What Are Egress Windows?
Does My Peoria Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add extra space to your Peoria home. It can be an a great 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 give a secondary exit 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 rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also affects unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Time is limited to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become life-threatening in as little as 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to escape, big egress windows are an important 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 back then 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 live in an older home, there’s a good chance 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
Unsure if your existing basement windows meet present-day 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 taller and wider 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 at the base 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 easy to add steps. Plus, you can add a few 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 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 impede 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 Peoria building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several kinds of windows that work well for basements and satisfy building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for less wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide an ample 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 are great for adding more light to spacious 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 pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include 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 Peoria
Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Peoria. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.