Egress Windows: Transforming Basements into Safe Living Spaces

I’ve always been passionate about the small details that make our homes safer, more functional, and yes, even more delightful. Today, we’re diving into a topic that’s as intriguing as it is essential – the egress window.

Egress windows aren’t just your average windows; they’re specially designed for safety, and believe me, they’ve got a few other tricks up their sleeve too!

In my years of experience, I’ve seen firsthand how an egress window can revolutionize a room. So, buckle up and get ready for a journey into the wonderful world of egress windows.

What is an Egress Window?

So, you might be asking yourself, “What is an egress window, anyway?” It’s a fair question, and the answer is just as interesting. An egress window, in the simplest terms, is a window that is specifically designed for a safe exit or entry in case of emergencies, like a fire.

But don’t let the simplicity of the definition fool you. Egress windows play a major role in our homes beyond just safety exits. They bring in a generous amount of natural light, enhancing the aesthetics of your interiors, and are excellent for ventilation.

In my humble abode, the basement was once a place where sunlight was a distant dream. That was until I installed an egress window. It became a total game-changer, transforming my once gloomy basement into a sunny, cheerful living space.

Understanding Egress Window Codes

Now that we’ve established what an egress window is and how it can transform your space, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. When installing an egress window, it’s essential to follow certain building codes. These egress window codes are not just rules put together to make your life difficult, but rather, they’re thoughtfully designed for safety purposes.

These codes can vary from location to location. For instance, when I was remodeling a friend’s home in the heart of Chicago, the code requirements differed from what I’d previously experienced back home in Toronto.

So, it’s always advisable to check your local building codes or hire a professional who’s up-to-date with these regulations.

Following egress window codes to the letter ensures your home not only becomes safer but also legally compliant. Think about it this way – these codes are like the recipe for a great dish. Miss an ingredient or a step, and you won’t get the result you were hoping for.

Different Types of Egress Windows

If you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you’re itching to know about the different types of egress windows. Hold onto your seats because we’re about to venture into the world of choice and variety that can make your home not just safer, but also quite chic!

Let’s start with the most common types: casement egress windows, sliding egress windows, and single-hung egress windows.

Casement windows are hinged on the side and swing outwards. They’re great because they can meet size requirements for windows but with a smaller frame width than sliders or single-hung windows. However, from personal experience, remember to place furniture strategically, so it doesn’t obstruct the swing.

Sliding egress windows, also known as gliders, slide horizontally. They’re ideal for wider openings and are easy to operate. But here’s a tip from my own adventures in home improvements: Ensure that the window track is kept clean to maintain easy sliding!

Lastly, the single-hung windows are traditional-style windows where the bottom sash moves up to open the window and allow ventilation. They are a classic choice for the aesthetically inclined homeowners among us.

Egress Windows for Basements

Now, let’s delve into the basement – literally! If you’ve got a basement and you’re wondering whether to install an egress window, my answer(based on experience and expertise) is a resounding ‘Yes’!

Egress windows for basements can transform the space in more ways than one. I remember when I first installed a basement egress window in my home in sunny California. I was amazed at how much it changed the dynamic of the area.

It invited more light into the space and created a welcoming and inviting atmosphere. Plus, it provided an essential safety escape route – peace of mind is a wonderful thing!

Remember, basement egress windows also help you comply with building codes. If you plan to have a livable space in your basement, an egress window isn’t just an option – it’s a requirement.

Components of an Egress Window System

The window, as we’ve discussed, is your escape route and light source. But did you know that the window well can be just as vital? The egress window well is a sturdy structure built around your window.

It not only prevents soil and water from getting in, but it also allows room for you to climb out during an emergency.

Then, we have the window well cover. This is essentially the shield that protects the well and window from debris, snow, and even potential intruders. 

All of these components work together like a well-oiled machine, providing safety and enhancing the aesthetics of your home. 

Egress Window Installation Process

Safety and proper planning are paramount when you’re thinking about an egress window installation. It’s not a light weekend DIY project. When I did it for the first time, I was glad to have had a couple of house remodels under my belt.

However, if you’re not a seasoned DIYer, I would recommend hiring a professional to ensure everything goes smoothly and safely. Here are the general steps involved:

1. Obtain Permits and Check Local Codes:

Before beginning, ensure that you have all the necessary permits. Check with your local municipality to understand the requirements and codes related to egress windows. Each area may have different specifications for size, placement, and other features.

2. Select the Right Window and Gather Materials:

Choose an egress window that meets local codes and suits your aesthetic preferences. Also, gather all the materials and tools needed, such as a circular saw, hammer, shovel, concrete blade, caulk, etc.

3. Plan and Mark the Window Opening:

Measure and mark the dimensions of the window on the basement wall. Make sure the location and size comply with local codes. Remember, it’s important to get these measurements right, so double-check them.

4. Excavate the Area Outside:

Dig a hole in the ground on the exterior of the basement where the window will be. The hole should be at least a few inches wider and deeper than the window well.

5. Cut the Basement Wall:

Using a circular saw with a concrete blade, carefully cut the basement wall along the markings you made earlier. You might need to make several passes to cut through the concrete or block wall.

6. Remove the Cut-out Section:

After cutting the hole, remove the cut-out section of the wall. This part can be heavy and cumbersome, so it’s best to have someone assisting you.

7. Frame the Window Opening:

Frame the inside of the opening with pressure-treated lumber. This will help support the wall and provide a solid frame for securing the window.

8. Install the Window Well:

Attach the window well to the foundation according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure it’s level and secure. Fill the bottom of the well with a few inches of gravel for drainage.

9. Install the Egress Window:

Slide the egress window into the opening and ensure that it’s level and square. Secure it to the frame using screws and caulk around the edges to make it watertight.

10. Finish the Window Well:

Backfill around the window well with soil to keep it in place. Install a window well cover to keep debris, rain, and snow out of the well.

11. Interior Finishing:

Inside, you might want to add trim around the window and maybe a windowsill. Also, consider adding insulation around the frame for energy efficiency.

12. Inspect and Clean-up:

Finally, inspect the installation to make sure everything is secure and operating properly. Clean up the area, removing any debris or tools.

You can also read: How To Replace House Windows: Steps To Replace House Windows by Yourself

How Much Does an Egress Window Cost?

Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room – the egress window cost. In my experience, the cost can vary significantly based on the window type, your geographical location, labor costs, and any additional features like window well covers or customized sizes.

On average, you can expect to spend between $2,500  to $5,500 per window, including installation.

When I installed an egress window in my Boston home, I opted for a high-end model with top-notch features, and it cost me around $4,500. 

While these numbers might seem high, remember that an egress window is a worthwhile investment. It adds value to your home, enhances safety, and improves the living environment.

In the end, it’s not just about the cost; it’s about the value that an egress window adds to your home. 

Conclusion

Well, my dear reader, we’ve certainly covered a lot of ground, haven’t we? From learning what an egress window is to understanding the nitty-gritty of the installation process, I’m sure you’re feeling much more informed.

Remember, the decision to install an egress window in your home isn’t just about adding an architectural feature or increasing your home’s value—it’s about ensuring the safety and well-being of your family.

In my years of experience, I’ve learned that an egress window can completely transform a space. It can light up a dark basement, make your home feel more inviting, and above all, give you peace of mind knowing there’s a safe exit in case of an emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I install an egress window myself?

If you’re a seasoned DIYer with substantial experience in construction projects, you might be able to handle the project. But keep in mind, it’s a complex task that involves cutting through the foundation, following building codes, and ensuring a watertight installation. If you’re not confident, hiring a professional is a worthwhile investment.

How do I maintain my egress window?

Maintenance for an egress window is relatively straightforward. Regularly clean the window and window well, ensure the window operates smoothly, and check that the well’s drainage is functioning properly. If you’re in a snow-prone area like I was in Canada, make sure to keep the well free of snow and ice.

Can an egress window add value to my home?

Absolutely! Not only does it enhance safety, but it also adds natural light and can convert a basement into a legal, livable space, all of which can increase your home’s value. When I installed an egress window in my basement and turned it into an extra bedroom, the value of my property significantly increased.

What is the minimum size for an egress window?

The size can vary based on local codes, but typically, the window should have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet. The minimum opening height should be 24 inches, and the minimum opening width should be 20 inches.

Joxan Williams
Home Maintenance Expert | joxanwilliams@gmail.com | Website

I'm a licensed home maintenance contractor with over a decade of experience, dedicated to preserving your home's value. My expertise includes roofing, gutter installation and repair, fencing, pool maintenance, deck and patio construction, plumbing, appliance repair, lawn care, painting, garage doors, windows, sump pumps, and steam heating systems.