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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Newport Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add more space to your Newport home. It can be an an ideal 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 bigger 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 appealing.

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

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters responding to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. annually.

You don’t have much time to flee a house fire. It can become life-threatening in as little as 2 minutes and engulf 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 created to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes constructed before World War II.

Homeowners back then used this kind 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 tinier opening.

If you own an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has narrow 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-equipped first responder to climb through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Unsure if your existing 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.

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 base 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 fixed ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to add steps. Plus, you can add 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 clearance 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 escape route, 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 interfere with the opening. This enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

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

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several types of windows that work well for basements and meet 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 rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with shades.

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 shifting the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even easier operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Newport

Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Newport. We can help when you're updating your basement.

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

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