Does My Asheville Basement Need Them?
A finished basement can be one of the most cost-effective ways to add extra space to your Asheville home. It can be an a good area for bedrooms, a family room or a playroom.
As you get ready for your basement remodeling project, take into account that you may need to add wider 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 appealing.
Basement bedrooms and living spaces must have egress windows. Living areas can be offices, TV rooms or workshops. This rule also involves unfinished basements.
Why Are Egress Windows Important?
Basement fires happen regularly, with firefighters handling about 6,500 of them in the U.S. each year.
Time is limited to get out when there’s a house fire. It can become deadly in as little as 2 minutes and engulf a home within 5 minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
When you only have minutes to leave, big egress windows are an important altermative 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 type 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 shorter opening.
If you have an older home, there’s a good chance it has short 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-geared first responder to climb through.
How to Measure Your Basement Windows
Unsure if your existing 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 bigger 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 at the base 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 an attached ladder or steps.
Using timber or concrete blocks in the well makes it simple to install steps. Plus, you can add several 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 should be enough clearance 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 essential that basement windows can completely open. The window sash shouldn’t interfere with the opening. This allows your family to quickly exit—or first responders to quickly enter.
Local requirements for basement windows may be different. Check with Asheville 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 limited wall space. These windows work like a door, swinging free to provide a spacious opening.
Casement windows open by rotating a handle. Pella® casement windows incorporate a crank that folds away. That way, the crank won't get in the way of shades.
This window must have at least 8 square feet of net opening.
Sliding windows are great for adding more light to spacious 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 moving the sash from left to right. Some Pella models feature 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 Asheville
Basement escape windows are an essential for downstairs living spaces. They can be lifesaving equipment in an emergency. Include our professionals at Pella of Asheville. We can help when you're updating your basement.
We can also help you find the right window that matches your project, budget and local egress requirements.