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Egress Window Design & Build

Rules And Considerations For Egress Windows in Remodeled Basements:

  • International Residential Code (IRC) requires egress windows in all bedrooms. In basements, new or remodeled, this requirements are very specific and may have added requirements by the local building jurisdiction. The larger the metropolitan area the more likely the local building jurisdiction may have specific additional requirements concerning egress code implementation.
  • It would behoove a homeowner or remodeler to check with the local jurisdiction concerning code requirements along with the requirements for permit. Permit is required for this type of work, otherwise the added bedroom will be an illegal occupancy and could provide problems down the line and even in construction.
  • Many jurisdictions will have other requirements such as smoke detectors not only in the new bedroom but also retrofitting other areas of the home that may not have the required detectors. If the rest of the basement is not finished or not to be immediately finished, there will be insulation and door sealing requirements between the bedroom and the unfinished area. Of course, all outside walls on the new area will require insulation, whether the walls are framed or concrete.
  • Window size requirements become the biggest concern. The requirements are 6.0 square feet with minimal width of 20" or minimal heigh of 22" (not taken together). I have found that the minimal size to obtain this clear area of 6.0 sq. ft. is a 32" x 42" casement, left or right hand hinge. There are many other combinations of crank out and single hung windows that will accomplish this.
  • Drainage of the window well also becomes a concern and sometimes there are limitations to what can be done. Of course if there is some sort of drainage in place, say a foundation drain system that you can tap into below the floor of the window well, this is the most ideal situation. But many times this is not the situation. One remedy is to make a mini dry well from a 6" or larger perforated pipe, dug in with a post hole digger as deep as possible and filled with gravel terminating at the gravel base in the well. Regardless of the type of drainage, the floor of the window well should be well below the window ledge, layered with 6" or more of gravel and sloped out away from the building.
  • The well itself can be a corrugated galvanized unit from a local distributor, or there are many custom units available from various companies on the web.
  • When the concrete is cut, the sill or the bottom cut should have a slight tilt to the outside for any residual water drainage. There are many contractors available that can cut the concrete walls in a basement for an egress window, but make sure that the contractor has the type of saw with a blade wide enough to cut completely through the wall. With a smaller blade the contractor will have to make a cut on the inside as well as the outside. These saws run a lot of water through them and become messy in an inside area. Also the cut is cleaner done with a single pass rather that a dual pass.

This shows an minimal basement bedroom egress window: