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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Cheyenne Basement Need Them?

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

As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, keep in mind you may need to put in 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 appealing.

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

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. annually.

There’s not a lot of time to flee a house fire. It can become deadly in only 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 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 built before World War II.

Homeowners at that time used this style of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have preceded up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.

If you live in an older home, there’s a good likelihood it has short windows in the basement. Also referred to 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-outfitted first responder to fit through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Not sure if your present 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 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 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 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 easy to put in steps. Plus, you can incorporate 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 needs to be enough space 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 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 essential that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t impede the opening. This enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with Cheyenne building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and satisfy building code requirements.

Casement Windows

Casement windows are a good option for limited wall space. These windows work like a door, swinging free to provide a spacious opening.

Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of curtains.

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

Sliding Windows

Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large 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 have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even smoother operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Cheyenne

Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be lifesaving equipment in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Cheyenne. We can help when you're updating your basement.

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

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