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What is an Egress Window? (Functionality & Benefits)

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If you have a basement foundation and want to add property value to your home, you’ve probably looked into adding an extra bedroom or two downstairs. But did you know that in order for these bedrooms to be up to code, they must feature an egress window? If you want the 411 on egress windows, then this article is for you.   

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has provided foundation repair services since 2015 in Southern California and Arizona. While Dalinghaus doesn’t install egress windows, we fully appreciate their importance in terms of homeowner safety and increased property value.

This article covers the definition of an egress window, how egress window wells function, and why egress windows are imperative for occupants’ safety.

What is an Egress Window?

An egress window is a large, up-to-code window that provides a means of escape and/or rescue from the basement of your home during the event of a fire or similar emergency.

Egress windows are a prerequisite before a basement can be converted into a functional living space. Basement egress windows are installed below grade (or ground level) and require an egress window well.  

Egress windows must reach the International Residential Code and local state building codes. Generally, that’s a 20-inch-minimum width when open and a minimum of 24-inches in height (or 5.7 square feet minimum).

Note – one of the many reasons egress window codes require such a large space is to allow firefighters in full gear to easily enter the premises.  

The word egress is derived from the Latin egressus, signifying “the act of going out” or “to escape.” However, egress windows provide much more than a quick means of escape, such as ventilation, natural light, and an aesthetic opportunity for beautiful trim.  

Egress window safety measures include:

  •   Egress windows must feature an unobstructed escape outlet of 5.7 square feet
  •   Egress windows must be accompanied by a window well if installed below grade/ground
  •   Egress windows can’t be higher than 44 inches from the floor (to provide easy access)
  •   Egress windows must be easy to open without the help of any tools or instruments  

In short, egress windows provide the immediate means of escape during an emergency and are regulated by the IRC & state, county, and/or city codes.   

What is an Egress Window Well?

 Basement egress windows require an egress window well – an excavation that opens up and into the outside world. These egress window wells are generally half-circle or rectangular in shape, providing ample wriggle room to quickly depart the premises.  

Egress window wells are comprised of concrete, polyethylene, or galvanized steel and attach to your home’s foundation for extra support. Some egress window wells have steps built up and out, like a cellar, to expedite the escape process.

Egress window well safety measures include:

  •   Egress window wells must have a minimum of 9 square feet of space
  •   Egress window wells require a ladder if the well is deeper than 44 inches below the ground
  •   Egress window wells require a minimum of 36 inches long and wide    

In short, egress window wells are a key component of egress windows and must meet the IRC requirements to ensure safe and speedy basement departures.

Why are Egress Windows Important?

Egress windows are obviously the most important in terms of safety for homeowners and residents. Egress windows can provide a quick escape from fire and home invasion.  In addition, egress windows are great at adding value to your home.

If you add a single bedroom to your basement, for example, your home’s property value can increase by $30,000 to $50,000.

If you own a home with a basement and you’re looking to add more bang for your buck when it comes to your property value, adding a basement living space with an egress window provides a great rate of return.    

Upgrade your Property Value with Foundation Repair

In this article, you learned the definition of an egress window and how implementing egress windows to create a viable living space in your basement can add value to your property.

In the same vein as renovating your basement by adding an egress window, all home renovations should be undertaken after it is determined your foundation is level and secure. If you’d like to learn more about adding value to your property via foundation repair, read our article 5 Reasons to Fix Your Foundation Now (Remodeling to Equity).

Dalinghaus Construction Inc. has over 100 years of combined foundation repair experience. We understand the importance of adding value to your home, whether it’s through implementing egress windows, home renovations, or foundation repair.

If you live in Southern California or Arizona and would like to book a free foundation inspection, click the link below


Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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One Response

  1. Wow, I had no idea that you could use egress windows to boost your home’s value while working as an emergency exit. My friend plans to live in a wildfire-prone area next year with his wife. I should talk to him about finding a window installation expert that could install this someday.

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