An egress window is an important safety feature and makes your basement totally livable
Most basements are used for storing things like holiday decorations, garage sale stuff, and that unused treadmill you had such high hopes for. But if you’re planning a total basement overhaul (think hardwood floors, a fresh paint job, and moving in some furniture), you must install an egress window for the new living space.
What Is an Egress Window?
“Egress,” in building code speak, means exit, departure, and get-the-heck-out in case of an emergency. But an egress window can also add light and airflow to your living space.
A minimum of 5.7 square feet (20 inches high by 24 inches wide)
No higher than 44 inches from the floor
A glass area no less than 8% of the room’s total floor area
An opening area no less than 4% of the room’s total floor area
“Converting an unfinished basement into a liveable and calculable space is the best investment a homeowner can do,” says Bob Tschudi, Expert Review Board Member and Raleigh, N.C.-based general contractor. “The selling price of your house is based on livable square footage, so if you can add 1000 square feet of livable footage in a market that commands $200 per square foot, then you have increased the value of your home by $20,000.”
The opening needs to be fully functioning and unobstructed. This means no hedges or fences can be blocking the path.
If the bottom of your egress window is below ground level, you must have a window well installed outside. This is a barrier made from strong materials such as polycarbonate plastic that keep the window clear from debris and protect people or pets from falling in.
Types of Egress Windows
Although egress windows must meet certain code requirements, that doesn’t mean they all look the same. And the type of window you choose has a big impact on what you’ll pay.
Casement Egress Windows
A casement window opens by means of a hand-crank to let in fresh air. They have side hinges and can open wider than a regular window without taking up more wall space. Casement windows cost anywhere from $200 to $500, depending on the material you choose.
Sliding Egress Windows
A sliding window (also called a horizontal window) can slide open to the left or right and works well in rooms with narrow window wells. Sliding egress windows cost between $150 to $700 depending on whether you choose single- or double-paned glass.
Single-Hung Egress Windows
A single-hung window has a top and bottom panel, but only the bottom panel opens. They are the most affordable option, ranging from $100 to $400.
Double-Hung Egress Windows
Double-hung windows look like their single-hung cousins, but their top panel opens as well. These types of windows are great for warm climates and allow the hot air to escape easily. Double-hung egress windows cost between $250 to $500.
In-Swing Egress Windows
In-swing windows are hinged on the left or the right of the frame and swing inwards. They’re common in older homes with basements that feature smaller window openings. They’ll cost between $350 to $700.
Cost of Installing Egress Windows
Apart from the cost of the window itself, other factors need to be considered when looking at egress window costs:
Installing egress windows will likely require initial inspections and a building permit. Creating a well for the window may require additional excavation. Permits can cost from $50 up to $300 depending on your location.
“When you are converting an attic or basement, always make sure that you get the right permits,” says Tschudi. “Otherwise, you can’t list the improved space as liveable and your return on investment will be much less. People pay for total approved square footage so make sure that that increased value goes to you.”
For your initial inspection, you might have to hire a local land surveyor, a professional electrician near you, or even local structural engineers. These fees could range anywhere between $350 to $1,000 total.
Can You Install an Egress Window Yourself?
Here’s the thing: Egress windows need to meet very specific requirements, so it might not be the best project to tackle on your own. Hiring a local egress window contractor is a wise move, as they’ll have the skills, tools, and know-how to do the job right and make your space up to code.