Does My Woburn Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add additional space to your Woburn home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you prepare for your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to install bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide another way out in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more appealing.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces must have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule also affects unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires occur frequently, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.
You don’t have much time to escape a house fire. It can become deadly in just 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to get out, big egress windows are a critical altermative exit.
Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small
Basements in older homes were not intended to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes built before World War II.
Homeowners at that time used this style of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may predate modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.
If you own an older home, there’s a good possibility it has narrow windows in the basement. Also referred to as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to circulate fresh air.
But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-equipped first responder to enter through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Unsure if your present basement windows meet modern requirements? All you need is a tape measure.
- Open the window fully.
- 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 underneath the window frame. This well needs to 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 simple to put in steps. Plus, you can include a few small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's OK 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 exit, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removable from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also essential that basement windows can fully open. The window sash shouldn’t interfere with the opening. This enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may differ. Check with Woburn building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several types of windows that work well for basements and satisfy building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for less wall space. These windows work like a door, swinging free to provide an ample 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 window treatments.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to spacious basements. These windows have to be larger, 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 include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even smoother operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Woburn
Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be lifesaving equipment in an emergency. Talk with our professionals at Pella of Woburn. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also assist you in finding the right window that meets your project, budget and local egress requirements.