What Is an Egress Window?

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The role of an egress window is to serve as an emergency exit for the building occupants in case of a fire or any other emergency. Since safety is a primary concern, the requirements for this specific type of window are very strict. Local building codes define egress windows by their sizes and location although the National Building Code of Canada might stipulate slightly different requirements.

For example, according to the Ontario Building Code, the bedroom window code for egress windows states that any floor containing at least one bedroom should have one egress window at minimum. But how big does an egress window have to be exactly?

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Well, usually, bedroom egress windows specs are as follows:

  • Can be opened from inside without specialised tools.
  • Should have an open segment with a minimum area of 0.35m², with no part of it less than 380mm.
  • Should not be installed higher than 1,000mm (39 inches).
  • Allow a minimum of 5% of light calculated according to the floor area of the room.
  • Provide adequate ventilation.
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How big an egress window has to be is usually based on whether an adult person is able to escape through the window in case of emergency. Of course, This is the minimum size for an egress window. Generally speaking, any regular window size that exceeds the aforementioned dimensions and clearance requirements falls under the customary egress window definition.

Do You Need an Egress Window in Your House?

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Some window contractors try to avoid assessing the house for safety requirements when working on a window replacement project quote. Indeed, one seemingly little detail such as installing egress windows may delay the whole project if, in fact, there is a necessity to install them.

We believe that although bringing the house up to code is the homeowner’s responsibility, the window contractor should have enough competence and experience to make sure of this, as well. After all, windows are their specialty, and this little change to the project may prove to be a life saver.

The general rule is that egress windows should be installed on each level of the house where there are bedrooms, with no door opening directly outside. This does not necessarily mean that every bedroom has to have an egress window in it—it just has to be located somewhere on the same floor.

The International Residential Code stating where and how big an egress window needs to be was drafted in 1997. This means that if a house was built before 1997, or if there were any alterations done to the house layout such as addition of bedrooms, or if the den is used as a bedroom, there is a risk the windows might not be up to par. This is when you should consult with your contractor to make sure all egress windows criteria are legal under provincial regulations.

What Are the Types of Egress Windows?

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Although the code specifies bedroom egress window size requirements, it does not clearly mention any window type specifications. Egress window styles may vary; however, the most common types used in bedroom egress windows are:

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Bear in mind that the basement bedroom code primarily recommends sliding windows due to height restrictions. For the most part, a typical basement window size with the opening of 20 inches in width by 24 inches in height is well within safety standards.

If you are considering a window replacement or a new egress window installation in your house, make sure your property is compliant with egress window codes as well as the standard basement window size. Not only will it help you sell the house in future, should you want to, but it may also save lives. Although going through the inspection stage might seem like a feat, think of all the potential egress window advantages; they make the process worthwhile.

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