When it comes to egress, not all windows are created equal. As you remodel, you’ll want new egress windows that match the style of the existing windows and meet egress requirements. This can be a challenge. Bear in mind these pros and cons.
Casement windows: These side-hinged windows fulfill egress requirements while taking up the smallest amount of wall space. This makes them ideal for egress windows in basements or other areas where space is limited. Some manufacturers can install a special operator arm that allows the window to open wider than the standard operating arm to meet egress requirements. Others have an operator arm that can be pushed to open the window wider in an emergency. These meet egress requirements as long as you leave the “PUSH HERE” label in place.
Double-hung windows: Even when it’s fully open, more than half of a double-hung window’s overall area is blocked by glass. This means that to meet egress window height requirements, a window must be nearly 4 ft. 9 in. in overall height. This height requirement takes it out of the running for most basement egress situations.
Gliding windows: To meet egress requirements, these horizontally sliding windows must be at least 4 ft. wide and 4 ft. high. This extra glass area and the light it lets in is pretty darn nice in a basement area, if you have the space.
Awning windows: These top-hinged windows make lousy egress windows. They don’t meet egress requirements in basements because the opened sash impedes entrance and exit. And those with center opening mechanisms don’t meet code because the hardware gets in the way. Only those with special hardware will meet egress requirements—and there aren’t many available.
Certain skylights meet egress requirements as long as they’re installed within 44 in. of the floor. One company (Velux, 800-888-3589; www.velux-america. com) offers two sizes of egress windows.
If you’re replacing a smaller window with a larger one that meets egress requirements, bear in mind that enlarging the height of the opening takes less structural work than enlarging the width. Increasing width means installing a larger, beefier horizontal structural header over the window opening—a major project. Increasing height is often only a matter of lowering the height of the sill below the window.