All About Egress Windows
No matter what type of home you live in, chances are good that you have several egress windows installed. Egress windows are the windows designed to be easy to climb out of in case of an emergency. These windows must be large enough to use for escape, and they have to be easy to open and close when necessary.
Following Fire Codes
According to local fire codes you must have egress windows on each of the floors of your home that people live in. In other words egress windows must be available on any floors with bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and other living spaces. They don’t have to be available to storage rooms or attic space that isn’t frequently used. Fire codes regarding windows are in place for safety reasons to ensure that there is a window available to climb out of in case of emergency. It’s even more important that these windows are installed in bedrooms, because you are at the greatest risk from fire while sleeping due to the fact that you often aren’t aware that there is a problem until it’s too late to just walk out the door.
To find out what qualifies as an egress window in your area, research the local fire codes and make sure that you have enough windows to be compliant with those rules. As long as you know the rules and you stick with those regulations you shouldn’t have any problems keeping your home up to code.
Basement Egress Windows
Egress windows aren’t typically required in a basement unless that basement is being used on a regular basis. For instance, if you put a bedroom in the basement then it would require egress windows to be installed. However, many homeowners choose to err on the side of caution and install an egress window in their basement regardless of regulations.
In a basement, the type of window isn’t the only consideration that has to be made. An egress window won’t do you any good if it is blocked by shrubbery or dirt on the outside. That’s why a specific window well must be installed as well. The well has to offer enough space for the window to operate fully, and it must come with a ladder or stairs to climb out if it’s more than 44″ deep.
Older Homes Might Not Have Them
Even though egress windows are required by fire codes all over the United States, they aren’t always on older homes. Egress window requirements were once less stringent or nonexistent when some of the oldest homes were built. For instance, egress window regulations for a second story used to require 5 square feet of space when opened and today they require 5.7 square feet fire codes now take into account a rescue ladder as well as a fireman in full protective gear.
To verify that your windows are large enough, it’s important to walk around your home and measure each one of them to see if they are at least 24 inches tall and 20 inches wide and that they have a full opening of at least 5 square feet on the ground floor and 5.7 square feet on higher stories of the house.
Smaller Egress Windows
If you have smaller window casements and you want your windows to count as egress windows you’ll have to forgo double or single hung windows in favor of casement windows. The benefit of casement windows is that they create one single opening that you can climb out of whereas double or single hung windows you aren’t cutting the space in half. This makes better use of your window opening and will allow you to get a viable egress window out of a smaller frame.
While most people don’t think of skylights as making very good emergency escapes, they can be used as egress windows when the proper options are chosen. The skylight must be installed within 44 inches of the floor, which means it will probably only work in certain peaked rooms of a home. The skylight also has to be easy to open and close, and it has to open fully so that someone can crawl out of it. A hinged skylight that cranks open likely isn’t going to meet these requirements, but there are skylights that swing open to the side like a casement window, and they work quite well as egress windows in the right situation.
Egress windows aren’t as exciting as architectural windows designed to improve the appearance of your home, but they’re designed to boost your overall safety. Make sure that you meet all the local fire codes and you won’t have to worry about running into problems later on.