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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Providence Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add additional space to your Providence home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.

As you plan your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to add larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more appealing.

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

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

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

Time is limited to escape a house fire. It can become life-threatening 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 a crucial altermative 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 built before World War II.

Homeowners during that era used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have been built before modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.

If you have an older home, there’s a good possibility it has narrow windows in the basement. Also referred to 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-equipped first responder to fit through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Not sure if your present basement windows meet today’s requirements? All you need is a tape measure.

  • Open the window as wide as possible.
  • Measure the width and height of the opening.
  • Multiply the width by the height.

Does your measurement match the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have bigger windows installed.

Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements

Building codes mandate the size of basement windows. This allows for a fast 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 below ground level, you will need to have a well dug at the base 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 simple to put in steps. Plus, you can include several 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 an escape route, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removed from the inside without keys or tools.

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

Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Providence building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several kinds of windows that work well for basements and fulfill 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 an ample opening.

Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of window treatments.

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 larger, 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 provide even easier operation.

This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Providence

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

We can also recommend the right window that meets your project, budget and local egress requirements.

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