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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Davenport Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add additional space to your Davenport home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.

As you get ready for your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to add bigger 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 appealing.

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

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters handling 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 life-threatening in just 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 substitute 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 constructed 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 predate 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 known as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to circulate 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

Not sure if your present basement windows meet today’s requirements? All you need is a tape measure.

  • Open the window fully.
  • 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 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 underneath the window frame. This well must 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 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 needs to 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 removed from the inside without keys or tools.

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

Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Davenport building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several styles 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 turning a handle. Pella® casement windows use 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 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 provide even easier operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Davenport

Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Meet with our professionals at Pella of Davenport. 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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