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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Salt Lake City Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add extra space to your Salt Lake City 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 wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that give 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 must have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also applies to unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

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

You don’t have much time to escape 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, correctly sized egress windows are an important altermative 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 kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have preceded today’s egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.

If you live in an older home, there’s a good possibility 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 climb through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Unsure if your current 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 equal 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 fast 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 below 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 install steps. Plus, you can include 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 should 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 taken off from the inside without keys or tools.

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

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

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several types of windows that work well for basements and satisfy 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 an ample opening.

Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of 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 spacious basements. These windows have to be wider and taller, 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 have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even smoother operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Salt Lake City

Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Salt Lake City. We can help when you're redoing 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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