Egress Windows for Your Finished Basement

Dec 18, 2019

Finishing your basement adds value to your home because of all the increased living space. When you undertake such a project, you have many considerations; one of those considerations needs to be installing an egress window for safety.

Basics of Egress Windows

An egress window is an opening to the outside from your house. It must meet International Building Code (IBC) requirements as an emergency escape and rescue opening. According to those requirements, the opening must be large enough to permit escape from the house and for emergency workers to enter from outside.

For basements, that size translates into 20 inches wide, 24 inches tall, and 5.7 square feet. Additionally, the opening must feature a minimum clearance of nine feet. The window also can’t be more than 44 inches from the floor. However, state and local codes might have different size requirements. Egress windows are required if you have habitable rooms in your basement.

Naturally, basements are at least partially below ground level. So the egress window from a basement opens out to a well excavated from the yard. If the well extends 44 inches or more below the ground, it must feature steps or a permanent ladder at least 12 inches wide. Most wells also feature a cover to prevent anyone from falling into the opening.

Materials for an Egress Window

A variety of materials go into making egress windows. The centerpiece of the egress window is the window itself. You can choose any frame material that fits the existing opening. However, vinyl is a good option for that particular location. Vinyl stands up well to moisture without any maintenance on your end. Aluminum is another good option for the frame.

Concerning the well of the egress window, you do need to shore up the sides. You can buy prefabricated kits made out of corrugated steel or plastic. They come in round, straight, and square designs. You can also have the contractors use concrete or wood to create the walls of the window well. Concrete is often the most durable and low-maintenance choice.

Benefits of an Egress Window

A basement egress window adds value to your house for the obvious reason that it’s a lifesaver. However, the benefits don’t end there.

For one, basements are notoriously dim areas. An egress window with its attendant well brings in natural light. The size of the window and presence of the well will likely bring in more light than any other style of basement window. You also have more ventilation with such a window.

Another potential benefit comes in the design. While you can certainly choose a budget-friendly metal or plastic surround for your well, you have many more options. If the budget and space permit, you can transform the area into a landscaping installation.

Special Considerations for Egress Windows

When you undertake an egress window project, you need to know the state and local building codes. If a local building inspector determines the egress window doesn’t meet the codes, you’ll have to rework the project.

Basement egress windows carry some additional challenges. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll have to hire contractors to dig the well and cut the concrete of your foundation, not to mention the hole in your wall.

Another big consideration for egress windows is moisture buildup. You may need to take extra steps to keep your window and well moisture free, such as installing drains and reconfiguring your gutters to drain away from the area.

Finally, your ability to escape from the egress window can provide intruders a point of entry. Of course, the window can lock. But you can attach easy-open locks to the well cover from the inside. These locks meet IBC code because you can remove them quickly in an emergency, but intruders can’t access them from the outside.

Keep your family safe, and your house up to code, by installing an egress window for your finished basement. Visit 1st Choice Windows & Siding for the window itself.