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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Emergency Egress Window: A Home Safety Essential

The grim statistics say that half of all residential fire deaths occur in bedrooms between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. That’s why building codes across the country have strict requirements that bedrooms have direct access to the outdoors via a window or door. If you’re planning to convert an attic or basement space into a bedroom, here’s what you need to know about providing an emergency egress window.

A way of escape

Having appropriate emergency egress means being able to leave your home directly without walking through the house. Most homes built today have bedroom windows large enough to be crawled through in an emergency. City or county inspectors will not approve construction without them.

If you decide to remodel a basement or attic into a bedroom, providing a proper emergency egress window or door is vital for safety and required to meet building codes. Remodeling without egress could result in the work not being approved. If the work is done without a permit, an inspector will cite the deficiency when you attempt to resell.

What are the requirements?

Every city or county will have its own building code, but the standards for egress openings are uniform across the country.

A bedroom egress window should be operable with a minimum opening that is 20 inches wide and 24 inches tall. The windowsill cannot be more than 44 inches above the floor. The window latch must be simple to open and must not require a key to unlock.

Basement egress window

When renovating a basement into a living space, you must include an emergency egress door or window in your plan if no such opening currently exists.

If all or part of the window is below ground level, you also must provide a window well. The well is a cleared space outside the window that allows the person to crawl through the window, stand up in the well space and then move away from the building.

Window wells must be lined with masonry, metal or fiberglass to support the soil sides of the well. Depending on the distance to ground level, your well may need steps. Window wells must be a minimum of 36 inches wide and 36 inches front to back from the window.

Attic egress window

Renovation to convert attic space also requires emergency egress. In addition to meeting the window dimensions needed for a person to fit through, you should have a window escape ladder to allow for a safe climb down to the ground.

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