Basement egress compatability

Not to be mistaken for the long legged, white feathered, s-necked bird that somewhat resembles our local Heron, because that would be the basement Egret, basement egress means satisfying the building code regarding the safe exiting of a living space during an emergency.

In a finished basement, the Ontario building code will require the homeowner having at least one egress window within the immediate living space.

What if when finishing a basement, the homeowner wishes to add a bedroom or two, in order to create more living space, add value to the home, or to serve as a rental space?

Renovating a basement into living space is a popular do-it-yourself project. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those projects that tends to fly under the radar of our local inspection department.

For whatever reason, why the nosy Mrs. Tuddlemeyer’s, otherwise known as those who head our neighborhood spy and rumor committees, tend to jump on the hot line as soon as someone invests 2,500 bucks on a backyard deck, yet fail to notice the delivery trucks feeding $20,000 worth of material into a basement, is not understood.

What’s at risk to not having proper basement renovation permits? Building code non-compliance.

Does not following the rules have a consequence? Not until the poo-poo hits the fan, and you receive a hand delivered, registered letter from the firm of Goldberg, Eckstein, and Wertheimer.

These letters usually request your explanation as to why, during your most recent house fire, their client, and your renter, couldn’t manage to squeeze his butt through your non-compliant bedroom window, and due to his subsequent loss of life, wanted to begin the compensation package negotiation at a conservative 20 million bucks.

That’s when you realize the extra costs of installing a proper egress window in this basement bedroom, would have been a relatively reasonable investment. Until then, of course, non-compliance is a piece of cake.

So, if a basement renovation is in mind, let’s get on board with the permit process.

If you’re looking to buy a home which happens to have a finished basement, be sure to check out its code compliancy before signing on the dotted line. There’s no bonus to a home with a finished basement if it fails code.

What may be advertised as a three-bedroom home with an extra bedroom downstairs, may only legally qualify as a three-bedroom home with a large downstairs shoe closet. Even though the Ontario building code only requires one egress window somewhere in the basement space (provided it’s within 80 feet of the bedroom), because a room cannot be considered a “bedroom” without ventilation and at least five sq. ft. of natural light (based on a 10×10 room), a bedroom will require a window of some sort.

So, for the sake of a few inches of extra height or width, why not make it egress compatible, giving you the peace of mind that family or guests are sleeping in a safe area, right from the start.

What qualifies a widow to be egress acceptable? When slid open, the space created shall be no less than 15 inches in height or width, and not less than 542 sq. inches, or 3.8 sq. ft. total.

So, if we’re talking about a standard sliding window, of which only half qualifies (because the non-sliding sash is considered fixed) your basement bedroom window would have to be about 24″x68″ or 30″x55″ overall. Another option would be to consider an official basement window, or hopper style series, whereby the sash tilts inward towards the ceiling, locking in position once it’s fully extended.

Because of the full access quality of a hopper operator, this style of basement window would allow a smaller, more common 24″x36″ size of unit.

Next, can you reach your egress window?

Or, or should you be working on your upper back strength. And, once you’ve opened the sash, is there still room to manouevre out?

More on egress compatibility next week.

Good building.

As published by the Standard-Freeholder
Handyman's Hints Standard-Freeholder Cornwall Ontario by Chris Emard

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