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Egress Windows and Doors

Egress windows

If you are considering a basement renovation project, and you are thinking of a bedroom, in case of fire, an egress window is code. You need in each bedroom, at least one window build to code (5.7 sq. feet) to permit the occupants to safely escape a fire, and to allow a fully outfitted firefighter, with an oxygen tank to enter. Since this is a recent ruling in many parts of the country, most existing basements were not built with egress windows.We can solve that problem by adding an egress window that meets or exceeds all code requirements. What will you get for your investment? The added light let in by the new, deep window. light is a critical design element which is usually absent in basements. The sensory difference can be outstanding.

Basement fires are common, so this is more than a code issue. Of primary benefit is an easily accessible deep window opening through which people can escape to safety, through which a firefighter can enter in the event of a basement fire. In addition, what is good for you will be good for the next owner. With an extra legal bedroom, you could recover 10 to 20 times your window installation costs when you eventually list and sell your home. We also install doors and stairwells.

Call The Foundation Expert Today (877) 344-1155 for an Egress Window Inspection and Installation.

Egress Window Code Requirements

To begin, not all basement rooms need a legal egress window, but certainly, no basement bedrooms will be allowed without one. Today, any bedroom-sized room with a closet is considered a bedroom, no matter what the blueprint says. Local regulations vary, so just simply let us take care of that for you. With minor variances, here is what you will find.As for size requirements, expect to need a window with an opening of 5.7 square feet. Some codes count the glass area, while others measure the area with the window open. The height of the window installation is also important. The bottom of the window opening should be no more than 44 in. off the floor.

On the outside, an oversize window well is required. It will need to be at least 36 inches wide and extend 36 inches out from the window. The window well height is also limited to 44 inches, as measured from the well floor. If a deep basement forces a deeper window well, most codes will allow a concrete block on the floor of the well to serve as a step, as long

as it does not interfere with the window’s opening. Again, nothing to worry about, we’re egress window installation experts. Look at the Egress Window pictures in the Gallery. Call The Foundation Expert Today!

International Residential Code (IRC- 2006) Section R 310.1 – 310.5 Egress/Rescue Opening Code Requirements for One- and Two-Family Dwellings.

Basements and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency and rescue opening. Such opening shall open directly into a public street, public alley, yard, or court. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room, but shall not be required in adjoining areas of the basement. Where emergency escape and rescue openings are provided they shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) above the floor. Where a door opening having a threshold below the adjacent ground elevation serves as an emergency escape and rescue opening and is provided with a bulkhead enclosure, the bulkhead enclosure shall comply with Section R310.3. The net clear opening dimensions required by this section shall be obtained by the normal operation of the emergency escape and rescue opening from the inside. Emergency escape and rescue openings with a finished sill height below the adjacent ground elevation shall be provided with a window well in accordance with Section R310.2.MINIMUM OPENING AREA: SECTION: R 310.1.1
All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet (0.530 m2).
Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet (0.465 m2).

The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 MM).


The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).OPERATIONAL CONSTRAINTS: R 310.1.4
Emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys or tools or special knowledge.

The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 9 square feet (0.9 m2), with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm). The area of the window well shall allow the emergency escape and rescue opening to be fully opened.

Exception: The ladder or steps required by SECTION R 310.2.1 shall be permitted to encroach a maximum of 6 inches (152 mm) into the required dimensions of the window well.

Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position. Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be required to comply with Sections R311.5 and R311.6. Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305 mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76mm) from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on center vertically for the full height of the window well.

SECTION: R 310.3
Bulkhead enclosures shall provide direct access to the basement. The bulkhead enclosure with the door panels in the fully open position shall provide the minimum net clear opening required by Section R 310.1.1. Bulkhead enclosures shall also comply with Section R 311.5.8.2.

SECTION: R 310.3
Bars, grills, covers, screens or similar devices are permitted to be placed over emergency escape and rescue openings, bulkhead enclosures, or window wells that serve such openings, provided the minimum net clear opening size complies with Sections R 310.1.1 to R 310.1.3, and such devices shall be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening.

Emergency escape windows are allowed to be installed under decks and porches provided the location of the deck allow the emergency escape window to be fully opened and provides a path not less than 36 inches (914 mm) in height to a yard or court.

An egress window must satisfy all four International Residential Code (IRC) criteria:

  • 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.

Egress Window FAQ’s

Q: What if I have a bedroom in the basement?
A: If you are calling a room a bedroom, the egress window system must be located within that basement bedroom. If you have two bedrooms in the basement, two egress window systems must be installed, one within each bedroom.

Q: My basement is finished; can you still install the egress system?
A:Absolutely. Approximately 80% of our installations are performed in finished basements. We go through the normal installation procedures outside the house. However, the inside is painstakingly protected from damage or debris generated during the installation process. After the rough work is performed and the window is installed, the interior is usually refinished to match the existing decor as if the window had always been there.

Q: How quickly can I get an installation?
A: Call us today to schedule an appointment that is convenient for you. We will come to your home, listen to your needs, assess the situation, make recommendations, and provide you with a guaranteed price for your new egress system.

Q: Do you guarantee against water leaks?
A: If we install a waterproof or water management system, we give you a lifetime warranty. If we need to tap into an existing system, then no – we cannot be responsible for another company’s work, regardless of who they are. If we install a sump pump just for the window, yes. However, the sump pump has a limited warranty. If there is an existing water drainage issue near the proposed installation location, it must be addressed prior to the installation of the egress system. The manufacturers of our windows guarantee them against leaks due to seal failures and stress cracks in the glass. The term of the warranty usually depends on which design you choose from different manufacturers.

Q: I would like my window installed near utilities – is that a problem?
A: Nope. In ALL instances, we call ‘Miss Utility’, which prompts all of the utility companies that provide services to your home to come out and mark the area where their lines and pipes are buried. Most times, we have to hand dig the hole because the desired egress location is too close to the foundation wall, and sometimes in between the electrical service and the gas service.

Q: How do you prevent my well from filling up with water?
A: First, proper drainage. We take the preventative measure of installing a drainage pipe in the bottom of the well within the crushed stone base. If your house is newer, we tie the drainage pipe to the existing foundation drain that the builder installed while building your house. If you house is older, we drill through the foundation wall and install the drainage pipe through the wall and terminate it into your existing sump pump. If you do not have a pump, one needs to be installed, as an added expense. Second, we can install egress well covers, which have hinges that are mechanically fastened to the house and/or well. The cover, as the name implies, completely covers the well preventing water from entering the well and they are designed to shed water away from the house out into the yard.

Q: Is there any maintenance required?
A: Not with an The Foundation Expert install. The exterior of the egress system will be completely maintenance free. Once the unit is attached to the house and the cover is installed, there are no openings or crevices that will allow water, debris, and/or where animals can enter.

Q: You are cutting into the foundation – will that weaken the structure?
A: Not with our company, The Foundation Expert doing the install. There are basically two scenarios. Scenario One, which is 95% of the time – we are cutting into an area which has virtually no loads bearing upon it (this is usually where the builder installs the standard basement windows). However, sometimes we are cutting into an area, which may have load bearing on it. If necessary (usually not) we can have our drawings signed, sealed and dated by a Certified Engineer in whichever state we are installing (MD/VA/DC). Rest assured, no mistakes are made, and the structural integrity of your house is never compromised.

Q: I have a stone foundation, is that a problem?
A: It makes it more complex, but not impossible. We have a 2nd generation stone mason who works with us on these types of installations. We dig the hole and the mason takes over. The mason takes the stone wall apart to create the required rough opening within the stone foundation. He installs an engineered steel angle to support the remaining stone above the opening. Then we proceed as usual with the remainder of the installation.

Q: How long will it take to perform the work?
A: If you have an unfinished basement, we can usually complete the installation in one day, although we ask for two days to be safe. If you have a finished basement, it will usually take one to two days.

Q: Will there be a mess left behind?
A: No. We always remove all job related debris in every project we undertake. We take away all of the leftover excavation dirt and the concrete which was cut out of the wall. We utilize all of the stone that we bring by placing it at the base of the well and completely backfilling the cavity between the well and the earth. Then, as we remove our equipment, we do our best to minimize the traces of us being there.

Q: Do I need a permit for the work?
A: Yes. A permit is required in all local, city, county municipalities for this type of work. You can pull the permit, or we will complete and submit all of the paperwork required to obtain the permit. However, due to the different fees imposed by different municipalities, the fee for the permit is added to your overall investment.

Q: Do you have the proper Insurance coverage?
A: Yes we do. We have General Liability Coverage, Commercial Vehicle Coverage, Rental Equipment Coverage, and Workman’s Compensation Coverage. As of January 2008, all of these insurances must be presented, via Certificates of Insurance, to pull permits.

Q: I have decided to use The Foundation Expert – how do we begin?
A: Excellent choice! First, we must schedule an appointment to come out to your house so that we can look at what you would like to do. Give us a call right now at (877) 344-1155

Since we offer different designs, we must determine which one best meets your needs and desire. Then we take measurements. Usually we can give you a quote and proposal right then and there, and begin the project; or allow you some time to consider our proposal. If you like, feel free to get other estimates! Regardless, we are here to answer any questions you might have, and we hope to be your contractor of choice – for life! Call The Foundation Expert.