What are Egress Window Requirements?

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Specific locations in a home or other dwelling have very particular egress window requirements that dictate, among other things, their allowable size. Egress windows are required by law as emergency exits from any sleeping room including the basement. On the upper floors of a house or multiple-family dwelling, each bedroom needs an egress window. Basements remodeled with listed bedrooms much have an egress window installed. The requirements for egress windows are very specific and uniform across the country, although each state may add its own modifications. For basement rooms, not only are egress windows required, but an egress well for each window is too.

Egress Window Requirements

Each window installed in a sleeping bedroom must, by law, have an egress window to be used in the event of an emergency. Egress window requirements are detailed down to the inch, for they are intended for safety uses. The International Residential Code or IRC governs the requirements for egress windows, and there are 4 primary elements. An egress window must possess:

An opening width of at least 20 inches

An opening height of at least 24 inches

A net clear opening area of at least 5.7 square feet

A sill height above the floor of no more than 44 inches

Requirement Details

The minimum numbers for opening width and height are basic starting points for the size of an egress window. They must be considered along with the net clear opening amount. The net clean opening means the total amount of space when the window is open. The window may well be bigger than that, but all that matters is the amount of free space when the window is open. Thus, the product of the opening width and height must be at least 5.7 square feet, or else it is not an egress window. For ground floor windows, this requirement is only 5 square feet. An egress window can be long and squat, tall and thin, or perfectly square. Whatever the combination, it must meet the minimum area.

In addition, the bottom of an egress window can be no higher off the ground than 3 feet, 8 inches. A dweller must be able to easily open the window without the aid of tools.

Windows Used for Egress

The windows installed for egress purposes can open by sliding up or to the side, or they can open out on a hinge. Because of their ease of use, this last type, called casement windows are ideal for egress, especially in the basement. Casement windows provide the maximal amount of space when opened. This allows them to be smaller in overall area and still provide the required net clear opening.

When installing basement egress windows, there are other considerations to make and codes to meet. In addition to the window itself, the well outside of the window must meet certain criteria. This not only allows the window to open, but it provides a space from which to safely climb out onto the ground level in an emergency. Any new construction and remodeled homes require egress windows in sleeping rooms in order to meet code. If you are planning a remodel, learn the requirements before undertaking the task so the specifications are correct.