Egress Window Requirements & Installation Tips

By HomeAdvisor

Updated August 30, 2017

Egress Window Regulations

Egress is literally defined as “a path out” or “to emerge,” and these terms directly apply to the design principles behind egress windows. In case of an emergency, windows installed in any sleeping room must pass strict codes so that occupants can exit and rescue specialists can enter the bedroom.

In other words, when a fire occurs, your bedroom windows have to be of a certain size so you can escape and firemen can come in. These requirements also include basement egress windows if you have a finished bedroom below.

The Regulations

Remember, when you’re adding a bedroom to your home or basement, you have to keep certain requirements in mind:

  • Minimum width of opening: 20 in.
  • Minimum height of opening: 24 in.
  • Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor)
  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in.

These regulations are new so if you have an older house make sure you keep it up to code for your own safety. Another thing to keep in mind is if you’re converting a basement storage unit or an attic office into a bedroom, you have to keep things up to date.

Many times you will need an inspection when you renovate a particular space into a bedroom, but inspectors can’t keep an eye on everything and probably won’t be breathing down your neck, so do yourself a favor: take it upon yourself to do the right thing.

Windows might be a pain to install if you have to widen or heighten a window space, and buying new windows can certainly put a strain on your wallet if they aren’t factored into your original budget, but windows are actually vital lifesaving equipment, so this is not the time to be frugal or take short cuts. The safety of your family could be at risk someday, and these safety basement windows could prevent serious tragedy.

Other Egress Installation Tips

These windows not only have to be of a certain size, they also come with other necessities in order to enable peak performance. They must be operable from the inside without tools or keys. You can still have bars or grills attached as long as they too can be opened without tools and keys.

Plus, when these windows are ajar, they must have an opening wide enough to crawl through. Here are some tips about which window type may be best for you:

  • Casement Windows: These are the ideal basement egress windows. They take up little wall space for your bedroom renovation and their side hinges and wide openings allow for easy escape.
  • Double-Hung or Glider Windows: These windows can certainly pass code, but they have to be big. When these windows are open, there is still glass taking up half the opening. Therefore, to achieve the required size, these windows have to be bigger than you may want in your bedroom or basement.
  • Awning Windows: This type of window is a bit trickier. Since they swing out from the bottom these will not make very suitable basement egress windows; they may actually trap you in case of a fire. Plus, even in above-ground bedrooms, their opening hardware and hinges are centered in the middle and can block an easy escape.
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Basement Window Wells

Basement egress windows have special requirements. Since you’re below ground, you have to make sure that the window can still fully open without obstruction. Make sure the basement window well has enough area to move around in and if the well is especially deep, make sure you have a ladder attached to it for an easy getaway.

Also, if the well is under a deck, make sure there is enough space between the deck and the window. In other words, give yourself enough room to escape. These specialty windows don’t do anybody any good if there are other exterior obstacles that may end up trapping you.

It may take some extra renovation and you may have to invest some extra money, but egress windows are made for your safety, so make sure you plan ahead and always get the project inspected before, during, and after installation. Plus, it’s always a good idea to look up your own local safety codes and get professional window installation consultation prior to construction.


  1. steve, June 16:

    does window have to open out?

  2. Jewell, October 24:

    I’d like to make a loft into a bedroom. There will be a normal stairway thats up to code leading up to the open loft. Can I use a skylight to meet egress code instead of a window?

  3. Ned Baldwin, November 7:

    Can I use a 48″ wide awning window in a 2nd Fl BR as an egress window if I modify the hardware so that its stays are only at the jambs and it opens a full 24″?

  4. nelson, March 30:

    if my home is older and I want to replace the window (built in 1960) in a bedroom, do I have to meet egress requirements or am I grandfathered in if I am just replacing the window for efficiancy

  5. Nancy, July 19:

    if my home is older and I want to replace the window (built in 1976) in a bedroom, do I have to meet egress requirements or am I grandfathered in if I am just replacing the window for efficiency?

  6. Brian, October 27:

    As an inspector and fire protection specialist my feedback on egress windows is as follows. Any room converted to a sleeping area in a basement requires an egress window. There is no grandfather clause.

  7. Charlotte, July 9:

    Admiring the hard work you put into your site and in depth
    information you provide. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the
    same out of date rehashed material. Excellent read!
    I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  8. Virginia Harrison, September 11:

    I am considering replacing windows in a rental home in Avon (Powell County) Montana. Am I required to replace the existing in the bedrooms with “egress” windows. The existing windows are sliders and are at least 50 or more inches above the floor.

  9. Fred Peterson, October 22:

    The bottom of my window sill is 54 inches from the floor. Can I attach to the wall a 10″ high step to satisfies the 44″ requirement?

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