Skip to Content
Blog
What Are Egress Windows?

What Are Egress Windows?

Does My Indianapolis Basement Need Them?

A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add additional space to your Indianapolis home. It can be an an ideal area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.

As you plan your basement remodeling project, be aware that you may need to install wider windows. Egress windows are large openings that offer another way out in an emergency. They can also add more natural light and make your basement feel more appealing.

Basement bedrooms and living spaces need to have egress windows. Living spaces can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule also affects unfinished basements.

Why Are Egress Windows Important?

Basement fires are common, with firefighters responding to about 6,500 of them in the U.S. annually.

You don’t have much time to escape a house fire. It can become life-threatening in just 2 minutes and overtake a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

When you only have minutes to get out, large egress windows are a crucial substitute exit.

Basement Windows in Older Homes May Be Too Small

Basements in older homes were not intended to be sleeping or living areas. This is especially true for homes constructed before World War II.

Homeowners at that time used this kind of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.

Depending on its age, your home may have preceded up-to-date egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a smaller opening.

If you own an older home, there’s a good possibility it has narrow windows in the basement. Also called hopper windows, these above-ground windows open inward to circulate fresh air.

But these windows are small—too small for an adult or fully-outfitted first responder to enter 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 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 bigger 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 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 add 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 should be enough space 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 essential that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t obstruct 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 Indianapolis building officials to learn more about area guidelines.

Choosing Basement Egress Windows

There are several kinds of windows that work well for basements and satisfy building code requirements.

Casement Windows

Casement windows are a good option for not a lot of wall space. These windows open like a door, swinging free to provide an ample opening.

Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows use a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't interfere with window treatments.

This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.

Sliding Windows

Sliding windows are great for adding more light to large 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 shifting the sash from left to right. Some Pella models have extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even smoother operation.

This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.

Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Indianapolis

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 Indianapolis. 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.

Back to Blog