What Are Egress Windows | Learn The Basics


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What Are Egress Windows | Learn The Basics

So what are egress windows? It is a common question from homeowners interested in doing a basement remodel or conversion. Basically, egress windows serve as emergency exits in basements. The definition of an egress is an exit or way out. Basements typically have one way in and out - the door leading upstairs. An egress window provides a second emergency exit should a fire, accident or other scenario occur that effectively blocks or bars the door from being used to escape from the home.

Any basement remodel or conversion is required to provide an egress door or window. This is a safety precaution that costs money, but more importantly, has the potential to save lives. Egress windows are subject to very specific building codes that specify how close the window needs to be to the floor and how large the window opening has to be to allow an adult to escape.

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1. Dig Out The Exterior

There must be enough space outside of the egress window for the window to be opened and closed without any sort of encumbrances. In addition, code requires that the opening be large enough for an adult to easily climb in and out in case of an emergency. Typically this involves renting a small backhoe or other machinery to clear the space out. This task is relatively easy if the window sits high enough that not much earth needs to be moved or relatively labor intense if a large amount of earth needs to be moved and then reinforced to prevent slides etc.

2. Install The Retaining Wall

Once the space is dug out, it must be reinforced, espcially if the space is somewhat deep. This can involve a premade egress retaining wall, cinder blocks, wood or a stepped solution. In this last option, the entrance will be much more gradual.

3. Cut Out A Hole In The Basement Wall

This is a major step and has to be done by a professional contractor or someone who knows what they are doing to avoid hitting electrical or water lines. The hole has to be cut to fit the window and allow for enough space to shim and properly secure the window to the basement wall. It is important to add a sill pan to insure that any water or moisture that does get into the rough opening properly drains out away from the house.

4. Build Out The Window Frame

The window has to be secured using the nailing flanged after it is properly placed in the rough opening. A low expanding foam is used around the window for insulation and flashing should be applied to the outside.

5. Sealing And Finishing The Window

The window should be properly caulked and sealed inside and out to insure a watertight and attractive egress. The job is done - you now have a code compliant egress window for your basement.