Let’s not regress in our thinking

Basement windows should be easily accessible to get out of, in case of emergrency.
Basement windows should be easily accessible to get out of, in case of emergrency.

Continuing our talk on basement egress, what do we know so far?

One, a basement requires two points of exit in the case of emergency, such as a fire, or if you’re Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadians, and are placed in the awkward situation of having your girlfriend show up at your post-game party where a few young ladies are found lounging on your bed.

With the stairs blocked, or inaccessible during the chaos of a smoke filed room, or the heat of an enraged French lady with Prussian temperament, the egress window may undoubtedly be your only salvation.

And two, for a room to be considered a bedroom, the space must have a means of ventilation (either by the window having three sq. ft. of open screen area, or by a mechanical blower) and a source of natural light (minimum five per cent of the room’s sq. footage).

So, why not make the window egress compliant from the get go? When slid open, or tilted upward, an egress compliant window will need to provide a space that’s at least 15 inches wide, with a total opening of 548 sq. inches, or 3.8 sq. feet.

It should be noted that some horizontal sliders offer in-swinging type of sashes, or a lift and remove option for both the fixed and sliding window panes. Although this would effectively create the required opening for egress compliancy, and allow the homeowner to install a smaller, perhaps more convenient sized window, these conditions aren’t egress worthy.

In order to be egress compliant, a window must not require any special tools, or educated knowhow, to open. In other words, opening a window to its full exit potential can’t require a person, teary eyed, panicked, and suffering from smoke inhalation, having to follow a co-ordinated series of window movements in order to save their butts.

Basically, without any prior knowledge as to how a window operates, the egress friendly window will simply slide open, or tilt up, with minimal effort by the first time user. How does a person, or child, reach the egress window in a basement?

On any other floor in the home, an egress compliant window must be no more than 39 inches off the floor. However, due to the in-ground condition of our basements, where windows are installed 5-6 feet off the finished floor, no such rules apply in Ontario. On the other hand, international egress rules state that even a basement egress window should be no more than 44 inches off the floor.

My recommendation? Modify the room environment in order to minimally adhere to the international requirement.

This view is based on the fact I’ve seen somebody pull themselves up, tuck their knees in, and slip through an opening as narrow as 15 inches, with any type of fluidity, only twice.

Tony Curtis did it in his 1953 portrayal of Harry Houdini, and there was a Romanian gymnast who accomplished the feat during a most recent performance of Cirque de Soleil.

Tony Curtis, God bless ‘im, and a great actor, is no longer with us, and assuming this readership doesn’t include that particular troop of circus performers, I suggest a bench, desk, or some type of furniture arrangement underneath the window, in order to facilitate exiting.

Now, once you’ve made it out the window, are there any other obstructions that may hamper your egress compliancy? Solid earth might pose a problem.

Window wells are a common solution to basement windows that, due to the grade of the surrounding soil, get buried to about half their height.

Unfortunately, the 12 inch deep window well has historically been a common solution. And, if squeezing through the 15 inch window opening took all you could muster, further funneling yourself through a 12 inch space will most likely lead to your ultimate demise. That’s why egress code compliancy demands you install the new standard of a 22 inch deep (distance between window opening and corrugated wall) type of window well.

Build safe, and build to code.

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

Leave a Reply