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What Is An Egress Window: Should You Get One?

What Is An Egress Window: Should You Get One?

An egress window is a type of windows you need in your home in case of an emergency. The literal meaning of its name is ‘to emerge’ or ‘a path out.’ You should install it in your basement and all the bedrooms, as well. Since it can be an exit for you and the members of your family, it needs to meet specific requirements regulated by law and the IRC (International Residential Code).

So, it is crucial to install one egress window in your basement or to remodel the existing one if it is not large enough for everyone to pass through it. Moreover, it needs to be well-lubricated to make it easy to open and close. You can use many types of windows as an egress window, including double and single hung windows, casement windows, and even skylight windows. Let’s see.

Size Requirements for an Egress Window

To meet IRC standards, every egress window needs to fulfill some basic requirements, including:

  • A minimum required free space opening when the window is wide open is 5.7 sq. ft. (0.5 m2). It is the size most people can pass through.
  • The minimum opening width needs to be at least 20 to 24 inches (51 – 61 cm).
  • The minimum opening height needs to be at least 24 to 34 inches (61 – 86 cm).
  • The maximum height of the sill above the floor needs to be within 44 inches (1.1 m). If the bottom of the opening is lower, it is allowed that the opening of the window is only 5 sq. ft. (0.46 m2).

Take care to keep your egress window free of window security bars, window guards, and grilles. Also, always pick out the window that opens from the inside, without any window locks.

Don’t forget that these regulations are new. So, you should check the dimensions of your egress window if your home is older. It is not only about the law you need to respect, but also the safety of your family.

When you want to make an additional bedroom in the basement or attic, you will need an inspection. Inspectors can’t see everything, but you should since it concerns you and your children.

Even though you need to widen or heighten the existing window, don’t avoid it. One such investment can be worth every cent invested.

Types of Egress Windows

1. Basement egress windows with a well

Basement egress windows with a well

Most homes in the US have the window well surrounding the basement window. As you have already read, every egress window needs to meet some requirements, including adequate width, height, and square footage. However, there are some requirements for window wells, as well.

  • Opening – It needs to allow the full opening in the case of emergency
  • Window well area – You should provide at least 9 sq. ft. (0.8 m2) of floor area for your window well. That means, its dimensions should be at least 36 inches (0.9 m) in width and length.
  • Steps or ladder – Place steps or ladder when the depth of the window well exceeds 44 inches (1.1 m). Take care to pick out at least 12 inches (30.5 cm) wide ladder and project it maximum 3 inches (7.6 cm) from the wall of the window well.
  • Porch – If your egress window is positioned under a porch, you need to provide at least 48 inches (1.2 m) between the bottom of the porch and top of the window well.
  • Window well cover – Try to provide window well cover to protect the area from debris and rain.

2. Skylight egress window

Skylight egress window 1

Most people believe that skylight windows are not a proper option for an egress window. However, you can use it if it is the appropriate size and installed within 44 inches (1.1 m) of the floor.

If you choose a skylight window that opens to the side, it can be both stylish and egress window at the same time.

3. Single-hung egress window

Single-hung egress window

A single-hung window is an ideal option for ventilation of your basement, but you can use it as an egress window when needed.

Its handle is positioned low on the frame, which makes opening the window easy, even for children. Plus, it exceeds required 5.7 sq. ft. (0.5 m2) opening size.

4. Double-hung egress window

Double-hung egress window

To fulfill the requirements, this window needs to be big enough. The problem is that still glass of this type of window takes up half the opening. Therefore, you need a considerable window to achieve the required size, which can be a bit impractical.

5. Casement egress windows

Casement windows are actually an excellent option for this purpose if it is of the correct size. The benefit of this solution is that the casement creates one single opening you can use to climb out when needed.

6. Awning egress window

Some people have this type of window as an egress window, but I am not sure how convenient it is. Since you need to open it from the bottom, it is not a suitable solution for the basement.

Where are Egress Windows Required?

Where are Egress Windows Required

The residential building code in the US requires that each habitable space needs to have at least one installed egress window large enough for escape in an emergency case.

Keep in mind that these codes vary depending on the city and state where you live. Therefore, you should check code with your City Office and ask for permits before starting working.

According to the local fire code, you need to install an egress window in every bedroom and a basement, primarily if you use it as a place for living. In other words, you need at least one egress window on each floor. There is no need to install one in a storage room or attic, especially if you don’t use them often.

Since each bedroom in the house needs an egress window, you can consider every type of window you have there as an escape route.

The number of egress windows you need depends on how many bedrooms you have in the house. For example, you need to install an egress window in your basement if you use it as a sleeping area. Keep in mind that it is required by law.

The procedure of installing an egress window and digging the window well will cost you at least a thousand dollars, probably more. However, an egress window is highly beneficial and can help you with the ventilation of your basement, especially when it is moist and dark.

Plus, if you fulfill all the requirements correctly, you will ensure the safe exit for your family in case of fire or some other emergency.

Differences between an Egress Window and Basement Window

The fact is that a basement window doesn’t always have to be an egress window. For example, if the basement in your house is unfinished or you don’t use it too much, you will need just a small window to provide ventilation for that room.

However, the size of that window probably doesn’t meet the code for an egress window. Since the standards for egress openings are strict, you will need to change it once you decide to transform your basement into a bedroom.

Egress Window Installation

Even though the law requires installing an egress window in your basement only if you put a bedroom there, you may decide to do that for the increased safety of the household.

Be prepared that not all window brands produce egress windows. Therefore, you should talk to the local window installer about your options.

He or she will know which window brand is the best solution for your home and help you with the installation. Keep in mind that you will need professional help, especially if you need to dig a window well in front of the new window. It is always an excellent solution that will provide enough space for opening the window and exit when needed.

Egress Window Costs

The price for the installation of an average egress window is in a range from $1,000 to $5,000. However, if you choose to install a casement egress window, your expenses will be much lower.

You should count on labor costs, which are approximately $38 per hour for a regular window. However, the costs may grow considerably if you need to dig the window well.

On the other hand, you will pay less if you just need to replace the existing window without widening the opening. One thing is for sure, the average cost of both the installation and replacement will mostly depend on local factors.


At first glance, it seems that a list of requirements for an egress window is impossible-to-meet. If you think so, you should ask the family who had it and saved lives thanks to its dimensions and position.

Once you understand how crucial the existence of such an option for escaping in a case of emergency is, you won’t think twice before installing one in your home. It looks expensive only if you don’t need to compare the price of the window with the life of your children. Yes, it is so serious.


Friday 29th of May 2020

Sometimes we think bedroom windows as lifesaving equipment but it's not true in case of an emergency. The right size egress window can make the difference between life and death.