What Are Egress Windows For Basements And Do I Need Them?

Updated:  September 3, 2020

Egress windows. It’s no secret that windows are a crucial element to your home’s exterior. Not only do they add to the overall aesthetic of the home and affect energy efficiency, but they also have a big safety impact. In some emergency situations, the windows may be the only way for you to exit to safety, and if they aren’t installed correctly or aren’t the right type of window, there could be catastrophic results.

One type of window that is designed specifically with safety in mind is the egress window. In this post, we will explain what egress windows are, why they are important, and what the Ontario building code has to say about them.

What Are Egress Windows?

The word egress refers to the action of going out of or leaving a place, and that is precisely what egress windows are designed to accomplish. These windows offer a way to get out of the house in the case of a fire or other life-threatening situation. They can be installed in various rooms of the house, and offer particular benefits in the basement, as it is typically difficult to exit through standard basement windows. Basement egress windows are quite a bit larger than a standard window, and often open up like a small door into a large window well, providing a realistic opportunity to escape.

The Problem With Most Basement Windows

Basement Windows Too Small - Weaver ExteriorThe problem with modern basement windows is that they are too small for a human to fit through and get out to safety. Quite often, they are also too high to reach with enough traction and momentum even if the window was the right size. In older homes, basement windows may be large enough to squeeze out of if needed, but many newer homes have basement windows that even a small child would have trouble exiting.

Building Code Regulations

The National Building Code of Canada has some clear standards when it comes to bedroom windows and basement windows. It states that every bedroom either have a door that leads directly to the exterior of the building or an egress window that is the right size for escape. The window must open from the inside without the use of any keys, tools or special knowledge. The exception to needing an escape window would be if the room has a functional sprinkler inside.

The Ontario Building Code article reiterates these rules, stating that every bedroom or combination bedroom without a sprinkler inside must have at least one window or door that leads to the outside and doesn’t require a key or special hardware. It goes on to say that the window must provide an unobstructed opening no smaller than 0.35 m² (542 in² or 3.8 ft²) in an area with no dimension less than 380 mm (15 inches).

It’s also important to note that if there are security bars on the window, they must be removable from the inside without any special tools or knowledge. Home security is obviously important, but it defeats the purpose to have bars on a window if you can’t get out when you need to.

Basement Egress Windows

For basements, all the same rules that apply to bedrooms are in play, except the height of the windows needs to be considered. An egress window can’t be higher than 1.5m above the floor surface, and since basement windows are usually at the top of the room, there should be some type of step that makes it easy to get to the window, if needed. There are also regulations that apply to the window wells in your basement with an egress window. The window well needs to be at least 760mm away from the window to ensure an easy exit.

Converting Your Basement Windows

Converting Basement Windows To Egress - Weaver ExteriorConverting your current basement windows to egress windows isn’t as simple as popping out the old window and installing the new one. Depending on the size and location of your current windows, it may be necessary to cut into the concrete to sufficiently enlarge the opening. Keep in mind, not all basement windows need to be changed to egress windows, but it may still end up being a substantial home renovation project. You will also need to obtain any appropriate permits from your municipality before modifying the basement windows.

Benefits Of Egress Window Installation

When you have egress windows installed in your basement, you will see benefits that include:

  • Improved safety for you and your family
  • Compliance with building codes and regulations
  • Easier time selling your home
  • Increased home value
  • A more polished, modern look

The Weaver Advantage 

At Weaver Exterior Remodeling, we are uniquely suited to convert your windows to egress windows no matter where they happen to be in the house. The fact that we offer a wide range of services all under one roof means that we can handle every aspect of your egress window installation and you won’t have to work with several different contractors to get the job done.

When you work with us, you can expect your new egress window to blend seamlessly with your masonry or siding, and we can handle any structure framing that’s needed to support all of the weight over the top of the window. The result will be a factory-finished look, and no one will suspect the window has been installed after the fact. There is also a 10-year warranty on all of our exterior remodeling services, so you can rest easy knowing the work is protected.

Call today to get a quote on your next window or masonry project 705-725-4977 or click here to use our Interactive Quote Tool.


basement windows, egress windows, masonry, windows

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Weaver has over two decades of experience and provides comprehensive installation services for windows, doors, and aluminum in the Barrie region, making it a convenient option for all project sizes.