Does My Gaithersburg Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add additional space to your Gaithersburg home. It can be an a good area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you get ready for your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to put in wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that give a secondary exit in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more inviting.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces must have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also affects unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires are common, with firefighters being called to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. each year.
Time is limited to flee a house fire. It can become life-threatening in just 2 minutes and overwhelm a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to escape, correctly sized egress windows are a critical substitute exit.
Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small
Basements in older homes were not created to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes built before World War II.
Homeowners back then used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have been built before today’s egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good possibility it has short windows in the basement. Also referred to as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to provide fresh air.
But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-equipped first responder to climb through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Not sure if your existing 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.
Is your measurement equal to the required 821 square inches—or 5.7 square feet? If not, you need to have taller and wider windows installed.
Requirements for Egress Windows in Basements
Building codes mandate the size of basement windows. This allows for a quick 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 beneath ground level, you will need to have a well dug at the base of the window frame. This well should be at least 36 inches wide and 36 inches long. If the well is more than 44 inches deep, it will need a permanent ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it simple to add steps. Plus, you can incorporate a few small landscaping features, like crushed rock or potted plant.
It's all right for basement windows to be under a deck or porch. But there should be enough clearance for an average-sized adult to get out.
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 a way out, 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 vital that basement windows can open entirely. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct the opening. This helps your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Gaithersburg building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several types of windows that work well for basements and meet building code requirements.
Casement windows are a good option for limited wall space. These windows work like a door, swinging free to provide a spacious opening.
Casement windows open by using a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt shades.
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 wider and taller, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.
Sliding windows open by moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models include extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers provide even smoother operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Gaithersburg
Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be lifesaving equipment in an emergency. Meet with our professionals at Pella of Gaithersburg. We can help when you're updating your basement.
We can also recommend the right window that matches your project, budget and local egress requirements.