Homeowners have a lot of responsibilities that they never thought they would when moving into their homes. Yard work, repairs and safety are three things every owner has to deal with. However, an egress window is one of the easiest ways to instantly make your home safer because these windows also act as emergency exits.
If you have a basement, egress windows may be the best investment you make in safety this year.
What Are Egress Windows?
Basements are safe areas in a home, but many people have just one way in and out of the space. A home’s basement egress windows allow some natural light into the space, but their main function is to offer you a way to crawl out of your basement if needed.
Depending on where you live, if your home has a basement, you may be required to:
- Install or have a basement egress window
- Have a window large enough for firefighters to get through with their equipment on
An egress window is large and rectangular in shape to make it easier for someone to exit the window in case of an emergency. The main difference between an egress vs traditional window is that the window opens fully to allow the home’s inhabitants to escape the home in the event of a fire.
Egress Window Requirements
Non-finished basements may not need to have an egress window installed, but if you decide that it’s time to finish your basement (perhaps to make a man cave), you need to have an egress window installed.
A general rule of thumb is that an egress window must be installed before your basement can legally be converted into a living space.
Additionally, the window must:
- Meet International Residential Code (IRC)
- Be installed in a finished basement
In terms of being IRC compliant, the following requirements must be met:
- Opening of 5.7 square feet *must be fully clear
- Opening height of 24” or higher
- Opening width of 20”
- Sill height of no higher than 44”
Under current IRC requirements, the best basement windows will meet or exceed all of the requirements listed above. You’ll also need to ensure that all of these widths and heights are 100% clear.
Anyone entering or exiting the window must be able to go through the window without getting caught on any hardware in the process.
On top of these requirements, egress windows must be operational without tools or keys to open the window from the inside.
Note: You must comply with your city and state laws. Discussing your unique requirements with your local zoning department will ensure that you meet all building codes.
Traditional Egress Window Sizes
An egress window will often conform to the minimum size requirements above of:
- 20+ inch width
- 24+ inch height
If the window is larger, that is more than acceptable. As long as you meet the minimum window size requirements, your egress window is fine by IRC standards. However, you will want to confirm the appropriate size with your local zoning board.
You do have a few options to choose from to ensure that you install the right window for your basement.
How to Choose the Right Egress Windows
Homeowners have a lot to think about when choosing a basement egress window. A few of the things to consider when making your choice are:
- Window height should be easy to access from the floor or a low platform
- Place the window in an area that allows for a safe escape from the basement in the event of an emergency
- If the basement may have multiple occupants, consider installing multiple egress windows or larger windows
Depending on the manufacturer, there are a few styles of egress windows to choose from. The Great Egress is a top retailer that sells two main types of egress windows:
- Side Hinge: A side hinge window opens inward and is a good option for ventilation, for natural light and if you want a larger sized window. If you need a larger sash for your window, the side hinge will work best for you.
- Reverse Hopper: The reverse hopper is often the window people think about when envisioning an egress window. This window has a top hinge and will open from the bottom. These windows work best when headroom is limited and require less clearance to open than other styles.
Homeowners should spend time considering their basement and window placement. Choosing a window from a reputable company that offers stylish windows (they don’t need to be ugly) will ensure that you prioritize safety while enjoying natural light and more ventilation.
3 Benefits of Egress Windows for Basements
Whether you’re looking to replace your current egress windows or install new ones, you’ll find that there are many benefits to adding these windows to your home.
These benefits include:
#1 – An Emergency Exit
One of the biggest benefits to installing egress windows is having an emergency exit. If there’s a fire in your home or another emergency, egress windows provide a quick and simple escape route from the basement.
Egress windows also make it easier to rescue someone who may be trapped in the basement.
If there is no practical escape route from your current basement, then installing egress windows will give you peace of mind that your basement has an emergency exit.
#2 – Increased Property Value
Installing egress windows will also increase your property value. Along with making your home more aesthetically pleasing, egress windows will add safety and comfort – which can be major selling points for buyers.
#3 – More Natural Light
Egress windows improve the safety of your home, but they also help add more natural light and ventilation to your basement area.
Natural light will make the basement feel more inviting and will also reduce moisture build-up thanks to the added ventilation.
How to Extend the Lifespan of Basement Egress Windows
Proper care and maintenance of your egress windows can help maximize their lifespans. Because these windows serve as emergency exits, it’s even more important to take good care of them.
Here’s how to maintain your egress windows:
Egress windows should be inspected regularly to ensure they’re working properly. To inspect your windows:
- Open and close the window several times to make sure it moves smoothly and easily
- Check the hinges for signs of wear and tear
If any part of the window is showing signs of wear and tear or isn’t functioning properly, take the time to repair the issue or replace the window. Making repairs early on can help prevent further damage.
Clean Your Windows Regularly
Just like any other window in your home, egress windows should be cleaned regularly. Because these windows are often below grade, it’s even more important to keep them clean. Dirt and debris could interfere with the window’s operation.
Use a mild cleaning solution and clean rag to wipe down the window’s frame, hinges and moving parts. Make sure to dry the windows thoroughly to keep them looking their best.
Lubricate Moving Parts
Along with cleaning and inspecting, it’s important to lubricate any moving parts of the windows to keep them operating smoothly.
Use silicone-based lubricants that are designed for windows.
Proper lubrication will keep the window operating properly and prevent it from sticking or becoming too difficult to open.
If you find that your windows are still sticking or really difficult to open after applying lubrication, consult with a professional to ensure the window is still functioning properly.
Pricing Your Windows
Egress windows are a special type of window that must be made to meet local building and safety codes. Their purpose is to provide a safe escape route for below-ground levels, such as basements, so the cost is often higher compared to a traditional window in a bedroom or living room.
The location of the window will play a big role in the costs. For example, you may need to excavate the area where the window will be installed and even install a compliant window well.
If you don’t already have an egress window installed, then you will likely need to have an experienced professional cut the concrete to the size you need.
Other factors also affect the cost of egress windows, including:
- Glass quality: The higher the glass quality, the higher the price. Double-paned or coated glass options tend to be more expensive than other types of glass.
- Window type: The type of window you choose will also affect the cost. Casement windows are the most common, but you can find other types of egress windows that may come at a higher cost.
- Permits: In most cases, you’ll need to get a permit to install an egress window. If excavation needs to be done as part of the installation, then you will also need an excavation permit.
When you factor in these additional labor costs, installing basement egress windows can easily range from $2,500 to $5,000 or more per window. The national average is around $4,000.
The windows themselves are quite affordable, but it’s the labor costs that really drive up the price of this project. For example, egress windows from The Great Egress start around $525.
Still, egress windows are worth the investment. They provide a safe route for your family to escape if there’s an emergency, and they can add $5,000 in value to your home.