What are Egress Windows?

What are Egress Windows?

“Egress” is from the Latin egressus meaning “a going out”. It refers to a place to exit. An egress window allows an easy and safe exit in the event of an emergency such as a fire. In most homes across the US, an egress is required for any room used as a bedroom and for basements. They're an escape hatch when other exits are inaccessible. These windows aren’t defined by their shape or style so much as their location and measurements.

What's an Egress Window? 

An egress window is defined as meeting (or exceeding) specific requirements that allow safe exit from a room in a residence. An adult must be able to pass through the window with ease. The measurements also consider the ability of first responders to enter and exit through the window with equipment.

Who’s the Authority on Egress Windows?

Egress window requirements are usually outlined in city ordinances. These ordinances build their standards off of the International Residential Code. Most jurisdictions in the US have adopted the IRC as a base code.

The ICC sets egress window standards for commercial and residential buildings across the world.

The city of Arlington sets egress window requirements for homes within it's jurisdiction.

Per the residential code for the City of Arlington, general egress window standards are as follows: 

Every sleeping room below the fourth (4th) story shall have at least one (1) operable window or exterior door approved for emergency egress or rescue. The units shall be operable from the inside to provide a full clear opening without the use of separate tools. 

Minimum Opening: 5.7 sqft (5 sqft below grade)

Minimum Width: 20”

Minimum Height: 24”

Maximum Height from Ground: 44"

Note that the minimum opening refers to the actual clear space around the window once it’s open. This usually prevents egress windows from being placed under decks, porches, etc. You should refer to your city's residential code to ensure your window locations are compliant.

Common Egress Window Styles

Since these windows are delineated by their functionality, there's a lot of style latitude. Most window companies offer custom sizing for each window style they sell. A request to adjust the dimensions can make your selection code compliant. 

There are a few window styles that may be more conducive to a safe and easy exit:

1. Casement Egress Windows

 Casement style windows are highly functional as basement or bedroom egress windows below or above grade.

Casement windows can be used as egress windows because of their design and typical dimensions

Casement windows work best for basement egress because of their inherent design. They have hinged sashes on the side and can swing inward or outward. This window style doesn’t require special engineering to open and allow exit. The units are just required to meet the dimensional standards. Select vendors make single and double-hung casement style windows.

2. Double or Single Hung Egress Windows

 Egress windows refer to their safety function and double hung windows can qualify as an egress. Double hung egress windows may function better above grade and for bedroom.

Single and double hung windows are a very common style found throughout older and newer homes. These windows consist of two sashes, which can either open upward or downward.

 

Single or double hung windows can be used as egress windows based on their dimensions. Some vendors offer specially made double and single hung egress windows with a "casement" functionality.

There are also double or single hung style windows built with egress use in mind and constructed to swing open for easy passage. The “casement” function on these windows isn’t necessary and is less common. Again, the unit simply needs to have the right height, width, and opening measurements to qualify as an egress window.

3. Sliding Egress Windows


Egress windows can be a variety styles, like sliding or gliding. Sliding windows are a great option for basement or below grade egress.

 

Sliding or gliding egress windows are a great option for below grade bedrooms and basements

Sliding windows open horizontally from one side. This window style can be engineered to swing in a “casement” style as well. Again, that function isn’t required and is less common. Simply ensure the opening, height, and width are in line with your local code.

Egress Window Wells and Covers

The purpose of an egress window is to provide a safe exit from the home. External elements can contribute to making these kinds of windows more functional. For example, basements are usually quite deep into the earth. More often than not, a basement egress window will be level with --- dirt.  Enter the window well which helps ease the passage from the window up out and out into the yard space. The well can be made of a variety of materials such as plastic, stone, wood, or concrete. Covers can help prevent the accumulation of water in the well. 

Egress window functionality can be enhanced with wells which offer stairs to grade level and covers to deter water accumulation.

A window well is a structure that encircles the window exit.  It encompasses stairs or steps up from the window back to grade-level. Window wells can be made of a variety of materials such as stone, concrete, wood, or plastic. Covers can help prevent water accumulation inside the well.

Common Egress Window Questions

Does my home need egress windows?

Yes. Every room in your home used for sleeping needs a window or exterior door capable of use as an emergency exit. The windows need to meet certain measurements based on your local government to qualify as egress.

What are the specific qualifications for egress windows?

An egress window is determined by its adherence to specific measurements. These dimension requirements are specific to your local government and outlined in its building ordinances. For the City of Arlington, an egress window must meet the below standards:

Minimum Opening: 5.7 sqft (5 sqft below grade)

Minimum Width: 20”

Minimum Height: 24”

Maximum Height from Ground: 44"

How much does installation cost?

Costs will vary based on the below:

  • New or replacement window unit
  • Window style, material, and glass
  • Contractor or installation fees

Can an egress window be under a deck?

In Arlington, TX, yes, if it meets the below standards:

Minimum Opening: 5.7 sqft (5 sqft below grade)

Minimum Width: 20”

Minimum Height: 24”

Maximum Height from Ground: 44"

Can a skylight be an egress window?

That depends on where you live and your city’s building ordinances. In the City of Arlington, the sill of an egress window must not be higher than 44” off the ground. If a skylight for an Arlington home exceeds this height, it will not qualify as an egress window.


If you’re considering adding a new bedroom to your home, or are a Texas basement trailblazer, egress windows need to make your priority list. Discuss proper location, space accommodation and sizing with your contractor. Use your local residential codes as a reference. Finding the proper window is easy once you have the required measurements and aesthetic goals in mind.








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