What Are Egress Windows?
Does My Calgary Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add additional space to your Calgary home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to install bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule also applies to unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
There’s not a lot of time to flee a house fire. It can become life-threatening 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, big egress windows are a crucial altermative 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 during that era used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have preceded modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good chance it has skinny windows in the basement. Also referred to as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to provide 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
Not sure if your present basement windows meet today’s 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 equivalent to the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have larger 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 must 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 simple to add steps. Plus, you can incorporate several small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's acceptable for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there needs to be enough room 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 a way out, 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 fully open. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct the opening. This helps your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Calgary 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 are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows operate like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.
Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt 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 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 shifting the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have 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 Calgary
Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Meet with our professionals at Pella of Calgary. We can help when you're redoing your basement.
We can also assist you in finding the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.