One of the most common questions I get from clients that I do Truth in Housing inspections for is about egress windows - specifically, "What's wrong with my window size?" If you live in an older home, there's a good chance that none of your windows meet today's egress requirements. Try this simple quiz below - which of these windows meet today's egress requirements?
To properly answer this question, you would really need more information that just a photo - you would also need to know how tall and wide the window opening is, how high the window is off the floor, and how close the window is to the exterior grade. For proper egress, windows must open at least 24″ high, 20″ wide, and have a net openable area of 5.7 square feet. That's a large window! This means that if a window only meets the minimum height and width requirements, the net openable area will only be 3.33 square feet (24×20 = 480. 480 / 144 = 3.33). If a window opens 24″ high, it would need to be 34.2″ wide to meet the minimum opening requirement. Besides the opening requirement, the window also needs to be within 44″ of the floor. Below is an excellent diagram that illustrates two different windows that both meet the minimum requirements.
So what about the quiz? The only window that met egress requirements was the last one, F. 'A‘ had a net openable area less that 5.7 sf. 'B‘ was too high above the floor, had less than 5.7 sf of net openable area, and was less than 24″ high. ‘C‘ was less than 5.7 sf. ‘D‘ was slightly more than 44″ above the floor.
Why do some people label only a basement room with a tiny window a ‘non-conforming' bedroom, while often none of the windows in the home meet egress? It's because they don't know better. Just for the record, there are several more requirements for a window to meet egress, and there are several ways for smaller windows to be ‘conforming', but the details get... quite detailed. Also, today's building code no longer uses the term ‘egress window' - they're more broadly categorized as Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings. As always, please feel free to email me with any specific questions.
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections