What Are Egress Windows? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

By: ROS Team

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Egress windows are a crucial component of building safety and design, often found in basements and bedrooms of residential homes and other structures. But what exactly is an egress window, and why is it so important?

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of egress windows, their purpose, and the various regulations and considerations associated with them.

What is an Egress Window?

An egress window is a specific type of window designed to serve as an emergency exit in case of fire or other life-threatening situations. These windows are larger than typical windows and provide a clear and easy means of escape, making them essential for the safety of building occupants.

Egress windows are a requirement in most residential and commercial building codes to ensure that people can evacuate a space quickly and safely during emergencies.

Egress windows can be found in various locations within a building, but they are most commonly installed in basements and bedrooms. In these areas, where occupants may not have easy access to exterior doors, egress windows play a vital role in providing an alternative escape route.

What is an Egress Window
Photo Credit: Canva


Why are Egress Windows Important?

Egress windows are important because they provide an escape route in the event of a fire or other emergency. In a fire, smoke and toxic fumes can quickly fill a basement, making it difficult or impossible to escape through a normal door or window.

An egress window provides a way to escape to the outside without having to go through the rest of the house.

Egress windows are also important for ventilation and natural light. Basements can be dark and damp, and an egress window can help to improve the air quality and make the space more comfortable to use.

Benefits of Egress Windows

Here are some key benefits of egress windows:

Safety: Egress windows offer a safe exit route in emergency situations, reducing the risk of injury or death.

Improved Ventilation and Natural Light: In everyday use, egress windows provide natural light and ventilation to basements, making these spaces more comfortable and habitable.

Compliance with Building Codes: Egress windows are often required by building codes and regulations, ensuring that your property meets safety standards.

Home Value: Installing egress windows can increase the value of your property, as they enhance the functionality of your basement and improve safety.

Egress Window Requirements

To serve their intended purpose effectively, egress windows must meet specific requirements outlined in building codes and regulations. These requirements typically include the following:

1) Minimum Size

Egress windows must be large enough to allow an adult to pass through. The minimum clear opening width is usually 20 inches, the minimum clear opening height is 24 inches, and the minimum net clear opening area is 5.7 square feet.

2) Maximum Height Above Floor

The bottom of the egress window opening should be no more than 44 inches above the finished floor.

3) Window Wells

Egress windows located below ground level may require a window well, which must meet certain specifications. Such as providing adequate space for egress and having a ladder or steps for easy access.

4) Grates and Covers

If an egress window has a well, it may require a cover or grate to prevent debris and accidents. These covers should be easily removable from the inside and not require any special tools.

5) Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings

Bedrooms in basements may require an additional means of escape, such as a window or door, that opens directly to the exterior.

Types of Egress Windows

There are a variety of different types of egress windows available, including:

1) Casement Windows
2) Slider Windows
3) Hopper Windows
4) Awning Windows
5) Basement Well Windows
6) Skylights

The best type of egress window for your home will depend on a number of factors. Such as the layout of your basement, the type of foundation you have, and your budget.

How to Install Egress Windows?

Egress window installation can be a complex and sometimes costly process, but the safety benefits far outweigh the investment. The installation typically involves cutting an opening into the foundation wall, installing a window well (if needed), and placing the egress window in the opening.

A proper egress window installation will include a window well that drains away from the window to prevent water infiltration and a window cover or grate that meets safety standards.

What is the Difference Between an Egress Window and a Regular Window?

The primary differences between an egress window and a regular window are:

Size: Egress windows are larger and designed to provide a safe exit in emergencies, while regular windows are standard in size and primarily for light and ventilation.

Placement: Egress windows are often located in bedrooms and basements to serve as escape routes, while regular windows can be found throughout a building for various purposes.

Regulatory Requirements: Egress windows must meet specific size and placement requirements defined by building codes to ensure safety, while regular windows are subject to fewer regulations.

What’s Egress Window Installation Cost?

On average, homeowners pay between $2,500 and $5,000 to install an egress window. However, the cost can range as low as $1,000 and as high as $7,500, depending on the factors like size and type of egress window, the condition of your basement, and the location of the egress window.

Are there Drawbacks to Egress Windows?

While egress windows have many benefits, there are also a few cons to consider:

  • Cost: Egress windows can be expensive to install, especially if you need to excavate a window well.
  • Inconvenience: Installing an egress window can be a disruptive process, especially in a finished basement.
  • Maintenance: Egress windows require regular maintenance to keep them in good working order. This includes cleaning the window and window well, inspecting the window for damage, and lubricating the moving parts.
  • Potential for Water Leaks: If the egress window or window well is not installed correctly, it can leak water into your basement.
  • Security Concerns: Egress windows can be a security risk, especially if they are not properly secured.

Are Egress Windows for Basements Only?

No, while egress windows are commonly installed in basements, they are not exclusively for basements. Egress windows can be required or beneficial in various areas of a building. Such as bedrooms or other living spaces, to provide a safe means of exit during emergencies.

Egress Windows: Final Thoughts

Egress windows are an essential safety feature in residential and commercial buildings. They provide a means of escape in emergencies, particularly in areas where occupants may not have easy access to exterior doors.

Installing egress windows not only ensures compliance with building codes but also enhances the safety and value of your property.