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What Is an Egress Window?

gress window

An egress window is a window in a basement or on the first story of a tri-level (split-level) house. An egress window well is the protective lining installed around the egress window to prevent erosion. Egress windows and window wells are designed to allow light into a lower level space, but also a means to get out of a basement in case of an emergency. Let’s explore further what egress windows are, why they're installed, and how to determine if egress windows are right – or required – for your home.

Characteristics of Egress Window Wells

An egress window is designed as an escape route. When installed in a basement or on the first story of a home, a window well may be dug from the ground level to the basement level to expose the window and allow for escape. During the installation of the egress window, the window well - a lining made of aluminum, plastic lining, wood, brick or stone - is installed to prevent the egress from eroding.

Are Egress Window and Window Wells Required?

Egress windows are sometimes required by local building codes to provide emergency escape routes. In these cases, they must be built large enough (5.7 square feet) for an adult to pass through. Contact your municipality to learn about local building codes.

Should All Basement Windows Be Egress?

Not necessarily. Basement windows may be installed solely for the purpose of bringing light into the space. These windows often still require a window well lining but are not big enough to use as an escape route. Many basements have a combination of standard windows and egress windows.

The Benefits of Egress Windows

  • Increased value for your home through making basement living spaces safe and comfortable and up to code
  • Improve safety for you and your family by providing escape routes in case of fire, carbon monoxide, or other emergencies
  • Increased brightness and air flow in below-ground spaces, which can be dark and stuffy
  • Enhance curb appeal

How to Determine If You Need Egress Windows

  • To count finished basement areas as part of the livable square footage of your home (like adding a basement bedroom to your 3-bedroom home to make it a 4-bedroom house), an egress window is required by law (one for each bedroom). So, if you want to increase your living space, it’s a must.
  • Cost might be a factor. Hiring a contractor to install a window and dig an egress could cost a few thousand dollars, on top of lining and cover costs. If you’re handy, you could probably do it yourself for under a thousand, though you’ll still need permits and code checks.
  • If your basement is dark, dank, musty or otherwise unpleasant, adding an egress window can make the space a more pleasurable part of your home to enjoy.

How to Install an Egress Window and Window Well

Egress window and window well installation is a job best left to the professionals, as it requires cutting into the foundation wall of your home and ensuring that the window and window well are properly installed. A respectable contractor will help you to:

  1. Determine the need for basement windows (do they need to be egress)?
  2. Recommend a location for each of the new windows.
  3. Carefully excavate the ground where the windows will be installed.
  4. Cut holes to size for the new windows.
  5. Install the new windows and window wells.
  6. Backfill any earth outside the well.
  7. Ensure proper drainage in the well.
  8. If desired, install a window well cover over the egress window well.

Egress Window Repair, Replacement and Window Well Maintenance

Glass Doctor® repairs and replaces egress window and basement window glass. Additionally, our teams can help you select a new basement window or customize your egress window glass. We do not excavate or do foundation prep work for egress window wells – our friends at Mr. Handyman® can help you with installation.

Our local technicians can help you select the correct windows for the space. Like all windows, egress windows may be made with standard or double pane glass and may be customized to fit your needs with low-e glass, tinted glass and more.

Like all windows, maintenance is key. If improperly maintained, egress window wells can fill with plants, soil, debris and in some cases trap or become home to small animals! If egress windows are constructed or installed improperly, they might allow water to flow into your home. It’s imperative to have your egress window and window well professionally installed to avoid future problems.

Contact your local Glass Doctor to learn more about our egress window glass options.

Contact Glass Doctor for Expert Egress Window Well Installation

If you’re ready to install an egress window or just want to learn more first, your local experts at Glass Doctor are ready to help. Let us fix your panes, above and below grade! Schedule an appointment online or call 833-974-0209 to get started.

Even professionally installed egress windows can flood under a deluge of rainwater. Protect your egress windows from flooding with high-quality gutters. Learn more about the importance of gutters from our friends at Mr. Handyman: Does My House Really Need Gutters? Like Glass Doctor, Mr. Handyman is part of the Neighborly® family of trusted home services professionals.