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What Are Egress Windows?

This is a close look at the egress window of a house.

It’s hard to say for sure, but windows were probably one of the first architectural elements ever invented. Let’s face it, after you create a wall it’s just where you’re naturally going to go. Windows add light to any space, they provide a view of what’s outside and they make walls a heck of a lot more interesting.

But some windows are designed to do even more than just the normal stuff that windows do. That’s the case with egress windows. In addition to providing light and ventilation and a view of the world, egress windows are designed to allow you to escape if you’re ever in an emergency situation. They’re designed for safety along with all those other functions, which makes egress windows pretty interesting. However, there’s a lot to consider if you’re going to install egress windows in your home.

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What Are Egress Windows?

You will usually see egress windows installed in attics, basements, and bedrooms. Like all other windows, egress windows allow light from the outside world inside. Egress windows can always be opened for ventilation, but they’re actually made to be opened for an even more important reason: to allow you to escape.

It’s grim to think about, but terrible things do happen. Many people fear house fires because house fires can happen. Wiring wears out, a mistake is made, something happens and suddenly, the world is full of smoke and fire. Egress windows can possibly save your life. That’s a pretty good window.

Egress windows are made to be opened from the inside and they’re made in straightforward designs that allow them to be opened easily. Egress windows should never require a key or special tool to open because you can’t go looking for some additional items when you’re in an emergency situation.

Types of Egress Windows

Because the main function of egress windows is that they also home escape hatches, there is no one static style for this type of window. Egress windows are made in several different styles, which gives you a range of options when it comes to picking your window design. You can find egress windows in designs that match your existing home decor.

A close look at a stone house with Casement egress windows.

Casement egress windows have a hinge on one side, on the top or on the bottom that allows the window to swing outward. Casement egress windows that have a hinge at the top are known as awning windows. This is the least common style of egress windows because it isn’t easy to escape from this style of window. As you’re trying to climb out, gravity is working against you and pushing the window back down on top of you.

This is a close look at a house with Single-hung and double-hung egress windows.

Single-hung and double-hung egress windows have sliding sashes that move up and down vertically or tilt outward horizontally. Single-hung windows have a single sash at the bottom that opens, while double-hung windows have two sashes that can both be opened.

Egress windows can also be styled in sliding designs that are easy to operate.

How to Install Egress Windows

A man doing maintenance on an egress window.

Because egress windows serve a very important function by serving as an escape route, there are strict building code requirements that must be met. It’s important to follow these requirements because egress windows are so large. They must be properly installed and well-supported. The last thing you want is windows that are structurally unsound.

According to the International Building Code, egress windows must be at least 5.7 feet square in size, at least 20 inches wide by 24 inches high. The opening must be no higher than 44 inches from the floor. This presents some challenges when it comes to installing egress windows because you can’t necessarily place them wherever you like.

Because egress windows cannot be located very high from the floor, they are often installed in basement areas. However, the building code in basements is a little bit different in basement areas. This is another reason why it’s important to choose the placement of your egress windows wisely. In basements, egress windows must be at least 36 inches in height and have a fully-functioning opening.

Egress windows are often integrated into basement window wells. These are a tricky type of egress windows to install because you must make sure there is enough clearance outside to provide room for the window when it’s fully opened. The well itself must be large enough to accommodate a body climbing through the window. Otherwise, the window isn’t doing any good at all.

Some states, counties, and cities may have their own building codes in regard to egress windows. Check with your local permit office to find out about codes in your area.

How Much Do Egress Windows Cost?

A close look at the egress window of the house with grills.

The price of egress windows varies greatly based on size, style, and the materials the window is made from. Egress windows can be made from metals like aluminum and steel, crafted from classic wood, or made with a modern material like fiberglass or vinyl. They can be made in double-paned designs, which are more energy-efficient, but egress windows much easier to open and lift when they are made in single-pane versions.

On average, egress windows cost $150 to $500 for the window itself. Installation can cost anywhere from hundreds of dollars to over one thousand dollars. The total cost for buying and installing an egress window ranges, generally speaking, from $2,500 to $5,500.

Installing egress windows is not a project you want to DIY. Because so many building codes and important regulations must be followed, you want a professional to install your egress window to ensure that it is well-supported and properly placed.

Should You Choose Egress Windows?

Should you add an egress window to your home? It’s never a bad idea to add more safety to the place where you live. However, you need to have a good idea of what it will cost and where your egress window can be placed. Once you have all the info you need to have for installing an egress window, you can decide exactly what to do about adding this feature to your home.