What Is An Egress? The Things You Should Know

By Kenvin F / August 6, 2016

What is an egress? Many people could have heard this word before, but few exactly know what it is. An egress is an exit or means of escape during an emergency. We know how a disaster such as a fire can damage a house and block the escape routes. Do you know where to exit?

In these cases, a quick means to get out of the house and flee to safety is very important. An egress, particularly an egress window, can save you and your family members’ lives. This article will guide you with all the things you should know.



​What is an egress window? It is a window used as an alternative means of escape during an emergency, such as a fire. It should be present in all bedrooms of the house, whether it is located on the ground, second, or third floor (if there is any). The International Residential Code (IRC) also requires that a basement should have an egress window if there is a bedroom located on it; each bedroom should have one.

Aside from providing an escape for the people inside the house, it also serves as an entry point for fire fighters and rescue volunteers. Older houses probably don’t have egress windows, or if they do, they do not meet the current specifications as mandated by the current building code. The IRC has the following criteria for an egress window:

  • Minimum opening width – 20 inches
  • Minimum opening height – 24 inches
  • Net Clear Opening – 5.7 square feet (minimum)
  • Maximum height from the floor – 44 inches

The opening of the egress window should lead to a street, court, yard, or alley. It should open even without a key or the need for special tools. This is to ensure that evacuation can be done at the soonest possible time.


It is important that a homeowner knows what is an egress and its corresponding requirements. The following are the types of windows usually found in a typical home. Some are ideal as egress windows while some do not meet the requirements because of their measurements.

Casement Windows

These windows are side hinged and satisfy the building requirements without taking too much space. They are ideal for use in basements. Some casement windows have a special 'operator arm' which allows it to have a wider opening compared to the standard one.

What is an egress-casement-windows

via www.standardwindowsize.com

Gliding Windows

A gliding window slides horizontally. To qualify as an egress, it should have a minimum width of 4 feet and a minimum height of 4 feet as well.

what is an egress

via www.deluxeglass.co

Double Hung Windows

To satisfy the height requirement for an egress window, a double hung window should be 4 feet 9 inches in height. This makes it an unlikely candidate as a basement egress window.


via http://www.egresswindowcost.com/

Awning Windows

These windows are top hinged. They are not ideal basement egress windows because their design do not allow for a quick exit.

what is an egress

via www.pixtea.com


A basement is an area in the house that is below ground level. If your home has a basement, and a bedroom is located in it, the International Residential Code or IRC dictates that it should have an egress window for each bedroom.

Some older houses probably do not meet this requirement because the regulation was still not in effect back then. If you are planning to build a new house (with a basement bedroom), it is important that it satisfies this building code.


via www.constructionremodelingexperts.com


The International Residential Code provides the specifications and dimensions relating to basement egress windows. A basement egress window should have a minimum ‘net clear opening’ of 5.7 square feet. The window’s height from the floor should not exceed 44 inches. A basement egress requires a window well (area well).

A window well should allow for the egress window to open fully. It should have 9 square feet of floor area. It should also have a horizontal projection of 36 inches (meaning the width and the length of the well should be at least 36 inches).

If the window well’s depth is more than 44 inches, a ladder should be permanently attached to it; this ensures that all persons inside the house can escape during an emergency, regardless of height. The width of the ladder should be no less than 12 inches. Alternatively, concrete steps can be placed in the window well, just make sure that it does not obstruct the window opening.

An egress window-Well-Dimensions

via www.homedec.biz


​The procedures in building a basement egress window are as follows:

1. Sizing the egress opening

​2. Cutting the basement wall

​3. Sealing the foundation

​4. Adding drainage stone

​5. Making the well

​6. Installing the window

7. Installing the window trim​

What are the advantages of having a basement egress window? The first is safety; conforming to the building code will ensure that you have an emergency exit in case of a fire. Second is the financial aspect. Although you may spend anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 (depending on the contractor), having a basement egress window will increase the market value of your home, and this feature can be used as an added selling point.


To summarize, let us define what is an egress window. It is a window used as an alternative means of escape during an emergency.

Make sure that your home has an egress window and that it conforms to existing building codes. It is an important safety feature that can save your life.

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About the author

Kenvin F

Greetings and welcome to our Home Improvement site! There are few things as rewarding and fun as working on your own home. The fact that you're here tells me you want to learn and get involved with your home too. I'm here to help you every step of the way. You can do this! Join me, won't you?

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