Does My Lewes Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add more space to your Lewes home. It can be an a great area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you plan your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to add bigger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide an escape route in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more welcoming.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces are required to have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This requirement also involves unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires occur frequently, with firefighters responding to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.
You don’t have much time to flee a house fire. It can become deadly in as little as 2 minutes and overtake a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to leave, large egress windows are a crucial altermative 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 made before World War II.
Homeowners back then used this type of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have been built before up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a smaller opening.
If you live in an older home, there’s a good possibility it has short windows in the basement. Also known as hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to circulate 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
Uncertain if your present basement windows meet modern 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 equal 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 speedy 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 under ground level, you will need to have a well dug at the bottom of the window frame. This well needs to 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 install 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 room for an average-sized adult to exit.
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 vital that basement windows can fully open. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may vary. Check with Lewes building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several types of windows that work well for basements and satisfy 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 turning a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with curtains.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large basements. These windows have to be larger, 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 feature extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers deliver even smoother operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Lewes
Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving device in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Lewes. We can help when you're redoing your basement.
We can also assist you in finding the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.