Adding an extra room is one of the greatest ways to increase the value of your home. If you have an unused basement at your home, it is better to turn it into additional living space. You can convert it into an additional bedroom, home office, or playroom. However, you will need to meet a safety requirement, in this case, an egress window. So, what is an egress window actually?
The word egress means escape. So, an egress window functions as an escape in case of a fire or other emergencies happen in the basement. In this article, we will talk further about an egress window.
What is an Egress Window ?
An egress window, also known as a hopper window, looks like an ordinary big window. But it fully opens to allow people in the building to escape in case of emergency, such as a fire or flood. Such a window is required in all finished basements before you can legally turn them into a living space. Moreover, the dimension of an egress window has to meet the IRC or International Residential Code requirements and local building codes.
Though it may look complicated to have one, an egress window offers advantages beyond their main escape function. For example, an egress window can improve ventilation and natural lighting in the basement at your home. This kind of window can also feature decorative interior trim that adds to the look of the living space.
The area directly outside the egress window’s opening also has to comply with particular requirements. Moreover, if you install an egress window below the ground level, or also known as a below grade, it requires a window well. So, the next question is what is a window well? A window well is either a half-circle or rectangular shield located inside an excavated portion of the earth surrounding a below-ground egress window.
A window well is usually made of polyethylene or galvanized steel. It also has flanges on either side that fasten to a home’s foundation. Both egress windows and regular below-grade basement windows use window wells in order to provide protection against the damaging effects of moisture, dirt, and rocks.
An egress window well has to be bigger than an ordinary well in order to provide sufficient space for people in the building to escape easily. If the well is too deep, it perhaps also requires a ladder so that one can easily climb out.
What is an Egress Window : Requirements, Safety, and Considerations
Building codes mandate the size of an egress window for allowing for a quick escape in the event of an emergency. Building codes for an egress window may slightly vary by region. But according to the International Residential Code, here are the requirements for an egress window.
· An opening width of at least 20 inches.
· An opening egress window height of 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.
· It must be able to be opened without any tools.
· A window well is required if the egress window is below grade.
Also, an egress window has to comply with these following specifications:
· Must be at least 36 inches long and wide.
· Must provide at least 9 square feet of space.
· If the well is deeper than 44 inches below grade, an egress window must be equipped with a ladder.
· The width of the ladder must be at least 12 inches. It cannot encroach more than 6 inches into the well but needs to be at least 3 inches away from the back wall. Moreover, the distance between the step rungs should not exceed 18 inches.
The Cost of an Egress Window
The cost of buying and installing an egress window depends on some factors. But the cost normally ranges from $500 to $5,000. Depending on the quality and size, an egress window alone typically costs between $100 and $700. While the cost for a window well ranges from $200 to several thousand dollars, depending on its quality.
The cost of a window well also depends on whether it is custom made or prefabricated. However, the real cost usually comes from installation. Though a highly skilled homeowner can possibly install an egress window and window well themselves, some tasks probably require a professional contractor, such as an egress window repair.
Another example is installing a below-grade egress window requires digging to remove enough dirt to accommodate a big window well. Moreover, you also need to cut an opening for the window through the foundation of the home into the basement. An improper cut can be hard to repair. It also costs a significant amount of money.
Hiring a professional to do these tasks as well as the egress window and well installation typically cost you between $1,500 and $3,000.
How to Measure Your Egress Window
Do you already have a window in your basement and not sure if it meets the IRC requirements mentioned above? Here is how to measure it.
· Open the window as wide as possible.
· Measure the height and width of the opening by using a tape measure.
· Multiply the height by the width.
If the result is equivalent to the required 821 square inches or 5.7 inches feet, your existing basement window can be used as an egress window. If not, you need to install a larger window in your basement to meet the IRC requirements.
How to Choose an Egress Window
There are a few types of windows that work well as an egress window for your basement and comply with the building codes and IRC requirements. Here they are.
· Sliding Windows
A sliding window is a good idea if you want to add more natural lighting to a spacious basement. This kind of window must be taller and wider because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is because of the sash that slides horizontally. A sliding window opens by sliding the sash from left to right.
Some models include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers allow for even easier operation. A sliding window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
· Casement Windows
If you do not have much wall space, a casement window can be a good choice. A casement window works like a door, freely swinging in order to provide a wide opening. This type of window opens by rotating a handle. There are some casement window models that feature a foldable crank. This way, the crank will not get in the way of the window treatment. A casement window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Other Requirements for an Egress Window
Since an egress window operates as an exit, it must be able to be opened from the inside. Any bars, grilles, and screens need to be removed from the inside without any tools or keys. It is also essential for an egress window to fully open. The window sash should not be in the way of the opening. This will allow people in the home to quickly escape or first helper to quickly enter.
That is what you need to know about an egress window.