Does My Falls Church Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the simplest ways to add additional space to your Falls Church home. It can be an a good area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you plan your basement remodeling project, keep in mind you may need to add bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more appealing.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living rooms can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This mandate also applies to unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires are common, with firefighters responding to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. each year.
You don’t have much time to escape a house fire. It can become deadly in just 2 minutes and engulf a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to escape, large egress windows are an important substitute exit.
Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small
Basements in older homes were not designed to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes constructed 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 predate modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a shorter opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good chance it has short windows in the basement. Also referred to as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to let in fresh air.
But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-geared first responder to fit through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Unsure if your present basement windows meet present-day requirements? All you need is a tape measure.
- Open the window completely.
- Measure the width and height of the opening.
- Multiply the width by the height.
Is your measurement equivalent to 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 fast 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 below ground level, you will need to have a well dug underneath 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 easy to put in steps. Plus, you can include several 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 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 an exit, they must open from the inside. Any screens, grilles or bars need to be removed from the inside without keys or tools.
It’s also important that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t impede the opening. This enables your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Falls Church building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and fulfill 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 using a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't disrupt window treatments.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to big basements. These windows have to be bigger, because the opening is only half as wide as the window. This is due to the sash, which slides horizontally.
Sliding windows open by pushing the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even more effortless operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Falls Church
Basement escape windows are a must-have for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving device in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Falls Church. We can help when you're updating your basement.
We can also recommend the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.