Frequently Asked Questions
Remodeling or finishing a basement is a big job. Below find a comprehensive list of FAQs on IRC codes, our egress window products, installation and more to help get your project on track and completed safely and successfully.What does egress mean?
Can I use a regular window to be an egress window?
What size egress window and egress well do I need?
What is a Complete Egress Kit?
Could I use landscape ties or landscape blocks to form an egress well?
What do I need to backfill around the well?
Are there any types of Egress Wells that don’t need to use pea gravel as a backfill?
Why would I need to use a well cover or grate?
Should I use a Cover or a Grate?
I have an older house; do I need to comply with the new Building Code for Egress?
Do I need to have more than one Egress Window to cover a large room in the basement?
Is this a "DIY" or“Do It Yourself” type project?
How do I cut the concrete to make the window opening?
How do I find a contractor that can install this for me?
What am I supposed to do with the drain that is found at the bottom of the well I purchased?
I’m not very agile – can I really get out through an Egress Window?
If my children were in the basement and a fire or emergency separated us, could they operate and get out through the Egress Window by themselves?
I’m having a house built. Do I need an Egress Window or can I use another type of exit?
What’s the best type of Egress Window for new construction?
I’m finishing a basement and my contractor said I don’t have to worry about an Egress Window. Is he right?
What should I know before I start digging out around my foundation to install and Egress Window and Well?
My in-ground sprinkler system pipes are in the way of installing an Egress Well. What should I do?
The spot where I would need to add an Egress Window Well is underneath a deck or porch. Am I allowed to do this?
Q: What does egress mean?
A: Pronounced “ee-gres,” as a noun, it’s a means of going out; an exit. As a verb, it means “to go out; emerge.” So an Egress Window is a window that offers a means of going out. In other words, it’s an exit window.
Q: Can I use a regular window as an egress window?
A: Genuine egress windows must meet certain very strict criteria. First, it must have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet. It must have a minimum net clear opening height of 36 inches. The window must also have a minimum net clear opening width of 20 inches. The window must be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. Lastly, the window must also be installed properly. The window must have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) above the floor. Therefore any window can be considered an Egress Window as long as it meets or exceeds all of these criteria.
Q: What size egress window and egress well do I need?
Q: What is a Complete Egress Kit?
A: All of the different parts that are needed to create a safe, code compliant, Egress Window Well System have been put together in one convenient kit. Instead of trying to figure out which Egress Window, Egress Well, and Cover work together, it is all there in one package. Each Kit has all the parts needed.
Q: Can I use landscape ties or landscape blocks to form an egress well?
A: Yes, you can. However, you will need to follow the criteria required of the wells. The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 9 square feet (0.9 m2), with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm). The area of the window well shall allow the Egress Window to be fully opened. If the Window well has a vertical depth greater than 44 inches it shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the Egress Window in the fully open position. The ladders or steps shall have a width of at least 12 inches, shall project at least 3 inches, from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches, on center vertically for the full height of the window well.
Q: What do I need to backfill around the well with?
A: Usually pea gravel is required to be used as a backfill around the Egress Wells to promote drainage and to mitigate the possible damage from frost heaves. Please read the specific installation instructions provided for the particular Egress Well you are using for further details.
Q: Are there any types of Egress Wells that don’t require pea gravel as a backfill?
A: Due to their strong fiberglass construction, the Rockwell Premier and Elite Egress Wells do not require pea gravel as a backfill. However, you may still want to use it as backfill to promote drainage.
Q: Why would I want to use a well cover or grate?
A: Well covers and grates are an important safety features. They prevent accidental falls into the well. It also keeps yard debris and leaves from collecting in the bottom of the well. Covers help to keep the weather, like snow, out of the well, too.
Q: Should I use a Cover or a Grate?
A: This depends on your specific needs. Covers keep the weather out of the Egress Well, offer a degree of insulation, and keep debris from collecting in the bottom of the well. Some covers and grates are safe for foot traffic up to 500 pounds. Grates allow the most fresh air to enter into an open Egress Window, it has a strong reassuringly safe visual look to it and can withstand mild foot traffic up to 500 pounds on some models.
Q: I have an older house; do I need to comply with the new Building Code for Egress?
A: Always check with your local authorities to confirm what codes apply to your specific project. However, if you are adding new living space (especially a bedroom) to your basement where it was previously an unfinished space, it is most likely that you will need to comply with the current building codes.
Q: Do I need to have more than one Egress Window to cover a large room in the basement?
A: Due to code requirements for natural light and ventilation, if a given room in the basement is larger than 200 square feet, then most likely, Yes. To meet code for natural light, the glass area (in square feet) of the egress window must be at least 8% of the total floor area of the room that the Egress Window is servicing. To meet code for ventilation, the opening area (in square feet) of the egress window must be at least 4% of the total floor area of the room that the Egress Window is servicing. Based on the code, one 48” x 48” Egress Slider Window can service a room up to roughly 200 square feet. You are allowed to use multiple Egress Windows in a single room to meet the minimum needs for natural light and ventilation that the code requires. Please see the Measuring page for further details..
Q: Is this a “Do It Yourself” type project?
A: It can be depending on your skill level and comfort level you have with cutting through your concrete foundation. Many tool rental centers will rent masonry saw that can do the job. If you do not feel that you can do it yourself there still is a way to create some “sweat equity” on your project. You can dig out around your foundation for the well yourself. This could save you some money and help you to protect your plantings, or other valuables, from potential harm from a commercial excavator. If you feel like Do-It-Yourself is not an option for you, there is a list of installers on the Installers page.
Q: How do I cut the concrete to make the window opening?
A: A variety of different masonry cutting saws can do the job, from concrete chainsaws to concrete circular saws. Most use water to both cool the cutting blade, and clear out the debris from the cut, so it can be a very dusty and dirty job. (Better call Mike Rowe) Understand and follow all safety rules and regulations when operating these tools. Many tool rental centers will rent masonry saws that can do the job. Or hire someone to do the job for you. You can find and installer in your area by looking on the Installers page.
Q: How do I find a contractor that can install this for me?
A: Go to the Installers page or try Angie’s List.
Q: What am I supposed to do with the drain that is found at the bottom of the well I purchased?
A: The drain at the bottom of the well is intended to be connected to your foundation drainage system, if there is one. If there isn’t a foundation drainage system to connect it to, be sure that there is adequate drainage rock below the well to help in the dissipation of any water that may collect in the bottom of the well. If the drain is not connected to your foundation drainage system a Well Cover is highly recommended to minimize rain and weather from getting into the well. A Well Cover is not, however, designed to be completely weather tight.
Q: I’m not very agile – can I really get out through an Egress Window?
A: In an emergency, you will be amazed at how motivated you are to get to safety. All kidding aside, the minimum requirements to meet egress code are not necessarily what are best for your needs. The minimum sizes are set so that the “average” person will be able to fit out of an egress window. Always take into consideration whom in your family may need to use this emergency exit in case of the unexpected. Be sure that they will be able to use that exit in an emergency. That may require you to use a larger window, or to set the window lower to the ground than the minimum 44” sill height for people less agile. Think safety for all your loved ones.
Q: If my children were in the basement and a fire or emergency separated us, could they operate and get out through the Egress Window by themselves?
A: Yes, they should be able to operate the egress window on their own. Teach all family members how to exit through the Egress Window and Well. Practice and run family fire safety drills. Think of the Brady Bunch for all of us old enough to remember them.
Q: I’m having a house built. Do I need an Egress Window or can I use another type of exit?
A: Direct exit doors or bulkhead doors can also meet code for egress. They must, however, be direct access from the room that it is servicing. These doors will also need to meet all the applicable codes for Egress.
Q: What’s the best type of Egress Window for new construction?
A: Ideally with new construction you can have the window frame (a.k.a. window buck) in place prior to the pouring of the foundation. This way it becomes an integral part of the concrete foundation. There are two windows to choose from that you can accomplish this. First is the Easy Egress Vinyl Window with its separate Easy Egress Window Frame Buck that gets set in place prior to pouring the foundation. Then the window fits into the buck after the forms are removed from the foundations. And the other is the PVC V200 Egress Slider Window that can be had with the traditional double glazed glass or the energy efficient double glazed insulated that is Low E and Argon filled.
Q: I’m finishing a basement and my contractor said I don’t have to worry about an Egress Window. Is he right?
A: If you are adding any type of living space to your basement whether it be; a home office, playroom, den, media room, man cave, or especially a bedroom, the applicable code most likely requires a means of egress. Check with your local authorities to find out what codes apply in your situation.
Q: What should I know before I start digging out around my foundation to install and Egress Window and Well?
A: There is a free service in most areas called Call 811 that will come to your location and mark out where all of the underground utilities before you begin digging. This will help you to avoid dangerous electrical lines, water lines, septic lines, etc. that may be buried where you want to dig. Other considerations to avoid when digging are in-ground sprinkler systems, wires for invisible dog fences, wires for landscape lighting, etc. Anything that might be buried, and therefore unseen. A plan may be need for how to work around these obstacles.
Q: My in-ground sprinkler system pipes are in the way of installing an Egress Well. What should I do?
A: These pipes can be rerouted using elbows to go around the space were the Egress Well is to be placed. Be sure to turn off the water before you begin this project of course.
Q: The spot where I would need to add an Egress Window Well is underneath a deck or porch. Am I allowed to do this?
A: Egress Window Wells are allowed to be installed under decks and porches provided the location of the deck allows the emergency escape window to be fully opened and provides a path not less than 36 inches (914 mm) in height to a yard or court. And the emergency egress openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.