Egress windows ensure that you have an exit route form your bedroom, attic, or basement living spaces. Any room in your home where people sleep requires an egress window be installed. However, just because there is a window in that area, does not mean it is a window egress. Each province has their own rules and regulations regarding egress window sizes and installation requirements. Before adding or upgrading the windows in your home, always check with your local jurisdiction first to find out what the criteria is regarding window egress installation.
What is an Egress Window?
E-gress means “to go out of or leave a place”. Egress windows are designed for that exact purpose. They are windows installed in bedrooms or habitable rooms in basements and attics that provide a quick and easy escape route from an area with limited space. Egresses must be installed in every bedroom or room where someone sleeps and meet specific regulation requirements so you can exit the room safely and, if needed, a first responder can enter. Window egresses are typically small, hinged windows that open outward like a door but they can also be designed to slide open.
Many older homes do not have egress windows or ones that meet current regulation requirements because these windows were not made mandatory in home construction until the late 1990’s. Today’s egress window size in Canada must adhere to strict provincial regulations and fire code standards.
When Should You Get Egress Windows?
Every bedroom in your home and habitable living space in your basement must have a window that not only provides light but can act as an unobstructed exit route if needed. If you are planning to use your basement or attic as additional sleeping space, you must have egress windows installed. Egress windows are not installed in every home and not all basement or attic windows meet the window egress criteria.
According to the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC), egress windows must comply with the following requirements:
- Windows should be big enough that a person can fit through to exit the room in the event of an emergency.
- Can be opened without a key, tools, special hardware, or knowledge.
- Must provide the room with adequate ventilation throughout the year.
- The window must be big enough to provide at least five percent natural light to the room.
- Egress windows are not required if you have a sprinkler system installed in the room.
What is the Minimum Opening for an Egress Window?
In accordance with the NBCC, egress window sizes in Canada must meet specific height and width requirements so you can fit easily through the window. The unobstructed opening must be no less than 0.35m (3.77 sq ft) in area size and the dimension size cannot be less than 380 mm (15 inches) excluding all jambs, sashes, sills, and opening mechanisms. The maximum height from the floor to egress window is 1.5 m (44 in).
Window wells, if required, must also adhere to specific guidelines. They must be a minimum 760 mm (18 in) away from the window and be 760 mm (18 in) deep to ensure they are not blocking the exit route.
The window egress must also be capable of staying open on its own without the use of additional devices or tools. If grates or bars are installed over the egress window size, they must be installed on the inside of the room and should not require a key or other device to remove. Egress windows must also be free to open fully without any interference or obstructions.
Difference Between Egress Windows and Other Windows
If you think that because you have windows already installed in your basement or other sleeping areas they are window egresses, you might be mistaken. Egress windows in Canada have specific size, structure, and floor-to-window height requirements that are regulated by the National Building Code of Canada. Not all basement, bedroom, or attic windows meet these specific criteria. For example, many basement windows are much higher that 1.5 meters from the floor. In order to be converted into an egress window, a step-up must be added.
They type of window also matters. The approved window types for egress window installation are:
- Horizontal sliders
- Vertical sliders
- Casement windows
Egress windows must also open easily and be clear of any obstructions both inside and outside the home so you have an accessible and easy. Any window in your home that does not comply with the NBCC construction regulations or egress window size in Canada is not an approved egress window.
What is Needed to Convert my Standard Basement Windows into Egress Windows?
Egress windows in basements must comply with the same size, dimension, and floor-to-window height requirements as upper floor windows egress. Because most basement windows are much higher from the floor than the required 1.5 meter height, a step-up must be added to make it easier to access the window.
Basement window sizes, awnings, and window wells can also interfere with egress window size in Canada requirements because they can make the window opening too small to freely escape from. Other external features like latches, bars, grates, locks, and other devices can deem the windows non-egress standard.
Upgrading your basement windows to regulation approved egress windows might require cutting through the foundation walls to make the window area bigger. If you are considering upgrading your basement windows, the renovations should only be done by an experienced, qualified window installation company who knows how to install your window egresses safely and properly.
At CANPRO Windows and Doors, we have been installing egress windows in basements for over ten years. Our team of experts can safely and properly your industry approved egress windows so you can feel confident knowing everyone in your home is safe. Contact us today for your free estimate.
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