Does My Binghamton Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the easiest ways to add additional space to your Binghamton 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 install larger windows. Egress windows are large openings that provide 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 mandate also applies to unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters handling about 6,500 of them in the U.S. every year.
Time is limited to escape a house fire. It can become life-threatening 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, correctly sized egress windows are a critical 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 made before World War II.
Homeowners at that time used this style of basement for utility space, laundry and storage.
Depending on its age, your home may have been built before modern egress window requirements. Or it may have windows with a tinier opening.
If you own an older home, there’s a good possibility it has skinny 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 enter through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Not sure if your current 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.
Does your measurement match 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 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 an attached ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it easy to add steps. Plus, you can include 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 needs to be enough space for an average-sized adult to escape.
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 taken off 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 differ. Check with Binghamton building officials to learn more about area guidelines.
Choosing Basement Egress Windows
There are several styles of windows that work well for basements and satisfy building code requirements.
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 using a handle. Pella® casement windows feature a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of 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 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 shifting the sash from left to right. Some Pella models feature extra-durable tandem nylon rollers. These rollers give even easier operation.
This window must have at least 16 square feet of net opening.
Talk with the Professionals at Pella of Binghamton
Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be a lifesaving tool in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Binghamton. We can help when you're remodeling your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that fits your project, budget and local egress requirements.