Egress windows provide emergency exits to homeowners in case of fire or other life-threatening situation. While they are not a new concept, the standards and regulations associated with where they are needed and what sizes are required have changed.
During our consultation appointments, we found that many window companies do not properly inform the homeowners about current egress window regulations and often install windows that do not meet the provincial fire code standard. Not only is this unlawful, it can be deadly.
To help you become better educated about egress windows, we’ve compiled a list of absolutely everything you will ever need to know.
Although bedroom windows are not typically the main escape routes, they can be used as exits in case of a fire if the size and type meet certain criteria.
When should you get egress windows?
The National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) states that bedroom windows must meet the following requirements:
- Provide a minimum of 5-percent LIGHT for the floor area of the room.
- Provide VENTILATION adequate for year-round mechanical ventilation.
- Must be properly sized to provide EMERGENCY ESCAPE, be opened from the inside without use if keys, tools, hardware or special knowledge.
While building codes vary by province, the general acceptable egress window styles include casement and slider.
What is the minimum size for egress windows?
The NBCC details specific size requirements as:
Windows referred to above shall provide unobstructed openings with areas not less than 0.35 m2 (3.8ft2), with no dimension less than 380 mm (15 in.). To ensure the unobstructed opening meets these criteria, you should measure between the sashes, jambs, sills, and opening mechanisms. (See Figure 1 below)
What other rules apply to Egress windows?
- Windows with security bars installed must be operable from the inside without special tools or knowledge.
- Egress windows cannot be higher than 1.5m above the floor.
- If a sprinkler system is installed in the room, an outside window is not required for emergency exit.
What is different about basement Egress windows compared to those on higher levels?
All the same size and style requirements apply regardless of location. However, basement windows are typically higher than 1.5m above the floor. Therefore, it’s recommended that a step is built below the window to provide easy access in case of a fire.
Required window wells must be at least 760mm away from the window to allow for easy exit. Typical basement awning windows do not comply with building codes as they are not large enough or open sufficiently to allow clear passage.
New requirements in Calgary mandate that the window well opening should be 30in deep, from the previous 22in.
What is needed to convert my standard basement windows into Egress windows?
In many cases when basement windows are converted into bedroom basement windows, concrete cutting might be required in order to enlarge the existing window opening.
In such cases, many window replacement companies recommend hiring a contractor that will enlarge the window opening to the proper window size. Your window replacement company will provide accurate dimensions based on local building codes.
This work usually requires a permit from your municipality, so make sure to clarify with your company whether your window installation requires any additional approvals. As the homeowner, you are usually required to obtain and secure cut-out permit.
After the opening is enlarged, the new window can then be installed.
If you are planning to convert basement windows into bedroom basement windows in the future make sure to inform the window product consultant about your intentions at the time of appointment.
Remember, laws have been put in place to improve homeowner safety and security. Just as homes are required to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, it’s equally important to have a safe route to escape the dangers of fire or other emergencies. As a clear path to an exterior door may be unavailable, it’s important to make sure your family has another route out.
Consult with your Cossins Windows professional or your local municipality for safety Code requirements for your area.