What Are Egress Windows?
Does My Terre Haute Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add additional space to your Terre Haute home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you plan your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to put in 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 need to have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule also applies to unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
You don’t have much time to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become deadly 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 escape, 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 back then used this type of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have been built before up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.
If you own an older home, there’s a good possibility it has short windows in the basement. Also called hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to let in fresh air.
But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-geared first responder to climb through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Not sure if your existing 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 taller and wider 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 bottom 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 a permanent ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it simple to add steps. Plus, you can incorporate a few 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 room 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 removed from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also important that basement windows can open entirely. The window sash shouldn’t impede the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Terre Haute building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several kinds 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 a wide opening.
Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of shades.
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 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 pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even easier operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Terre Haute
Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving device in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Terre Haute. We can help when you're redoing your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that matches your project, budget and local egress requirements.