Does A Basement Door Count As Egress?

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Safety should be the priority when planning for the basement. One thing to consider is adding egress doors. You might think that your regular door is the only door you will need. In cases of emergency, you must be able to escape easily. Learn what experts have to say if a basement door counts as egress.

Not all regular basement doors will qualify as egress. An egress must allow easy access for emergency and rescue situations. There are requisites from relevant building codes that require specific features of an egress. These include the following:

  1. Must be at least 32 to 48 inches wide and 78 inches tall
  2. The swing direction opens outward
  3. No locking mechanisms installed
  4. Have a panic button or bar that is easy to operate
  5. It easily opens with a single motion

Regardless of your activities, it is best to plan how you exit from the basement. An egress might be an additional cost, but it is better to prepare for the worst-case scenarios. After all, it will help your family to be ready for future emergencies. Keep reading to learn more about basements and egress doors.

Exterior view of an egress window in a basement bedroom. These windows are required as part of the USA fire code for basement bedrooms, Does A Basement Door Count As Egress?

Can A Basement Door Be An Egress Door?

An egress allows an escape from an enclosed area in times of emergency and rescue operations. The typical basement doors have varying sizes, swing directions, and locking systems. The features of an egress door are different because of its purpose.

Not all doors are egress. The egress should have an unobstructed passage for occupants to emerge from the basement. Hence, here are some requirements from building codes to follow:

  • The width should be at least 32 to 48 inches. The measurement spans from the door's face to the door stop when fully opened at 90 degrees.
  • The door height must be at least 78 inches from the top of the doorway to the bottom door stop.
  • The egress door has side hinges.
  • The swing direction must be outwards.
  • You should be able to open the door in one motion. There is no need to use a key and more effort. One push should easily open the egress.
  • There are no deadbolts or similar locking systems to keep the door closed.
  • There are security features like panic buttons, push paddles, or levers to open the door.
  • The egress must not pass through a garage. It should lead directly to a public path like the yard or other open spaces.

Aside from the door hardware, you have to keep the egress visible at all times. There should be no obstructions like curtains, mirrors, or cabinets that block the way. Also, you need to add clear signs to help people navigate their way out of the basement.

If your basement door has these features, you can use it as egress. Ask your local building code office or contractor if you can convert your existing door to an egress.

How Should A Basement Door Swing?

It is vital to open the basement door in the right direction. With the limited space in a basement, you can use the free space for extra storage or a passageway. It will also help if you are planning to have an egress in the basement.

You can determine the door swing by following the steps below:

  1. Check your location from the door. Position yourself outside a room that you have to go in.
  2. Determine if the door is left- or right-handed. The hinges are on the left for left-handed doors, and the same applies to right-hand door sets.
  3. Identify if you want an inswing or outswing direction of the door. Inswing doors will have the same direction as the location of the hinges. But for outswing, the door will have a reversed direction.

For your basement doors, you would need an inward swinging door. The hinges of the door should be inside instead of outside. If that is the case, burglars can unhinge the door from the outside. If you have an egress basement door, the swing direction should be outwards or towards the exit travel.

Is A Walkout Basement Considered Egress?

A walkout basement has a ground-level exit. There are walls, doors, and stairs that directly lead to the same main level of the house. This kind of basement is common for properties on slopes or higher ground. You can also obtain natural sunlight if you have this type of basement.

The walkout basement is not an egress unless features like doors or windows and stairs lead you out of the room. If you select an egress door instead of a window for the walkout, this will suffice. The dimensions of the door compensate for the size of the window.

Does A Bedroom Need An Egress Window If It Has A Door?

Man replacing the old pebbles in an egress window in the basement of his house during spring maintenance

For your safety, there should be key egress points in basements. Using the basement as a bedroom, you can make it more habitable with egress doors or windows. If the area allows, you can use at least two means for egress.

If an exterior door leads outside, it might not be necessary to install a window. Just make sure that are no obstacles, and you can safely escape or enter through the egress.

Read further to find out how many egress windows you will need in the basement.

How Many Egress Windows Do You Need In A Basement?

It is mandatory to have egress windows for residential spaces following state building codes. Your basement has to accommodate enough egress windows to meet building requisites.

The basement should have at least one egress window. If you use the space for sleeping, there should also be an egress window for each room. If a single window cannot allow at least 8% natural light and 4% ventilation in the room, there can be multiple egress windows.

Before you decide how many egress windows to install, here is a list of the measurements for egress windows:

  • Not higher than 44 inches.
  • Window opening should be at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches tall.
  • The crawlspace or net opening is at least 5.70 square feet or at least 4% of the room's square footage.
  • The glass area must not be below 8% of the floor area of the rooms with an egress window.
  • If there is a window well, it should be at least 36 inches.
  • You can open the window from the inside without keys or other tools.

From the list, it is best to carefully plan the layout for your basement to accommodate the egress windows. You have to make sure that the windows are sufficient to allow escape from the basement. Also, consider the number of egress wells for the windows.

Egress Window Wells

Building materials window well for basement construction

Aside from the window itself, there are also specifications for egress wells. It is essential to protect the windows against rock, dirt, and water from the ground above. The size will be larger compared to standard window wells. There are stairs or ladders to aid occupants when they get out of the basement.

Learn more from our post about adding egress windows to your basement.

In Closing

Selecting the right doors for your basement is crucial. A regular door may not qualify as an egress door because of the specific features to follow. Regulations have set the size, swing direction, and other features that should be present for a door to qualify as an egress.

Aside from the doors, you also have to consider egress windows. You can add at least one window for each sleeping area in the basement. If there is an existing door, it should lead the people outside of the room. With a proper plan, you can create a safe and emergency-ready basement.

You can read other related topics from in these previous posts:

Can You Build A Daylight/Walkout Basement On Flat Land?

Can You Enlarge A Basement Window? [And How To]

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