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Egress windows and the home inspection, what the home buyer needs to know.

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Conducting home cottage and commercial inspections in the Orillia, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and all of Muskoka areas I will often come across basements and attic spaces that have been converted to living space in particular bedrooms. Many, many, homes listed now are specified as 2+ 1 or as 3+1  bedroom home The plus unit is a bedroom on another level like the former attic or basement. All bedrooms in Ontario must have a door to exit into the home and a direct exit to the exterior of the home. They cannot exit into another room nor can they exit into an enclosed space such as a porch or garage. Here is what I look for and what the homeowner should know about proper Egress or exit windows.

Basic information for EGRESS WINDOWS

The minimum width of opening is 20 inches.

The minimum height is of opening is 24 inches.

The sill height must be 44 inches or less from interior floor to top of window sill.

In Ontario the window must have minimum 3.8 sq. ft total of clear opening or more.

Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE In addition, if any part of the window is below grade a suitable sized egress window well must be provided. This will normally require drilling into the basement wall to install concrete anchors. Be sure to use a code compliant window well. If the window well will be deeper than 44" from vertical grade, a code compliant ladder will need to be installed. Ladders or rungs need an inside width of at least 12 inches, and need to project at >3 inches from the wall,  spaced not more the 18 inches apart. Many of the preformed window wells are made with integral code compliant Covers, if any are not allowed to lock  and must be easily removable by a child. Usually they are made of lightweight clear plastic. 
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Here are some excerpts from the Ontario Building Code:
* An egress window cannot be less than 46 cm. (18") in any direction.
* The window opening has to be at least 3871 sq. cm. (600 sq. inches)
* If there is a window well for the basement window, it must extend 92 cm. (3 feet) out from the house wall. (note: this is the minimum room a fire fighter in full gear needs to get in to rescue you.

Basement living areas require an emergency escape and rescue egress doors and windows. It's the law. Homeowners may come up with all sorts of reasons why they don’t think they need an it however if you have a sleeping area in the basement for family, friends, or a basement rental apartment or room; it is important to have a means of escape in case of a fire or other emergency. Small basement windows do not allow for escape and can easily create a death trap in the basement. Many basements have only one real means of escape inside, to climb up a set of wooden stairs to the main floor. If the fire is on the main floor such as in the kitchen you would be trapped in the basement. There would be no means to get to you by emergency services such as the fire department. If the fire started in the furnace or mechanical room you could easily be blocked and trapped.

For both peace of mind for your loved ones, not to mention your liability if someone did get hurt or lost their life in a fire,  investing in a basement egress window and doing it right is well worth it.

 If you rent out a granny suite or maybe rent out a room in the basement it is your responsibility as the homeowner/ landlord to insure a safe means of escape from a fire, you are liable and responsible to insure that means of escape is there and meets local building code requirements for a basement egress window.

Installing a basement egress window may sound easy, but there is a lot more to it than just cutting a hole and installing the new window. There are structural concerns when increasing the windows width, the wall and header must be addressed to meet building code requirements for a egress window there may also be concerns with height from the floor. There are drainage concerns as the egress window area has to be excavated all the way down to the base of the homes foundation or footing to tie into your homes existing drainage system. A  drainage tile from the egress window well  must be installed into the existing drainage system to prevent the window well from flooding into the basement or holding water that could freeze a window shut in the winter. This can be a real hazard in the Bracebridge Gravenhurst and Muskoka area. The well will have to have to be gravel filled after excavation to aid in drainage of the egress window well system.

  • The base of basement Egress Window should be no more than *36" to *44"" from the floor
  • The Basement Egress Window opening must be a minimum of *3.8 (24" x 24") to *5.7 (24" x 36") square feet. Not the window itself, but the opening when fully opened. Egress window type plays a big role here, a 32" X 40" slider window may seem to be large enough, but when you subtract the window frame, sash frames, screen frames and the fact that a slider window will slide open less than half the overall width it would be too small to meet egress window code requirements.
  • The Egress Window opening must be minimally *15 inches to 20 inches at the smallest width or height.
  • Egress windows must be easy to open from the inside without any advanced brainpower or strength-training. It must be the natural operation of the window and not a tilt in for cleaning opening sizes such as in a tilt in slider that requires additional window usage understanding that may not be know or easy to operate for some individuals.
  • The Egress Window should not be a hopper type that opens to the inside from the top down, you don't want to have to crawl over a glass sash to get out of the egress window.
  • You must have a large Egress Window Well. Minimum 36" wide from the glass of the opened egress window to the side of the area well. At least 9 square feet of clear space in the area egress window well.
  • Egress Window Wells installed more than *36 inches to 44 inches deep should have steps or ladder to climb out.
  • The Egress Window Well should extend at least *4 inches on all sides of the window to prevent water damage and wood rot around the window, and it is better to use a vinyl window installed to the foundation without wood exposed to the exterior on the frame.
  • The must be at least one basement egress window in each bedroom. Where there is more than one apartment in a basement area there will always have to be a basement egress window in each apartment.
  • There MUST be proper egress window well drainage including excavating down to the base or footing of the foundation and tying into the existing drainage system around the home. There also needs to be gravel and other drainage criteria met to insure that the window well will not fill with water and leak into the home.
  • There is also homeowner responsibility to keep the egress window well area unobstructed and operational for the opening egress basement window, keep the egress window well area clear of snow and debris at all times.
  • All attic egress windows must provide a way to get to ground level whether permanently fixed such as a ladder that can swing up for security or a folding ladder that may be secured inside and unrolled out the window when required.
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During any of my home cottage or commercial inspections in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Muskoka and Orillia I look to assure my clients that the windows from any bedroom are assessable to the exterior and that they are the correct size for proper exiting in case of fire. In addition for fire safety  if windows are below grade are the window wells the correct size and accessible for firefighters.  Reporting on proper egress windows and window wells is just too important not to get Done Right

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Bruce Grant is a full time home inspector in the Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Muskoka and Orillia area for Done Right Home Inspections. He has extensive experience in renovations, additions and new builds. Having gone through a home fire himself fire safety is high on his list of inspection concerns. 



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