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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Bloomington, IN Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add more space to your Bloomington, IN 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 add larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer another way out 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 requirement also involves 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 deadly in just 2 minutes and engulf a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to escape, correctly sized egress windows are a crucial altermative exit.

Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small

Basements in older homes were not designed to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes made before World War II.

Homeowners at that time used this style of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have preceded 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 possibility it has skinny windows in the basement. Also called 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

Not sure if your current 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 equal to the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have larger 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 base of the window frame. This well needs to be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches long. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, it will need a permanent ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it simple to put in 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 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 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 important that basement windows can completely open. 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 Bloomington, IN 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 less wall space. These windows operate like a door, swinging free to provide a spacious opening.

Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows use 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 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 pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even more effortless operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Bloomington, IN

Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving device in an emergency. Meet with our professionals at Pella of Bloomington, IN. We can help when you're redoing your basement.

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

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