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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Southern Pines Basement Need Them?

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

As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to install larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer a secondary exit in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.

Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also applies to unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.

There’s not a lot of time to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become fatal in only 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to leave, correctly sized egress windows are an important 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 built before World War II.

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

Depending on its age, your home may predate up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.

If you have an older home, there’s a good chance 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 fit through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Uncertain if your present basement windows meet present-day 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 bigger 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 bottom 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 a fixed ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it simple to install 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 must 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 an exit, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removable from the inside without keys or tools.

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

Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with Southern Pines building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and meet building code requirements.

Casement Windows

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

Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt curtains.

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 moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models feature extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even smoother operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Southern Pines

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

We can also assist you in finding the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.

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