An egress window is typically a large window large enough for easy entry or exit, depending on local building codes. These are often required when completing a basement or other extension and are usually paired with an Egress Well along with steps or ladder for quick exit. The majority of commercial buildings these days have them but there are some residential homes without them which can pose a security risk. As with any entry or exit to a building, an egress window should be wide enough to allow movement from the building into the street or parking lot safely. Here are some common problems with these windows and some tips for resolving them.
The most common reason for a non-permanent egress window is the installation of the exterior wall paneling. Since they are permanently installed on the outside face of the house frame, it is impossible to replace, repair or add a new one if defective. This is why it’s best to have your exterior wall installed by a professional. Make sure you are working with someone who is familiar with this type of installation.
If you’re unsure of the foundation requirements or are not confident about the strength of the walls in your basement, then it’s probably best to hire a professional to install egress windows in your basement. Most professionals will come in and work from the outside perimeter of the foundation to install the frame as well as all the required siding and interior trim. They may also come in and consult with you about your electrical and plumbing issues. They will typically recommend a per window rule to ensure maximum safety. The per window rule basically means each window must be installed individually. The exception to this rule would be when you’re installing a new foundation wall because that is allowed under the rules for new construction.
Every new home has the opportunity to be built with better quality construction methods, including better egress windows and more efficient and secure door systems. Foundation footers and walls are constructed from better material, and they are stronger and more resistant to leaking. A cracked foundation wall or major flooding can cause damage to the rest of your home. If your basement is flooded, your primary exit is near the main floor of your home, so you want a system that is both efficient and secure. If the emergency escape route is through a window, you want a system that allows you easy access into your home from an open window.
Foundation footers are another important component of your egress window system. You may be tempted to install just any type of flat, non-slip flooring into your basement. However, installing concrete slabs or wood is not recommended. Wood can rot, warp and expand during extreme weather conditions and poses a health risk to anyone walking through it. Concrete is installed the same way and does not expand or warp like wood does, which makes it the most ideal choice for your basement.
It is your local building codes that determine what these structures must consist of. Some states require that your egress windows and sliding doors must be made of a fire-resistant material. Your windows and sliding doors must be able to withstand a collision with a moving vehicle, so that means checking the local building codes for the requirements of your state. Some states may even have additional regulations that pertain to doors or windows that are required to be wheelchair accessible.
If your new house requires two levels of egress, you must have two excavators, one to install your new windows and doors, and the other to remove the existing ones. One or both excavators need to be equipped with sensors, which will detect objects as they approach. If an object is too large to pass through the doorway, it will be captured by the sensor and removed. That is why it is important to have a professional inspector take a look at the equipment you will be using when installing your new basement windows and doors: because there are very specific guidelines regarding how to set up and operate them.
Your egress windows may be installed on their own, if the house has not been previously constructed. However, many older houses are installed with one set of egress windows installed in each level, regardless of whether they are required or not. In that case, your new windows may need to be installed on a temporary foundation while the house is being built. You should plan to hire an engineer or other expert in the field to check the foundation and make sure that your new egress window wells are installed correctly. Any faulty parts could have severe consequences on the eventual usability of your home.