WHAT ARE EGRESS WINDOWS?
According to a 4-year study by the National Fire Protection Association (NPFA), an average of 130 people were killed and 940 injured in below-grade residential fires each year. Most deadly house fires follow the same pattern: a fire starts in a downstairs room during the night; the fire spreads, blocking the usual door exits; the smoke alarm then wakes the residents, who are unable to use the stairs. At this point, the residents are reliant on firefighters arriving quickly enough to either stop the fire or remove the residents from the building before the smoke becomes too thick.
There’s a reason why the most common safety advice when it comes to fires is to plan an exit for all eventualities. Removing yourself from the building may prevent you from being able to fight the fire, but it will ensure that you remain safe. Egress windows are a major tool in your emergency plan – ensuring your home is full of potential exit points.
This guide will walk you through what egress windows are: from the basics to the three main different types of windows.
WHAT IS AN
Egress windows, as the name suggests, are windows that help with exiting a building. They are designed to be used to help with getting out of the building in case of an emergency. While most windows could – in extreme circumstances – be used as a way of getting out of your home, egress windows are designed with safety in mind; they are built to make it as easy, as simple, and as safe as possible for you to use them as an emergency exit.
In many house fires, residents are trapped by smoke and heat and are prevented from using exits like the front and back doors. Egress windows are therefore literally a lifesaver, giving a wide range of options for you to use in an emergency.
As such, many building codes now require egress windows in all new construction (some codes even require window replacement in older buildings), especially for basement windows.
The requirements for egress windows vary slightly depending on the local government jurisdiction.
However, the following are fairly common rules for egress windows in new buildings:
Large enough to fit an adult
Egress windows have to be large enough for an adult to fit through. This means that they have to open wide enough that you can easily pass your entire body through.
In some places, large enough for firefighter in full gear
Despite being known as ‘egress windows’ some jurisdictions require them to be large enough for a full-laden firefighter to pass through. This means that they can be used as emergency entry points, thus increasing the overall safety of your home.
In all bedrooms
Egress windows are usually compulsory for all bedrooms in a new-build home. This is because of the danger of a fire starting at night and trapping sleeping individuals in their bedroom. With an egress window, this cannot happen.
It is possible to convert non-egress windows after the build has taken place, although it often requires remodeling. It’s far easier to install egress windows in the first place.
The three main types of egress windows are:
Double Hung Windows
DOUBLE HUNG WINDOWS
Double hung windows are one of the most common styles of egress windows – increasingly common on new builds. They are also relatively simple to add to older buildings, particularly those with sloped roofs. They consist of two overlapping sashes, running horizontally across the middle of the building. The bottom half opens upwards and the top half opens downwards.
By contrast, a single sash window only allows for the bottom sash to open by raising. In some instances, it is possible for a double hung window to open from top to bottom, although this is less common.
In order for a double hung window to meet requirements for egress windows, they must be at least 24 inches tall and at least 34 inches wide. This provides enough space for most adults to comfortably fit through in case of emergency, and may even be wide enough for a firefighter to enter the building.
Double hung windows also provide some safety in other areas. They can easily be fitted with a catch to prevent toddlers and young children from opening when they are unsupervised. With egress windows in general, this can be a major concern – the fact that they open easily is what makes them both safe and dangerous.
However, double hung models are simple enough to add a catch to; moreover, the most common types of catches do not make it difficult to open in case of an emergency. In some instances, even a block of wood will hold the window closed when children are around, yet will allow egress when needed.
As the name suggests, sliding windows are windows that move side to side on runners, rather than up or down. In this respect, they are more similar to a sliding door than a set of windows. These tend to be more common in newer buildings. In order for sliding windows to meet egress standards, they need to be able to open up to 20 inches in width, be 40 inches wide, and 41 inches tall.
The strengths and weaknesses of sliding windows are the same feature – the ease with which they open. In some scenarios, this is a strength, although in others it can, ironically, be more dangerous. The pros and cons of this are outlined below.
Sudden damage refers to things like:
The final type of window is a casement window. Unlike a sliding window or a sash window, a casement window is one that opens outwards (or very rarely, inwards). These are sat on hinges like a door and are opened with a latch and handle mechanism on the inside of the window. Some models also have a rotating lever that works like a type of ratchet to open the window.
Casement windows have advantages over the other types of egress windows.
The NFPA study mentioned above covered a four-year period. During this time, they found that 18,200 fires per year were reported in lower level living areas. As mentioned above, a lower level fire can be extremely dangerous because of the way it prevents residents from being able to exit via the ground level.
The fact that heat and smoke both rise mean that even if you are on a higher floor, you are still in serious danger from a lower level fire, particularly because these fires typically take place at night when reaction times are slower.
are a simple but extremely effective solution to this problem. So, if you’re building a new home, egress windows should be high on your list of priorities (especially if mandated by building codes). And if you’re living in an older home, it may be worth getting some quotes to convert the windows you have. You can also consider getting double pane windows for a little higher cost. Over time it could be a better investment because of the energy savings.