What is an Egress Window?

The word egress actually refers to the action of exiting or leaving a place, which makes sense because egress windows are quite simply windows that are large enough and can be fully opened. The purpose of this type of window is to be used as an emergency exit, should the main exit doors become blocked during an emergency.  

We briefly touch on egress windows in our article on secondary suite requirements, but here we will delve into all the details, including current egress window regulations and requirements, and which rooms need egress windows in your home. Whether you’re developing your basement, adding an income suite, or renovating an older home built before modern building codes, you’ll want to read up on egress windows so that your project meets all provincial standards, and ensure the optimal safety and comfort for all occupants in your home.

When do you need egress windows?

Any room that could be considered a bedroom requires an egress window if the room itself does not have a door that provides direct access to the exterior of the home. It’s fairly rare to have an exterior door with access into a bedroom, so it’s safe to say that nearly any bedroom requires an egress window.  

Minimum size requirements for egress windows

There are specific building and fire code requirements for legal basement egress window size. Failure to install the correct size of window may result in a failed inspection, costly renovation delays, and ultimately puts the safety and welfare of occupants at risk.

The following building code for egress windows is based on the 2014 Alberta Building Code:

  • Egress windows must be openable from the inside without the use of tools or special knowledge. This includes any security bars or protective closure installed over a window well.
  • The minimum unobstructed opening in any direction must be 380 mm (15”).
  • The overall area must be 0.35 square metres (3.77 square feet).
  • The operation of any sash shall not reduce the clearance in a manner that would restrict escape in an emergency. For this reason, awning windows do not meet egress standards, as they have an arm in the middle of the opening that pushes the operating sash out for ventilation which obstructs the opening, and they typically do not provide the necessary clearance to provide safe passage out through the window.  
  • Window wells must extend out from the window at least 760 mm (about 30”) to provide safe passage.  
  • Egress windows may not be located higher than 1.5 m from the floor.

Eliminate the guesswork and leave the measurement to us: at Gienow, our software program automatically calculates a window’s opening and, provided there are no complicating factors like window wells at play, can immediately determine whether the window opening meets national building code and standards.

When you book a free in-home consultation, we will suggest specific egress window styles to meet your needs and budget.

Types of egress windows

Generally speaking, approved window styles for egress include Casement Windows, and Vertical or Horizontal Sliders, as long as they provide the necessary minimum area and unobstructed opening distance dictated by building codes (see above).

For smaller openings a casement window may be your best bet for providing egress rather than a slider window. There is also an option to install a special ‘egress hinge’ on smaller casement windows to increase the opening size to meet egress standards.

If you’re adding a basement suite or planning a major fixer-upper project, Gienow offers a wide selection of egress windows and we can work with you to find a window solution that checks all of the boxes.

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