Does My Hunt Valley Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add more space to your Hunt Valley home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, keep in mind you may need to put in wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that give an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces need to have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule also involves unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires occur frequently, with firefighters responding to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. each year.
Time is limited to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become deadly in just 2 minutes and overtake 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 altermative exit.
Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small
Basements in older homes were not designed to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes constructed before World War II.
Homeowners back then used this type 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 tinier opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good chance it has narrow windows in the basement. Also referred to 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-equipped first responder to fit through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Unsure if your existing basement windows meet present-day requirements? All you need is a tape measure.
- Open the window as wide as possible.
- 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 fast 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 below ground level, you will need to have a well dug underneath 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 an attached ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it easy to install steps. Plus, you can incorporate a few small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's acceptable for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there needs to be enough clearance for an average-sized adult to get out.
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 an escape route, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removed from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also important that basement windows can open entirely. The window sash shouldn’t impede the opening. This enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Hunt Valley building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several types of windows that work well for basements and fulfill building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for limited wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide an ample opening.
Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with shades.
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 bigger, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.
Sliding windows open by shifting the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even more effortless operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Hunt Valley
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 Hunt Valley. We can help when you're updating your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.