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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Eau Claire Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add more space to your Eau Claire home. It can be an a good area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.

As you plan your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to put in larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that give a secondary exit in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.

Basement bedrooms and living spaces must have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also applies to unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters responding to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.

You don’t have much time to escape a house fire. It can become fatal in as little as 2 minutes and overtake a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to leave, big egress windows are an important secondary 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 constructed before World War II.

Homeowners back then used this type of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may predate modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a smaller opening.

If you live in an older home, there’s a good possibility it has short windows in the basement. Also known as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to provide fresh air.

But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-outfitted first responder to enter through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Not sure if your present basement windows meet modern 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 equivalent to the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have larger 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 bottom of 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 permanent ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it easy to put in 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 needs to be enough space 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 a way out, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be taken off from the inside without keys or tools.

It’s also vital that basement windows can open entirely. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with Eau Claire building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several types of windows that work well for basements and satisfy building code requirements.

Casement Windows

Casement windows are a good option for limited wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.

Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows use 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

Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large basements. These windows have to be wider and taller, 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 Eau Claire

Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Eau Claire. We can help when you're redoing your basement.

We can also assist you in finding the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.

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