What's an Egress Window?

by Osman Parvez

The other day, I took a buyer to see a house in Boulder. It was listed as a six bedroom house and two of the bedrooms were in the basement.    

Here's what they looked like:

The windows in the basement bedrooms wouldn't comply with code. In other words, two of the six bedrooms in the house are "non-conforming." The listing description doesn't mention it.

Here's the issue. In a fire, basement bedrooms without egress windows are a deathtrap. Boulder uses the International Residential Code which defines an egress window as follows.

IRC egress window requirements (2012)

Opening area of window shall have a minimum opening area of 5.7 sq ft. Unless it is a grade floor window then it can be a minimum of 5 sq ft.

Regardless of opening area the following minimums are required. Minimum opening width 20”. Minimum opening height 24”

Sill height of the window opening may not be more than 44” from the floor. 

Basement window wells shall have a horizontal area of 9 sq ft minimum. With a horizontal projection of 3 feet and allow the window to fully operate.

Window wells deeper than 44” shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder.

If the window well has a security grate or cover it must be easily open able from the inside in case emergency exit is required.

This is the sort of thing we caution our clients about. Whether you're an investor or a personal home buyer/seller, not disclosing the fact that basement bedrooms are clearly non conforming is risky. Marketing and staging them to look like bedrooms for small children is even worse. It's something buyers and sellers should know before writing an offer or listing a property for sale.  

Code Source:  Integrity Design Build

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