Why Your Home Needs Egress Windows

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Why Your Home Needs Egress Windows

I have inspected several homes with deficiencies. This is common in older homes. They were built before there were any requirements. People think their property is grandfathered in. Over time, requirements change to protect us. If you ignore current safety guidelines, you may suffer dire consequences.

Defining egress

Let’s clarify the term “egress” before moving on. The Emergency Escape and Rescue opening is usually used when people use this word. The required opening in the building is not just for getting out. Emergency rescues are also possible.

Many older- home basements were legally converted into family rooms or offices, which did not require egress windows. They were later converted to bedrooms. Bedrooms being added to the basement without the knowledge of inspectors and the required egress window creates a firetrap. When bedrooms are added on, the guidelines won’t necessarily dictate that windows in existing bedrooms be enlarged to egress size It is hard to monitor every situation.

An emergency escape and rescue opening egress windows is an exterior window, door or similar device that provides for a means of escape in the event of an emergency. The description is pretty straightforward. The opening doesn’t need to be a window to be clear. It needs to be large enough to get people in and out.

Here are the specifics

If you live in Minnesota, you can check the building code. It has all the information, but here is a list of the basics I point out.

  • There needs to be an exit for the sleeping rooms, attics and basement.
  • The opening has to be at least 20′′ wide.
  • The opening must be at least 24 inches tall.
  • The floor must be at least 44′′ high.

The net clear opening should be at least 5.7 square feet. The bottom of the window is below the floor. The net clear opening must be at least 6.0 square feet for windows that are above the ground.

Common Sense

Someone would have a hard time escaping through a small window that is close to the ceiling if you were a home inspector. I recommend correction of the issue when I flag this as a safety defect.

Rooms like this can be used for home-offices, exercise rooms or play-spaces, but should not be used as bedrooms.

They need to allow the window to open. A ladder is needed if the window well is more than 44′′ deep.

There needs to be at least 36′′ of headroom above the basement window well.

The window in this home was large. The window-well step didn’t meet the requirements of the ladder.

Exceptions to the Rules

There are some exceptions that are special to Minnesota.

  • If the home is protected by an automatic sprinkler system, there is no need for a basement opening.
  • Replacement windows can be used to reduce the window opening. The replacement window should be the same as the original. It needs to be the largest window in the opening.

Buyers can request that sellers upgrade their windows to meet current safety requirements. It is an important safety issue that they may take on their own.

Protect Your Family

Fire officials remind the public that it is illegal to have basement bedrooms without regulation safety exits if the home inspector’s warning is not strong enough. Don’t ignore the rules that have been put in place to protect your family. Please feel free to schedule a single item inspection if you have questions or concerns. We will give you answers and suggestions.


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