Does My Albany Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add more space to your Albany home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you get ready for your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to put in wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more welcoming.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also involves unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires are common, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. each year.
There’s not a lot of time to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become life-threatening in only 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to leave, large egress windows are a critical secondary exit.
Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small
Basements in older homes were not created to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes built before World War II.
Homeowners at that time used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have been built before today’s egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.
If you own an older home, there’s a good chance it has narrow windows in the basement. Also known as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to provide fresh air.
But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-geared first responder to fit through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Not sure if your existing basement windows meet modern requirements? All you need is a tape measure.
- Open the window completely.
- Measure the width and height of the opening.
- Multiply the width by the height.
Does your measurement match the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have taller and wider windows installed.
Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements
Building codes mandate the size of basement windows. This allows for a speedy exit in an emergency.
According to the International Residential Code, basement windows must have:
- An opening width of at least 20 inches.
- An opening height of at least 24 inches.
- A net clear opening of at least 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet.
- A sill no more than 44 inches off the floor.
What if My Basement Windows are Below Ground Level?
If your basement windows are under ground level, you will need to have a well dug at the base of the window frame. This well must be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches long. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, it will need a permanent ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to put in steps. Plus, you can add a couple small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's OK for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there needs to be enough room for an average-sized adult to exit.
There should be at least 36 inches between the top of the window well and the bottom of the deck or porch joists.
Other Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements
Because basement windows are a way out, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removable from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also important that basement windows can fully open. The window sash shouldn’t impede the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with Albany building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and fulfill building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.
Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt curtains.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to big basements. These windows have to be wider and taller, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.
Sliding windows open by moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models feature extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even more effortless operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Albany
Basement escape windows are a necessity for downstairs living spaces. They can be lifesaving equipment in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Albany. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also assist you in finding the right window that meets your project, budget and local egress requirements.