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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My San Antonio Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add extra space to your San Antonio 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 install wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer a secondary exit 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 rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule 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. each year.

Time is limited to flee a house fire. It can become life-threatening 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, big egress windows are a crucial 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 built 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 smaller opening.

If you have an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has narrow 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-outfitted first responder to fit through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Uncertain if your present basement windows meet today’s 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 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 a fixed ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to install steps. Plus, you can incorporate a couple small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.

It's acceptable for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there must be enough room for an average-sized adult to get out.

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 a way out, 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 enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with San Antonio 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 operate like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.

Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with curtains.

This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.

Sliding Windows

Sliding windows are great for adding more light to big basements. These windows have to be larger, 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 give even easier operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of San Antonio

Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving device in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of San Antonio. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.

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

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