What You Need to Know about Egress Windows

A “finished basement” is often at the top of many homeowners’ wish lists. But in order to make a basement safer—and even bring it up to code in a lot of cases—an egress window is often a necessary addition. Whether you’ve already been told that you need one—or you know that you will in the future—you may be looking for some more information about this important home feature.

We’ve put together this guide to help you understand some of the most important facts as well as answer your key questions.

What is an Egress Window?

An egress is an opening that provides an escape in the event of a fire. The opening must be large enough—as defined by local codes—to provide passage. For this purpose alone, an egress is incredibly valuable. However, an egress window also comes with the added benefit of allowing more natural light into your space.

What is Required of my Egress Window?

According to the International Residential Code, an egress window must meet the following requirements. Note that you should also check locally to ensure that any additions are up to code with any local ordinances.

  • The bottom of the egress window opening can’t exceed 44” from the finished floor.
  • The minimum opening area of the egress window is 5.7 square feet.
  • The minimum egress window opening height is 24” high.
  • The minimum egress window opening is 20” wide.

 It’s also required that your egress window well is clear. If the window well is especially deep, a ladder may be needed so that it is feasible to climb up. After all, you need not only be able to escape the house but the window well itself. The last thing that you’d want is to be stuck in there during a fire.

You should also take into consideration your surroundings. If the window well is beneath a deck, for instance, you need to be sure that the person using it could still crawl to safety.

Do I Need an Egress Cover?

While it’s not required, the reason why you may want to add an egress cover is the same reason why you added the egress in the first place—safety. Because of its wide opening, an egress well can become a fall hazard on your property. This is particularly concerning if it’s in an area where you have kids playing or even an area of the property where adults often hang out or pass by, such as alongside a walkway. If you are considering an egress cover, we can answer other questions that you might have.

Can I Install an Egress Window on my Own?

The installation of an egress window is a job best left to a professional for several reasons. It involves permitting, adherence to codes, and is likely a lot more labor-intensive (and complicated) than you even realize. If mistakes are made during construction, you could run the risk of weakening your home’s foundation or having the egress fail. It’s simply not worth the gamble.

Leaning on an Expert

Hopefully, this has answered some of your most important questions about adding an egress to your home. Of course, we are available for any additional questions that you might have along the way. You never have to feel as though you’re on your own in these important decisions—we’re here to guide you with anything that you may need.