Basement Window Requirements: What You Need to Know Before Adding a Bedroom to Your Basement

So, you’re looking to add a bedroom to the basement space in your home; doing so will increase your home’s square footage, functionality, and resale value down the road, making it a great option–especially if you’re looking to sell in the near future. On the other hand, you should be aware that simply putting up some drywall to and adding a door to create a separate bedroom isn’t enough. In fact, there are some specific basement window requirements that you’ll need to follow in order for your new basement space to be considered a proper bedroom.

Basement Window Requirements What You Need to Know Before Adding a Bedroom to Your BasementYou Need an Egress Window

All residential building code requirements across the United States state that any habitable space must have at least one egress window. Specifically, an egress window is a type of window that is large enough that a person could escape in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.

Any of the windows in your current main floor bedrooms would be considered egress windows. The idea is that all sleeping spaces within a home need to have a viable escape route in the event of a house fire. This way, inhabitants can flee to safety or, at the very least, have the potential to be rescued by firefighters at the scene.

Width and Height Minimums

You’ll want to check with your local building codes to see exactly what the minimum height and width requirements are for an egress window in your area. This way, you don’t pay to have one installed, only to find that it’s not large enough. In many cases, an egress window must provide a net clear opening of 5.7 square feet. This means, for example, that a 24 inch by 34 inch window would be large enough to be considered egress.

Furthermore, an egress window must be operational from the inside of the home without the need for special tools.

Specific Requirements for Basement Windows

Bedroom Window Well Dimensions Basement Sebring ServicesEgress windows installed in basements may have additional requirements that you’ll want to be aware of before you pay a window company to install one. For example, if you have an underground basement (as opposed to a split level basement), you will also need to replace your window well and attach a ladder to the back of the well for easy exit to ground level. This is often the case if the window well itself sits more than 44 inches below ground level.

Furthermore, most building codes require that basement egress windows open completely and provide at least 9 square feet of floor area. If your egress window will open below a deck or porch, there may also be additional space requirements in place to ensure that the window doesn’t open onto a porch joist and that there aren’t any other problematic obstructions.

Replacing an Existing Window

Basement Window Requirements: What You Need to Know Before Adding a Bedroom to Your BasementIf you already have windows in your basement but they don’t meet the minimum sizing and/or other requirements in place to be considered egress, then you might want to consider replacing an existing window to make it larger rather than having a new window installed altogether. Often times, space above or to the side of the window can be added, allowing for a larger window to be installed without much additional cost in the process. Of course, the feasibility of this option will also depend on the placement of the window and whether or not it coincides with the placement of your desired basement bedroom.

As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to adding a bedroom space in your basement. By installing a legal egress window, you can add a legal bedroom to your home while enjoying added safety and peace of mind in the process. For more information, contact us today.

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About the Author:

" We are very passionate about educating homeowners.From design ideas to hiring a contractor, we hope this bloghelps you in the process of remodeling your home. "~ Bryan Sebring

18 Comments

  1. Sam Fisher January 13, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    It is good to know the requirements for windows that you are installing in your basement. Since it is in the basement, there are extra things that you have to do for the windows. For instance, you need to have it be a certain size in order to be used as an escape route in the event of a fire or something else.

  2. Kate Dunlap August 19, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Hi I am wondering. If the bedroom has an attached bathroom, can the window be in there? In this situation it is a basement.

    • Bryan Sebring August 23, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Hi Kate, if the window well is not in the actual bedroom as you described, then I do not believe that it would be considered a proper basement bedroom in our area, but you may want to reach out to your local building department to confirm in your location. Great question, have a great day.

      Bryan

  3. Amhanrsh September 20, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    I have two egress windows already, but I have a regular window in bedroom, do I need an egress even though I already have two in other areas?

    • Bryan Sebring September 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

      Hi Amhanrsh,

      That is correct, you need to have an egress in the room that you designate as the bedroom.

      Bryan Sebring

  4. Patti R Mulvehill January 29, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I bought a 25 yr old house… and just realized the basement is without one single window, is that legal?

    • Bryan Sebring January 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Patti,
      Many homes from that era did not have building codes that required it, not sure if your town did. I can only speak to our location, which now requires us to bring them up to code when we remodel or finish basements for fire safety reasons. I hope that helps!
      Bryan Sebring

  5. Kim harwood April 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Can I put a window in my basement where there no window at all

    • Bryan Sebring April 23, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Kim,

      Absolutely, you would need to dig out the spot for the window well, cut through the concrete with a saw, and then install the new window.

      Bryan Sebring

  6. Rob April 19, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    I have a current bedroom w/ legal egress window. I would like to make the adjacent room into another sleeping area. Could i provide an opining in the wall that separates the two rooms now and use the one window as egress for both spaces? well two rooms w/ a 4′ doorway thru the wall?

    • Bryan Sebring May 11, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      Hi Rob, we have never run into this, I would think it would be fine if they did not have an actual door connecting (and only an opening). To be sure though, I would speak with your local building inspector. Best of luck, Bryan

  7. Ben April 30, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    I have a split level home built in 2008 and I’m thinking I may finish the basement. The bedrooms and the windows are 48″ off the floor, could that have been code in 08 and if so, could they be grandfathered in.

    • Bryan Sebring May 11, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      Hi Ben, every city is difference and not all require certain code enforcement. I can only speak to the projects we do, which require us to bring homes up to code if we do any remodeling in a basement. Check with your local building department. -Bryan

  8. Ben May 17, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I have a house currently under construction and the builder placed an egress window under the non opening side of my sliding glass door. It has made the appearance and use of both the window and the door impossible. I live in Montgomery county ohio and I am curious if that is a code violation. I have had no luck in finding whom to contact. Any help would be great. Thanks. Ben

    • Bryan Sebring May 21, 2018 at 9:32 am

      Hi Ben, unfortunately we are not familiar with the codes from that area, but your description seems as though it would be an issue. Best of luck and have a nice day.

  9. Jason August 11, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    When we finish our basement we plan on installing an egress window in the bedroom area and then a family room with no egress window but it would be connected to the stairway. Would the stairway negate any need for an egress window in the family room?

    • Bryan Sebring August 21, 2018 at 9:01 am

      Hi Jason,

      Every city is different in regards to code, so check with yours. That said, in our area, you only need an egress window inside basement bedrooms. Hope that helps!

      Bryan

  10. Lori September 14, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    We have a finished basement, but it is not a bedroom; it’s just recreational space, basically. The original 1984 window down there was cracked accidentally by an electrician who pulled the whole window out (the old, pull-out egress windows with the pull chains…) during a panel upgrade. We’re debating between reglazing that glass panel or replacing the whole window with a new one. Would replacement necessitate an upgrade to today’s code as a “remodel” job (would require a whole new well and include jackhammering out part of our patio), or is it just a simple window replacement into the existing opening and “grandfathered” in? We’d looked into a new well there a year ago, the whole thing would be $5K…would rather not. Thanks! DuPage County (you know us 🙂 )

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