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What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Scottsdale Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add extra space to your Scottsdale home. It can be an a good 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 put in larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide 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 need to have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also affects unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires are common, with firefighters handling about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.

Time is limited to flee a house fire. It can become fatal in only 2 minutes and overtake a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to get out, large egress windows are a crucial substitute 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 made 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 predate up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.

If you have an older home, there’s a good possibility it has short windows in the basement. Also known 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-geared first responder to climb through.

How to Measure Your Basement Windows

Unsure if your existing basement windows meet modern 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.

Does your measurement match 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 quick 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 beneath 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 fixed ladder or steps.

Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to put in 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 must be enough space 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 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 open entirely. The window sash shouldn’t interfere with the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.

Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Scottsdale building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

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

Casement Windows

Casement windows are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows work 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 disrupt 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 wider and taller, 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 provide even smoother operation.

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

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Scottsdale

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

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

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