What Is an Egress Window

An egress window is a type of window fitting that must be installed in specific conditions. It is intended to provide a means for the inhabitants to escape the building in the event of an emergency. An egress window would be fitted in any location where it may be the only means of escape in the event of an emergency (e.g., a fire). Learn more about egress windows and the legal requirements for installing and maintaining them.

Locations and type of fitting

An egress window is required in any room where the inhabitants would sleep (such as bedrooms) or in a basement where the space is habitable. When constructing new homes, builders must now install egress windows in every bedroom. If your basement is converted into bedrooms, then every room must have its own egress window. Egress windows allow occupants to get out of the house and give firefighters a means to get into the house in an emergency.

Size requirements

Egress windows must conform to certain size requirements:

  • The minimum width of opening must be 20 inches.
  • The minimum height of opening must be 24 inches.
  • The minimum net clear opening should be 5.7 square feet, or 5 square feet on the ground floor. This refers to the actual free space that exists for somebody to crawl through when the window is open.
  • The maximum sill height above the floor must be 44 inches.

Basement requirements

Egress windows in basements must meet additional requirements compared to other locations in the house. These windows must meet the height, width and overall square-footage of other egress windows, but there are also requirements for the window well. These window wells must allow the rescue window to open fully. There must be at least 9 feet of floor area, with a minimum dimension of 36 inches in width and length. If the window well depth exceeds 44 inches, there must also be a permanent ladder or steps for climbing out. If an egress window is located under a porch or deck, there must be at least 48 inches between the top of the window well and the bottom of the deck or porch joints.

Meeting requirements

Many older homes were built before egress window requirements were introduced. Furthermore, some homes were built when the window opening size was smaller than current requirements. Attics and basements may have been converted into rooms that don't have any restrictions on egress windows, such as family rooms or offices. Homeowners may therefore have converted these rooms into bedrooms, without considering the need to install new egress windows. Home inspectors are not always appropriately consulted during conversion works. If you are buying a new house, it is therefore vital that you obtain an inspection in order to understand which windows need to be replaced or upgraded.

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