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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Kalamazoo Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add additional space to your Kalamazoo home. It can be an a good 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 wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that give another way out 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 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. each year.

Time is limited to escape a house fire. It can become life-threatening in only 2 minutes and overtake a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to get out, big egress windows are a critical 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 made before World War II.

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

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

If you have an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has skinny 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 current basement windows meet modern 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 larger 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 should 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 install steps. Plus, you can incorporate a couple small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.

It's all right for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there should be enough space for an average-sized adult to exit.

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 important that basement windows can fully open. 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 vary. Check with Kalamazoo building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several kinds 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 work like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.

Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt 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 large 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 pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models feature extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers provide even smoother operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Kalamazoo

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

We can also help you find the right window that meets your project, budget and local egress requirements.

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