What Are Egress Windows?
Does My Baton Rouge Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add additional space to your Baton Rouge home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you plan your basement remodeling project, keep in mind you may need to add larger 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 welcoming.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living spaces can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also affects unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
There’s not a lot of time to flee a house fire. It can become fatal in as little as 2 minutes and engulf a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to get out, big egress windows are an important altermative 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 during that era used this style 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 shorter opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good possibility it has short windows in the basement. Also called 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-equipped first responder to enter 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 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 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 underneath 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 an attached ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it easy to add steps. Plus, you can include 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 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 removed from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also important that basement windows can completely 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 vary. Check with Baton Rouge building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several types of windows that work well for basements and fulfill building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for limited wall space. These windows operate like a door, swinging free to provide an ample opening.
Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with shades.
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 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 moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even easier operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Baton Rouge
Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Baton Rouge. We can help when you're redoing your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.