An egress window is designed to allow people to escape if there is a fire. Local regulations usually require these windows to be installed in basements. If your basement was built before the new building codes that require these windows, you will be required to install them when you renovate or remodel your basement. Most municipalities have specific requirements for these windows. So, it is very important to contact your local building code office for these requirements.
Egress windows, like any other type of window, come in a variety of styles. Quality of the widows depends on the manufacturer and the quality of the insulation and materials. All of these windows are designed to provide an escape route in case of a fire or other emergency. Because of the very specific egress window requirements, professional installation is recommended. Your local contractor will be familiar with the building codes in your area, and can guarantee that the window they install will comply with the codes and pass a safety inspection. Installing these windows can be expensive, costing over $1000. But, doing it yourself can be even more expensive when you consider the investment in tools that will be needed tools your local contractors already have.
A standard window well can block the light entering the basement. Egress window requirements are such that egress window wells let in more light for safety purposes. This additional light into the basement makes in a more hospitable living space as well. Although not recommended, do it yourselfers can purchase and install egress window wells on their own. Besides providing a source of ventilation and natural lighting, they are a safe way to exit the area in an emergency. This is usually done with terraced steps. For visual appeal, these steps can also be used as planters to make the view out of the window more inviting. After all, who wants to stare at stairs anyway? These easy to install systems snap together, and are made of maintenance free materials that resist rust and rot.
If you have access to the proper tools, you can install these windows yourself. Typical requirements are that the opening by 24 in. high by 20 in. wide. The window can be no more than 44 inches off the floor and the clearing from the opening must be 6 square feet. The requirement in your locality might differ slightly, so contact code enforcement before commencing the project. These are typically new regulations, so your current basement windows most likely do not meet these requirements. Some retrofitting will be required. This can make the project more complicated, time consuming, and expensive.
The ideal egress windows are casement windows. They do not take up much wall space. Also, they have wide openings and side hinges, making escape very easy. Glider or double hung windows can also work, but they need to be much bigger. This is because they only open half way, thus at least doubling the space requirement. Awning windows can be used, but are tricky. Because they swing from the bottom, they can get blocked, trapping the occupants in the room. Also, the opening mechanisms are usually located in the middle of the window, also blocking egress. Because of this, awning windows are not recommended, are actually prohibited in some areas. Although expensive, installing an egress window is essential for the safety of your family and anyone else who will be in your newly remodeled basement. When determining whether to do this project yourself, contact some local contractors and get a few estimates first. You might find that the extra cost more than makes up for the work and headache of completing this project on your own.