Everything You Need to Know about Egress Window Requirements

Jessica Martin March 29, 2018


Do you know what an egress window is?  Do you know what the requirements are for an egress window?  It sounds like it should be complicated, but there are only 4 requirements your basement window must meet in order to be up to code. 

If you decide on completing a home renovation on your own, it’s important to research codes and know exactly what is necessary to make any room a legal room.  If you’re adding a room or converting a basement room into an office or bedroom, the egress window is necessary to have.  The egress window, as can be noted by it’s definition, literally means “to emerge”.  The egress window is for your own safety so you and/or your loved one can escape in the face of an emergency.  It wouldn’t be wise to skimp on this window, as it could be the difference between life and death. 

Think about it logically. If you’re in your basement and there’s a fire in your kitchen at the top of your stairs. How do you get out?  Through the window!  Therefore, the window has to be accessible and big enough for the average person to fit through.

The requirements stated by International Residential Code (IRC): 

  • 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.

If you have an older home, you may want to check to ensure your windows follow this code.  

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In addition, the window well has to be clear.  If the window well is especially deep, a ladder may need to be installed.  Remember – it’s about your safety.  Let’s go back to the original hypothetical: you’re in the basement and the fire is at the top of the stairs.  You manage to escape through the window because it was regulation width, height, sill height, and net clearance, but you get stuck in the window well.  You must take into consideration the surroundings.  If the window well opens beneath a deck, for instance, it’s important that there’s enough space for a person to crawl beneath the deck in order to get out. 

All of these questions and more can be answered during our Speaking Series in May in Maryland and Virginia.  If you have specific questions, drop us a comment here, send us an email, or register for our class to ask your questions in person.  Don’t forget to subscribe!

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