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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Fall River Basement Need Them?

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

As you get ready for your basement remodeling project, keep in mind you may need to add bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that give an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more welcoming.

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

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires occur frequently, with firefighters handling about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.

Time is limited to flee 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 escape, large egress windows are an important substitute 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 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 likelihood it has short windows in the basement. Also referred to 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-equipped first responder to enter 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 fully.
  • Measure the width and height of the opening.
  • Multiply the width by the height.

Is your measurement equal 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 quick 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 beneath 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 an attached ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to add steps. Plus, you can include several small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.

It's all right for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there should be enough room for an average-sized adult to escape.

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 essential that basement windows can completely open. 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 Fall River 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 not a lot of wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.

Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with 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 big 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 provide even easier operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Fall River

Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving device in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Fall River. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.

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

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