Egress window installation: Shedding light on safety and style

Building Egress window
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A renovation journey.

Join us for a continuing series as we bring a relatively untouched, tired-looking 1960s builder’s-box bungalow into the 21st century.

. . . . .

By Jenny Kennedy

Basement upgrades are often part of the journey when renovating existing homes. Making the most of your space can include converting areas into bedrooms and ensuring a water-tight environment.

It’s not surprising that older regulations no longer meet current building codes and standards, which makes having the proper inspections and installations a must. Egress windows, for instance, have certain specifications for a room to be used as a living space.

What are egress windows?

An egress window is a basement window specifically designed to open fully and serve as an exit in the event of a fire or other emergency, especially if the stairwell is blocked by flames or smoke. All developed basements require egress windows before being utilized as a living area.

In addition to the window, removing the earth from the foundation with retaining support walls keeps the dirt from caving back in.

Why are egress windows important?

Aside from the apparent benefits of egress windows improving your family’s safety, they also help keep moisture from penetrating. Basement windows are a common source of leaks and water damage.

Foundation wall cut-outs involve the foundation itself and the surrounding soil around each window. These window wells serve to provide adequate escape space in addition to keeping moisture from being trapped around the framework.

So, egress windows are particularly important for homeowners seeking to increase property value or use the basement for rental purposes.

What are the requirements for egress windows?

Building codes require alternate points of egress or exits and must meet the following minimums for a person to pass through unhindered safely:

44″ max. sill height

3.8 sq. ft. min. net-clear opening

15″ min. net-clear height

15″ min. net-clear width

Egress window installation is not considered a do-it-yourself type of project. It is highly recommended that professionally trained, certified and experienced tradespeople perform the prerequisite inspections and handiwork to ensure the correct methods and supplies are used.

How long does it take to install egress windows?

We spoke with industry professional, Vlad Frunchak, about what timeline homeowners could expect.

“The work itself doesn’t usually take very long. Installing egress windows typically requires about one to two days. However, ordering and delivering the window can take four to six weeks, as they are custom-ordered for the perfect fit.”

You may be surprised to know egress window installations occur year-round, though warmer months are easier to manage if you are still living in the house during renovations. Temporary egress covers help to keep excess water and snow away from the windows, though they must be easily removable should someone need to exit the house.

Is there anything that could cause delays?

As with any reno, surprises can play havoc on timelines, even with egress windows. Any time you excavate the area around your home, you must be extra cautious.

Here is what Frunchak had to say, “For any below-grade window, drainage is the most important factor, and in order to install proper drainage, we have to excavate all the way to the bottom of the footing. The difficulty arises if the area where we excavate has underground utilities (electrical, gas, for example).”

Anytime an unexpected issue arises, it changes the action plan and may even involve coordinating other experts and companies, all of which take time.

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Watch the renovation journey unfold at

Construction delays are a reality, so plan your renovation well and be prepared. As things get underway, we’ll be sharing exciting before, during and after content including a video series featuring top experts, and you’ll be able to virtually tour the project at various stages of completion.

Photo: Waterproofing PD

Jenny Kennedy of Kennedy Literary Agency provides written copy and content for the design-build industry and is the author of “Launch Into Interior Design.”

Ready Set Reno logos Nov 2023
Ready Set Reno
Ready Set Reno

A Renovation Journey. Join us for a continuing series as we bring a relatively untouched, tired-looking 1960's builder's-box bungalow into the 21st century.

22 articles