If you’re keen on having extra space for your home, you should think of having a finished basement. This is arguably the most straightforward way to have an additional living space for your family that can be converted into a bedroom or a family room. However, for your finished basement to be more inviting and safe, you should have an escape in case of an emergency like a fire. This is where egress windows come in (learn more about egress window installation). An egress window provides an emergency escape route and more natural light for your otherwise dark basement.
What is an Egress Window?
An egress window, from its name “egress” (meaning escape), is a large opening that can be used as an emergency exit. It looks like a typical window but is large and opens fully to aid a quick emergency escape.
Egress Windows and Building Codes
Egress windows must be installed in line with the International Residential Code (IRC) and other local building codes. This also applies to the area directly outside the window. According to the IRC, egress windows should meet the conditions below;
- The opening width is not less than 20 inches.
- An opening height is not less than 24 inches.
- A net clear opening not less than 821 square inches
- A sill no more than 44 inches off the floor.
Egress Window Installation Process Overview
The first thing before the installation is to prepare the job site through excavation around where the window will be installed. How far the pit will go depends on how far the window will have to be placed and your home’s foundation. Once this is done, you can now go ahead with your installation.
#1: Measure and Create the Window Opening
Start by measuring the required dimensions along your foundation wall and mark them on either side with chalk or pencil. Cut the foundation wall starting from the outside slowly using a concrete demolition saw. Dust will be a big challenge through this process. After the cutting is complete, tap the concrete blocks (careful not to loosen the remaining blocks) using a 3-pound hammer until they break loose or crumble.
#2: Fill the Block Cores
After completing the first step, fill the resultant block cores with concrete. You can stuff old newspapers first to avoid the concrete from going through (this will also ensure you use less concrete).
#3: Install the Window Sill
Using plastic sheeting, cover the wet concrete before placing the window frame to avoid warping it. Drive 3-inch deck screws slightly into the bottom part of the sill to anchor them into the wet concrete surface. To create a waterproof seal, you should then apply an exterior caulk between the wall and the frame.
#4: Install the Egress Window
It’s now time to secure the window into the frame. Carefully fit it in following the instructions depending on the window you’re installing. It’s crucial to follow the exact procedure laid down by its manufacturer. You probably have to fit the window’s metal fins into the window’s sill with screws or nails. Also, remember to caulk around the edges to waterproof it once you’re done.
#5: Place Gravel on the Ground & Fit the Window Well
Next is to install a drain pipe at the bottom of the well and spread a layer of gravel around it evenly. This will help drain water that may accumulate in the well, which could compromise the integrity of your foundation. Once done with the gravel, the window well can be installed (most are metallic or plastic) and secured on either side of the window opening.
#6: Additional Finishing Touches
Another installation to consider is a cover for the window well. This will prevent accidental falls into the well by kids or pets. The cover is not lockable so as not to violate the fire code.
Whether you’re converting or finishing your basement into a living room of choice, the building code requires an egress window to be installed. There are no cutting corners around it. While you can choose to DIY the project (which can be super complex if the windows are located below the ground) and save some substantial amount of cash, having experienced professionals do it is still a more viable option. There are many reasons and benefits to it, and some of the most notable include avoiding installation errors, ensuring detailed work with the right tools, and meeting safety requirements. Professional egress window installers will also spend less time with the installation and ensure to seal your basement from the elements.