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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Hingham Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add more space to your Hingham home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.

As you plan your basement remodeling project, keep in mind you may need to put in bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more welcoming.

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

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

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

Time is limited to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become deadly 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 get out, large egress windows are a crucial secondary 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 during that era used this style of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

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

If you own an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has short 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 enter through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Not sure if your existing 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 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 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 fixed ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to install steps. Plus, you can add several 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 must 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 taken off from the inside without keys or tools.

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

Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Hingham 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 not a lot of wall space. These windows work like a door, swinging free to provide an ample opening.

Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt 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 moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include 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 Hingham

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

We can also recommend the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.

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