How Big Should A Basement Window Be?

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Windows in a home aren't a luxury but can look luxurious. They are vital in any living space, including basements. Apart from the light coming through windows, they also serve as escape routes in case of an emergency. Although they vary in size, there are basic requirements for basement windows as stipulated by the residential codes. We inquired from experts about these essentials, and they gave us precise answers.

A basement window should be at least 20 inches in width and 24 inches in height. Moreso, the basement window opening must have a clearing of at least 821 square inches or 5.7 sq. ft. For a window to be considered an egress window, it should have a minimum width of 24 inches and a height of 34 inches. The net clearing for egress windows must be a minimum of 5.7 sq. ft.

Basement windows have other requirements aside from the measurements of the actual window. These requirements must be adhered to by homeowners to avoid incurring penalties. Continue reading to find out what other things are a must for basement windows and how to make your basement windows look bigger on the whole.

New residential home building materials window well for basement construction. How Big Should A Basement Window Be

Basement Window Size

The residential building codes are specific about the expected measurements of basement windows. These codes help builders and contractors build safe homes. Any window in a home should be large enough for anyone to use it as an escape route.

Across the United States, basement windows in residential buildings must have a width of 20 inches and a height of 24 inches. They must have a clearing of 821 sq. inches. This clearing is compulsory to allow the window to open outwards or enable someone to get out of the basement without obstruction.

There are other specific requirements for basement windows that differ from the other egress windows. These requirements include:

  • A window well - This is an area leading upwards around an underground basement window. The width must correspond with the clearance width, which is a minimum of 5.7 square feet from the window.
  • A ladder - This is another important aspect. A ladder is a must-have for any basement windows that have a window well sitting below 44 inches ground level. The ladder is often attached to the back of the well. It allows easy exit to the ground level.
  • Complete opening - The required clear floor space expected is 9 square feet. If your basement window is below a deck or porch, ensure that it does open onto a joist or beam.

To ensure that you are following all the residential requirements for basement windows, hire professionals. They will take the homeowner's desires under the building specifications.

Note: Any habitable space must have an egress window incorporated if the basement space is intended as a family room, home office, or even as an apartment.

How To Make A Basement Window Look Bigger

After following all the specified rules and regulations, your basement window might still not look wider on the inside. To create the visual effect of vast windows in an underground basement, you could do the following:

  • On underground basement windows, put neutral-colored (white or cream) shutters that will make the window seem a normal size on the inside.
  • When adding window treatments, use long floor curtains that have an airy look. They could be sheer-like with floral prints that will allow ample light into the basement.

  • Use fake windows for windowless basements or basements with small windows. They visually enlarge the basement and create an imaginary view. these fake windows help alleviate claustrophobia, giving your basement an above-the-ground feeling.

Is It A Code To Have A Window In A Basement Bedroom?

Yes, it is. Your finished basement bedroom must have a window. When creating a room that will be habitable, such as a bedroom or a family room, residential codes require an exit in the form of a window and door.

Basement windows double up as emergency exits and must be accessible at all times. Any furniture that is positioned below a basement window should be steady and well attached. This means that you can climb on the furniture to get out through the window.

The window should have a wide clearance when opened outwards. There mustn't be hindering joists or beams on the outside of the window.

How Many Windows Does A Basement Bedroom Need?

A basement bedroom needs at least one bedroom window that must be large enough to serve as an emergency exit. If you have the possibility of installing more than one window, ensure that you do. More windows in your basement will ensure that it's well lit.

Regardless of where your bedroom is situated, it needs emergency exit and rescue openings. Therefore, basements used as living spaces such as bedrooms, are expected to have rescue openings and emergency exits. These openings and exits are known as an egress code.

How Big Should A Basement Window Be

What Is The Smallest Size Egress Window?

The smallest size of an egress window is 20 inches wide and 24 inches high. It has an opening minimum of 5.7 sq. ft. These are the minimal requirements of the smallest egress window.

When choosing an egress window for your basement, you'll realize that not all windows will fit the requirements specified by the building codes. The two most common egress windows that are better suited are:

  • Casement windows - They have hands ranks and open wide enough to allow a person to exit.
  • Sliding windows - They open easily and should be installed in pairs because one side doesn't open.

Double window in basement bedroom

When Did Egress Windows Become Mandatory?

Egress windows became mandatory in living spaces and bedrooms in particular, in 1997 according to Jerry McCarthy, a former building code and construction consultant.

The International Residential Code has been reviewed to include mandatory egress windows in basements used as living spaces. These egress windows serve as emergency and security openings for persons to escape and firefighters to access the basement area in an emergency.

How Much Does It Cost To Have Egress Windows Installed?

Installation of egress windows ranges from $ 1,000 to $2,500 and above. The cost includes the type or quality of the egress window, how many units the homeowner would like installed in his home, and professional installation. In the United States, the cost differs from one state to another.

When calculating the cost, you must include permits, window quality, and sizes as well. Get quotations from several professional companies and then compare and contrast.

Note: This isn't a typical DIY project as the building codes and regulations must be adhered to. If you choose to do this by yourself, enlighten yourself on your local building codes.

basement window well of a residential home. How Big Should A Basement Window Be

The Bottomline

Windows in your home must not only be decorative but functional. Just like eyes, windows let in light, especially in the basement. They are therefore required to be large enough to function as an emergency exit. Follow your local building codes and IRC to ensure safety in the home.

Decorate your basement windows on the inside to give this living space a good ambiance. Although egress windows aren't there for the aesthetics, you could accentuate them.

Installation of basement egress windows might be costly, but safety must be a priority in any living quarters. Seek professional advice and have your windows professionally installed. As a homeowner, you'll avoid penalties and increase the value of your home.

Here are posts that will help increase the value of your home:

How To Make A Basement Apartment Brighter

What Is The Ideal Temperature For A Basement?

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