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How to Install a Basement Egress Window

Posted By Ethan On October 17, 2012 @ 7:00 am In Basement,Pro Follow,Pro-Follows,Project Guides,Walls & Ceiling | 24 Comments

Today’s Pro-Follow [1] is part of a series shadowing professional contractor Joe Bianco [2] and his crews as they remodel an unfinished basement. A necessary part of this remodel is bringing the basement (and even other areas of the house) up to current code, and that includes installing an emergency egress window. For this project, the guys are expanding an existing window and installing a window well.

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Egress Requirements

The 2012 International Residential Code [7] (IRC) section R310 requires an emergency escape in all basements, and where basements include a bedroom(s), emergency egress in each sleeping room. This is a change that was implemented in the 2006 IRC; previous editions qualified basements with habitable space. Existing dwellings were “grandfathered in” and allowed to remain unchanged unless new construction, additions, alterations or repairs took place, in which case the new code applies.

Here are the requirements for emergency egress:

  • Minimum opening area: 5.7 square feet
  • Minimum opening height: 24 inches
  • Minimum opening width: 20 inches
  • Maximum sill height: not more than 44 inches measured from the finished floor to the bottom of the clear opening.
  • Window wells: minimum horizontal area shall be 9 square feet, with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches. A permanent ladder or steps if the window well depth is more than 44 inches.
  • Bars, grilles, covers, or screens are permitted to be placed over emergency escape and rescue openings or window wells, provided such devices are easily releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool, or special knowledge.

Step 1: Dig Opening

The guys got started by digging out a semi-circle around the existing basement window with a radius of 3′. The plan is to dig down about 6″ below the new sill height which keeps them under 44″ (and would require a step or ladder).

Step 2: Turn Off HVAC and Cover Openings

Inside the basement, Joe’s crew turned off the HVAC and covered all return air ducts and supply ducts. They also sealed around the basement door with tape to prevent any dust from escaping.

Step 3: Plastic Sheeting Barrier

The guys built a plastic barrier to further trap any dust created by the concrete saw.

Step 4: Mark Window Rough-In

The new window will be positioned less than 44″ off the floor and extend up to the existing window height.

After removing the insulation, Frank used a level to mark horizontal and vertical lines on the inside and outside of the house.

Step 5: Cut with Concrete Saw

The concrete saw has a hose connect to further reduce the amount of dust, and the guys took advantage of it.

They cut along the lines on the inside and outside of the house, and they made an extra cut down the middle to make it easier to remove that section of wall.

The crew used sledge hammers and a pick-axe to demo the opening.

Step 6: Frame Window

Frank removed the rest of the old window frame and cleaned up the concrete.

He used pressure-treated 2 x 8″ to rough-frame the opening. As it turned out, the new window fit the rough opening really well.

Frank put down a generous amount of sealant to create a waterproof barrier under each board.

Pro-Tip: Frank chamfered some of the boards because it’s tough to cut perfectly clean corners.

As Frank placed each board, he checked it with a level and shimmed accordingly.

The sealant is what really secures the rough framing in place. Frank drove cut nails for a temporary hold.

Step 7: Hang Window

Frank put another bead of sealant on the face of the framing and positioned the window in the opening. After leveling the window, he put screws through all the pre-drilled holes.

Step 8: Foam

The guys used a low-expansion, window and door foam to seal and insulate around the window. The foam was great for sealing any gaps or cracks.

Step 9: Trim with PVC Board

Frank trimmed the window with PVC board since it won’t rot or become a target for pests.

He also put a bead of sealant around the edge to prevent water from finding a way through.

Step 10: Install Window Well

Joe and Frank picked up this window well from a local lumber yard.

They cut it down to the necessary height and fit it in place.

The guys used concrete anchors to attach the window well to the foundation.

They also sealed the edge to prevent water infiltration.

Lastly, the guys backfilled around the window well. They piled the dirt higher because it’ll sink as it compacts more.


Technically the guys weren’t quite finished. They still needed to add about 6″ of gravel to the bottom of the window well and install a window well cover to divert rainfall. Although it’s not required by code for the height of this window well, Joe and Frank plan on hanging a simple ladder to make it easier to climb in and out.

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[2] Joe Bianco: http://sdghomesolutions.com/

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[7] 2012 International Residential Code: http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/2012/index.htm

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