Building Code Requirements for Egress Wells

egress window

Egress wells are required when installing egress windows in a basement room, in addition to the egress window requirements which apply to all new and remodeled bedrooms. Every room used for sleeping must have at least one egress window for safety purposes.

There are very specific requirements for this type of window. Newly constructed homes have them built into their plans, while remodeled homes must follow the guidelines in order to meet code. Basement rooms may not legally be used for sleeping unless they too are equipped with an egress window; moreover, basement egress windows need an outer well that must also meet code.

Egress Window and Well Requirements

An egress window must open at least 20-inches wide and 24-inches high with a net clear open area of 5.7-feet square. The sill must be no higher than 44-inches from the ground. Windows can be of various total size, but their free areas, when open, must be at least 5.7-square feet. That does not include immovable panes or the frame; it only includes the clear space through which to climb.

For basement windows, an egress well must be in place. In older homes and in rooms not used for sleeping, basement windows are typically quite small, not big enough for a person to use as an escape route in an emergency. Basement rooms used for sleeping are different. The egress window must meet the requirements, and the egress well must supplement it.

Egress wells must accommodate the full opening of the egress window. The bottom area must be 9-feet square. The dimensions can be no less than 36x36-inches. A ladder or steps must be permanently placed if the well is deeper than 44-inches.

In the event that an egress well needs a ladder or steps, the ladder can be no narrower than 12-inches. The code requires that it not obstruct the opening of the window. It must also only reduce the minimum dimension by 6-inches or less. Basement egress windows and wells situated beneath a porch or a deck must possess at minimum clearance of 4-feet between the top of the well and the lowest point on the structural joists supporting it.

When Egress Is Required

All newly constructed homes require an egress window in every bedroom. If a sleeping room is built in the basement, an egress well is necessary. If you remodel your home, egress windows and wells are also required. Before replacing windows, check the guidelines listed by the International Residential Code regarding safety windows and, in the case of basements, egress wells.

Egress wells supplement egress windows that are installed in basement bedrooms. These code requirements are vital for homeowners who rent their properties, but they are just as important for resale purposes as well. Potential buyers will want to see that you followed code if you remodeled the bedrooms and windows of your home. Not only do egress windows and wells provide a safe exit from a room in the event of an emergency, but they also increase a home’s value and make resale easier.