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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Jackson Basement Need Them?

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

As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to put in larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer an escape route 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 involves unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

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

Time is limited 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, large egress windows are an important secondary exit.

Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small

Basements in older homes were not designed to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes made before World War II.

Homeowners at that time used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have been built before today’s egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.

If you own an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has short windows in the basement. Also known as 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-outfitted first responder to enter through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Uncertain if your current 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 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 base of the window frame. This well must 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 install steps. Plus, you can add a few small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.

It's acceptable for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there must be enough clearance for an average-sized adult to get out.

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 essential that basement windows can open entirely. The window sash shouldn’t interfere with the opening. This enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Jackson building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

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

Casement Windows

Casement windows are a good option for less wall space. These windows operate like a door, swinging free to provide an ample opening.

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

This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.

Sliding Windows

Sliding windows are great for adding more light to spacious 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 feature 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 Jackson

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

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

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