Basement Egress Window Code in the USA

A Map Highlighting Pennsylvania

Basement egress windows offer ventilation and light, making an otherwise unusable space livable. More than that, they are designed to keep you and your family safe.

All basements with habitable space are required to meet residential egress code in the United States. These windows must meet certain height and width requirements to comply with their local egress window code.

Egress Windows are Emergency Exits

Egress Window Code

The majority of states in the United States base their egress code on the International Residential Code (IRC). Section R310.1 of the code explains the requirements for emergency escape and rescue. It states:

“Basements and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency and rescue opening. Such openings shall open directly into a public street, public alley, yard or court. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room, but shall not be required in adjoining areas of the basement.”

However, each state has their own individual rules, so check your state’s specific requirements or use the Egress Window Calculator to learn more. 

Basement Egress Window Height and Width Requirements

The basement egress window height and width requirements are based on the dimensions of a fully dressed fireman. Should there be an emergency, the egress window must be large enough for you to escape or for a fully dressed fireman to come to your aid.

The minimum requirements laid out in Section R310 of the International Residential Code (IRC) are as follows:

  • Minimum net clear opening: All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet. Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet.
  • Minimum opening height: The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches.
  • Minimum opening width: The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches.
  • Maximum sill height: The bottom of the egress window opening can be no more than 44 inches from the finished floor.

Besides meeting specific dimensions, each emergency escape and rescue opening must be easily operational. The IRC forbids the use of keys, tools, or special knowledge to open the egress window in question. In doing so, your basement would not pass egress window code.

Types of Windows That Meet Egress Window Code

Here at the Great Egress Co, we offer a variety of code-compliant egress windows. All of our egress windows are made in North America and come with free carbon-neutral shipping. 

These windows are Energy Star Certified and made with specific egress hardware designed to meet egress code. They are egress code compliant, only if confirmed by our egress calculator.

26x46 side hinge egress window
30x36 side hinge egress window

Check the Residential Egress Code in Your State

Every state has its own individual basement egress code. Check your state requirements to ensure you choose an egress window that will pass residential egress code in your region.

Why don’t my current windows meet the egress window code?

Building codes change over time and some homes built prior to the implementation of the current IRC egress window code will not be up to date. If you are doing a renovation of your basement, you will have to meet the current egress window code, even if the windows that were previously in place did not meet code.

However, if you are not doing any renovations, you will not be required to update your basement windows. Homes built before the IRC was implemented have their current windows “grandfathered” in.

Do egress windows need to be tempered?

Tempered glass is a hardy type of glass that has been treated with thermal or chemical processes. In most cases, if the egress window glass is within 18 inches of the finished floor then it must be tempered. Consult your building inspector or your local building code to get exact specifications for your area.

Do all the windows in my basement need to meet the basement egress window code?

No, but there must be a minimum of one egress window in designated areas of your basement. You can use non-egress basement windows to facilitate lighting and ventilation in the rest of your space. Browse our non-egress basement windows here.

How much value does a basement egress window add to my home?

In most cases, when you install an egress window you are adding another legal bedroom or livable space to your home. This adds incredible resale value to your home. In some estimates, if you add an egress window to a 60 square foot bedroom to your basement, you could be adding approximately $3500 to $5000 additional resale value to your home. This is much less than the price of your egress window.