An egress cover over an egress well is allowable, but it must meet code specifications, just like wells, windows, and doors. Having an egress cover in place adds safety to the egress well, especially if the immediate ground-level area is used for playing or there is a walkway adjacent to the well.
Due to the fact that an egress cover is only necessary where an egress well is present, it is important to detail the code requirements for each component as they are all interrelated.
Code Requirements for Egress
Egress windows must provide an easy and spacious means of exiting a home in the event of an emergency. Any basement room for sleeping must, according to the law, be equipped with at least 1 egress window that meets code.
In a basement, this requirement is complicated by the fact that the window is almost always below ground level. In this situation, a well surrounding the window is required, which itself must be built to code. An egress well cover attaches to the top of the well at ground level, eliminating the safety risk inherent in the well.
An egress window, whether in the basement or otherwise, must be at minimum 20-inches wide and 24-inches tall. It may be one of numerous types of windows, but the net clear area that the window contains when open must be at least 5.7-feet square. The bottom sill cannot be higher than 44-inches from the ground. Additionally, the window must be usable by anyone without a key or excessive force.
For egress windows installed in basements, surrounding well must provide adequate space for the window to freely open. Its bottom area must be at least 3x3-feet. If the well is deeper than 44-inches, it requires a permanent ladder or staircase. The ladder can neither take up more than 6-inches of the required 36-inches of length, nor can it stick out from the well wall less than 3-inches.
While an egress cover is not a required over a well, it makes it safer by enclosing the hole from above. If a cover is present, it must provide at least the same amount of net clear area of 5.7-feet square in addition to the minimum opening width of 20-inches. Additionally, the well cover must be easily opened or released from the inside. Anyone, child or adult, has to be able to release and remove the cover to escape without a key or tool.
Only if these requirements are met can an egress cover be legally installed atop an egress well. The code is meant to ensure the safe escape from every room used for sleeping in a home. Provided the egress cover fulfills the requirements, it makes a valuable safety mechanism around an egress well considering the possibility of falling in.
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