Add an Egress Window for Safety

Add an Egress Window for Safety bb3 Jun 7, 2012

By Staff Writer

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If you’re finishing your basement or are repurposing it to include bedrooms, your action plan must include egress windows—officially known as “Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings” (EEROs). These openings allow your family to get out easily in an emergency and allow emergency crews to get in.

These must-have safety features boast another benefit: They admit daylight, which instantly brightens a formerly dark and dreary basement.

Keep these considerations in mind when installing an egress window:

Code compliance. Visit your nearest code administration office to find out about local regulations for egress windows. In general, you’ll want to abide by standards set by the International Residential Code. Size requirements include:

  • Minimum width of opening: 20 in.
  • Minimum height of opening: 24 in.
  • Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor)
  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in.

Keep in mind that these are the minimum size requirements. “If you want any kind of light or air, you need to give yourself a little room,” says John Brenne, building safety expert. There are other requirements you’ll need to satisfy as well—such as windows must be operational from the inside and open without any tools, key, or special knowledge.

Window well installation. Below-ground egress windows must have a 3x3-foot (minimum) window well. Brenne recommends that windows less than 4 inches above grade have one too. Adding a below-ground well requires excavation, and if the well is any deeper than 44 inches, you’ll need to include a permanently attached ladder or steps. Consider adding a metal grate above the well so pets and people don’t fall in—just make sure it’s easily removable from the inside.

Drainage. The last thing you need is water seeping into your basement. If you have an existing foundation drain tile system in good shape, tap into it. If you have clay soil, which absorbs water and hinders drainage, backfill it with pea gravel. Also make sure your yard slopes away from the foundation, and that gutters and downspouts are clear and drain away from the house.

Reliable windows. Brenne recommends casement windows, which crank outward and take up the least amount of space. “They’re tight and well-constructed,” he adds.

Necessary skills. If you have concrete-block cutting skills, equipment, and a trusty partner who will help you excavate several feet of soil, you could install an egress window in a few days with these step-by-step tips and save some cash.

But because of the scope of the job—and because it’s important to get it right the first time—Brenne recommends hiring a professional. “You’ll have a lot of block and dirt to dispose of as well as needing several specialized and expensive tools like a partner saw, hammer drill, impact gun, and more,” Brenne says.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under any policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information. We assume no liability in connection with the information nor the suggestions made.

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