What Are Egress Windows, and Are They Needed?

what are egress windows

Egress windows look like the typical large window at first glance. The difference is that it opens fully to allow anyone in the building to escape during an emergency.

Building codes require egress windows to be installed for finished basements before the room is legally convertible into a living space. The dimensions must comply with Ontario’s building code, the International Residential Code, and local requirements.

Areas outside the egress window must also meet specific requirements, especially if it is below ground level.


What Is the Ontario Building Code for Egress Windows?

Egress windows receive extensive regulation under the Ontario Building Code. Here are the following criteria that must be met for the addition to be considered legal.

  • The egress window must be easy to open from the inside of the structure without using any tools.
  • Each installation must open to a minimum area of 0.35 metres squared.
  • The dimension of the available opening must be at least 380 millimetres.
  • Each window must stay open on its own without any extra support.
  • The sill height cannot be more than one metre unless it is in a basement.

When the egress window is in a basement, it must have a window well that allows an individual inside the structure to escape safely. That means the project must meet further requirements under the Ontario Building Code to be a legal installation.

  • A space of at least 550 millimetres is necessary between the window well and the egress window.
  • All windows that include a sash swinging outward toward the well cannot reduce clearance in ways that would create an unsafe exit.
  • When using window well covers, they must have ways to open from the inside without special knowledge or tools.


What Are the Benefits of Having Egress Windows Installed?

Above-grade egress windows are typically cost-competitive with other window installation projects.

Although basement egress window installations cost more, the equity growth offered by this project help homeowners recoup the extra expense.

When examining the benefits of egress windows, you’ll find that they go beyond their primary escape function. Even if you only add one to your basement, it can increase natural lighting, improve ventilation, and offer interior trim upgrades that enhance the look and feel of your living space.


1. Improved Sunlight Access

Since most basements are partially or entirely underground, they tend to be dark spaces that require artificial light to be usable. Installing egress windows ensures that natural sunlight can enter this part of the structure. It boosts your mood, but you’ll also potentially see some savings on your monthly energy bills.


2. Home Value Increases

When a home is up to the current building codes, it becomes more desirable to potential buyers. Egress window installation also creates more living space, adding to the house’s square footage. Even if you don’t plan to sell right away, the equity benefits from this upgrade can help you have more financial flexibility.

Egress windows add more curb appeal to Ontario homes, contributing another value-based advantage to consider. This benefit can occur within the living space by adding your preferred trim and other features.


3. Building Safety Improvements

Egress windows are part of the building code to ensure everyone in a structure can get out safely. Imagine if you’re in the basement when an upper floor floods or catches fire. Without an escape route, you’d be forced to wait for help or attempt to go through the affected area.

An egress window also makes it easier for emergency crews to enter living spaces to assist or remedy a dangerous situation.


4. Better Interior Ventilation

Basements retain moisture more readily than other areas of a home. Since cold air sinks, it also tends to be a more frigid space to use. By installing egress windows, the added ventilation ensures that clean air circulates throughout the living space to keep everything drier and temperatures more consistent.


5. Multiple Design Options

You don’t need to have an egress window with a corrugated tin window well. You can speak with an experienced contractor about installing brick, stone, or wood to have materials that match your home’s exterior. Composite liners that minim natural product offer a practical, attractive, and cost-effective way to meet the Ontario Building Code. Some homeowners even install small planting beds to add life and colour to this often-drab space.

If you’re thinking about installing egress windows, get in touch with us! We’ll be happy to discuss your project, provide an estimate, and answer any questions you have.