ladder must be more than one foot wide. If the egress window is under a deck, then you will need another 36 inches between the top of the window and the bottom of the deck.

Egress Windows in Older Homes or Renovated Homes

Many modern homes are built with these codes in mind. You can run into problems with rooms that have been renovated. If an attic space was finished as an office, but later converted to a bedroom, you will need to install an egress window. Many older homes simply do not have any windows that could serve as egress windows.

You may need to do a lot of work to make sure that all the bedrooms and basement have adequate egress windows. You can start by simply measuring the windows to find out if one window meets the requirements. If you cannot find existing windows in your bedrooms and basement to serve as egress windows, then you may have to install some new windows that meet the requirements.

Types of Windows Suitable for Egress Requirements

If you need to replace some windows in your home to create egress windows, certain kinds of windows may be better than others, according to Family Handyman.

  • Casement windows are ideal for basements. The hinged sashes that swing out clear of the opening allow for smaller windows that still meet the opening area requirements.
  • Double hung windows are better for bedrooms. The sashes slide vertically up and down, leaving half the area covered by glass at all times.
  • Gliding windows are good for basements when you want to let in a lot of light. These windows glide horizontally so you will need more space to meet the minimum opening area requirements.
  • Awning windows have sashes along the top. The glass never really clears an opening and the hardware get in the way of the opening. Unless these windows are specially made for egress windows, they are not good options. They are never acceptable in the basement, because the opening is not fully exposed.

Related Resource: Skylight Blinds

Determining when a home needs an egress window is an important part of emergency preparedness. You hope that you never have to use your egress windows, but you will be glad you took the time to properly install them if you do have an emergency.