Q: When is the use of an egress window required and what are its benefits?
A: According to Bob Sebastian, CR, CKBR, of Brillo Home Improvements Inc. in Milwaukee, the code requires that anywhere there is a sleeping room, which is considered any room with a closet and a door, there must be at least two ways to get out of the house from that level in case of a fire or other emergency.
“Because most homes have at least two doors to the outside or the garage on their first floor, an egress window is usually not required in first floor bedrooms,” he said. “It’s more common to talk about egress windows on the second floor or in the basement.”
If a level of the home does not have two door exits, each bedroom on that level must have an approved egress window, which must meet specific guidelines.
“First, the space to get out of the window must be a minimum of 20 inches by 24 inches without anything blocking that opening, other than a removable screen,” he said. “The bottom of that opening can’t be more than five feet off the floor. However, if it is more than 46 inches off the floor, you have to have a permanent platform or step, which also has specific required dimensions.”
In defense of all the rules and regulations, Sebastian said that people are at the most risk for injury or worse if there is a fire or other emergency when they’re sleeping. “By the time a fire alarm wakes you, there may be no time to find your way out through hallways, stairs and doors. That egress window becomes not only your way out to safety, but also offers a real way for emergency personnel to get in to you.”
Whenever a bedroom is added or substantially altered, it must be brought up to current codes, including the egress window. “It’s best to contact a Milwaukee/NARI contractor or consult your local building inspector to make sure you’re doing everything correctly,” he said.
“Even if the code doesn’t require you to have or add an egress window in your bedrooms, including one may just give you the peace of mind to rest easy at night knowing that you have all your options covered.”