Casement Windows for Basement Egress: Cheap Fix or Bad Idea?

Posted on November 29, 2012 | in Thoughts | by

Not all basement windows are created equal. Make sure yours meet code before you waste time and money having to reinstall them.

Having to get a finished basement up to code is a smart move; and quickly pays for itself in terms of house value and rental potential. However, the initial outlay often inspires homeowners to try and cut corners when adding a means of egress – and that can lead to costly problems in the future.

One of the most common “cheap fix” solutions homeowners attempt is to install regular casement windows as a means of egress. Sadly, it’s not that simple.

Most off the shelf casement windows are not designed to be used as an egress window. They don’t have many of the common safety features required in windows that double as a fire escape; and after adding the specialized hardware to meet code, any cost savings you’ve made by “going cheap” will have evaporated.

Even more seriously, a casement window that meets egress code might violate the code for the egress well once it’s installed. Basement windows need at least 36” of free space from side wall to side wall, and because they’re not designed for that purpose, casement windows often don’t suit such narrow confines.  The code for the well also requires 9 square feet of area that would allow emergency escape and rescue.  The sweep of a casement window may impede on this area.

To meet Egress Code, use an In-Swing Window instead of a casement window.Because of the strict building codes for basement egress, options like an In-Swing window are often the only solution in tight spaces; as the window swings inward, rather than out (an option you won’t get with most casement windows.)

For real cost savings, the smart money is spent upfront. This is why our Complete Egress Kits are always popular sellers – because they contain absolutely everything you need to add a code-compliant basement window in your home, and feature significant savings over buying each item individually.

One of the dangers of trying to cut corners and use materials like casement windows, instead of windows that meet IRC Code is that you might have to remove and replace them later on following inspection. Saving a few bucks in the short term might cost you a lot more later on.

Another, more serious risk is that casement windows simply aren’t as safe as code-compliant windows; and the last thing you want to do is discover some dangerous safety flaw during a fire or emergency – when you need that means of egress the most!

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About Me

Hi, I'm Jeff. I will be using this space to share my thoughts and opinions that I have accumulated over many years in the building industry. My hope is to also teach and inspire.

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Jeff Ommundsen
(229) 234-7377
President of Shop Egress Windows, Inc.