A Homeowner’s Guide to the Basement Egress Window

A basement egress window is a great way to let light and air enter a basement area and, more importantly, provide an escape in case of an emergency. In some states the requirements for egress windows are mandatory, especially if the basement is used as a sleeping area in addition to being a work area or used for storage.

Basement Egress Window

The Egress Window


The word ‘egress’ is a clue to what this window is tasked to do in the basement. Its primary duty is to give occupants a way out of a basement if and when the rest of the in-house exits become blocked due to a fire, or damaged from earthquakes and hurricanes. The egress window is the factor that determines between life and death in many situations.

A number of states have mandatory laws requiring the installation of egress windows under certain conditions. In most cases, if the basement is being used as more than a storage area, where an occupant sleeps, then the mandatory requirements kick in. However, regardless of state mandatory requirements, and even in states where there may be no requirements at all, it is a good idea, and a responsible decision to install one or more egress windows in the basement.

The legal requirement for egress windows when the basement houses a sleeping area is a minimum opening of 20 inches in width, and 24 inches in height. While these are legal requirements, the idea is meant to have a person easily pass thought the window when the need to escape is presented. And so in some cases, a slightly larger window may be a good idea.

Basement Egress Window


Older Homes

The new regulations sometimes are missed by homeowners who have had their homes passed for generations and never had to undergo an inspection. In such cases the basement might not be up to code and breaking the law. If you are unsure, check with your local municipal council and they will be able to direct you to the proper state and county regulations regarding the requirement for egress windows in your home.

Basement Egress Window

Types and Styles of Egress Windows

There are a number of styles you can choose from when you decide on an egress window. Depending on your home, its design, and your taste, there are at least three different styles of windows you can choose from. The first is the sliding windows, which are the easiest of the three styles, to install; then there is the double hung windows; and finally, the casement windows. A double hung window is usually longer than it is wide and has two sashes, one of which slides up over the other to open. A sliding window works similarly, except one sash slides horizontally over the other. Casement windows, a favorite for basement egress windows, swing outward like doors on hinges, allowing people to exit a home with ease.

Choosing egress windows are a function of law, taste and budget. It is also a matter of safety and so it should also be secured against intruders. One of the problems with ill-designed egress windows is that it gives intruders a way into the house. So when the egress window is installed, make sure it is one that has tempered glass, it is connected to the home’s alarm network and that it is able to contain the heat so that your heating bill doesn’t go up.


Michelle Custodio, a writer who works for Affordable Waterproofing in New Jersey, writes predominantly about contracting, renovations, heating and cooling as well as home security and basement waterproofing.

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Erin Emanuel

One Comment

  1. Use of forced ventilation throughout cold weather will substantially increase your heating costs. As with natural ventilation, if you were to increase the air exchange rate to eight times its normal level in your basement while maintaining comfortable temperatures there, your annual house heating bill could be as much as three times greater than normal.

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