Does My Syracuse Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add additional space to your Syracuse home. It can be an a good area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you plan your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to add larger 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 requirement also affects unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.
There’s not a lot of time to escape a house fire. It can become fatal in just 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to escape, big egress windows are a crucial 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 made before World War II.
Homeowners back then used this style of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may predate up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a smaller opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good possibility it has skinny windows in the basement. Also known as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to let in 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
Unsure 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 larger 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 bottom of the window frame. This well should be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches long. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, it will need a fixed ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it uncomplicated to put in steps. Plus, you can include 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 must be enough clearance 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 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 completely open. The window sash shouldn’t interfere with the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with Syracuse 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 not a lot of wall space. These windows work like a door, swinging free to provide a wide opening.
Casement windows open by turning a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of shades.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large 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 pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even easier operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Syracuse
Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Syracuse. We can help when you're redoing your basement.
We can also recommend the right window that meets your project, budget and local egress requirements.