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Egress Code
Most homes already have egress-compliant bedroom windows, but some that we encounter were built before the egress issue became code. In those cases the windows are higher above the floor or too small for a person to easily escape through. Since the home was built before the current code came into effect, leaving those windows as they are is not a violation, but once a decision has been made to replace those windows with anything new, they must be replaced with egress-compliant windows.

At least one window in each bedroom must be of sufficient size to permit the occupants to escape a fire and also to allow a fully outfitted firefighter to enter.

  • Minimum width of opening - 20 inches
  • Minimum height of opening - 24 inches
  • Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor).
  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in.
This is a good code: it has evolved through tragic experience and is intended to help save the lives of your loved ones in the event of a home fire or other emergency. No responsible contractor or homeowner would or should consider non-compliance. There are a few ways to make a non-compliant window safe and legal, depending in part on what we’re starting with.

Do The Math

At first glance, you might assume that a 20-in. by 24-in. window (A) would be acceptable for egress. Those dimensions would yield a net clear opening of only 3.3 sq. ft.

 

 

To achieve the required net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft., a 20-in. wide window (B) would have to be 42 in. high.

Likewise, a 24-in. high window (C) would have to be 35 in. wide.

Options and recommendations are part of the consultant’s job when meeting with homeowners that are considering an upgrade to energy-efficient window replacement. You can also check with your local Department of Building and Safety and request a printout of their specific requirements for compliance.

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