Basement Windows and Safety: Things to Consider

Written by AnonymousMarch 3, 2011

Keeping Basement Windows Safe

Basement windows create two common safety concerns.  An unsecured basement window offers an easy way for intruders to enter a home undetected and a small basement window can trap victims inside or keep emergency responders from entering. Both safety concerns are something to consider when purchasing a home or replacement windows, but they easy to remedy.

Securing your basement windows

A number of safety options for basement windows that won’t compromise sunlight or fresh air are available. To secure your basement windows you can add:

  • Security bars: Security bars are made of metal and they can’t be disassembled from the outside. You don’t have to worry about obstructing your escape route, though: security bars come with a quick release mechanism from the inside.
  • Window security film: Window security film is made of polyester and metal alloys. The materials are held together with an adhesive that will stand up against rocks and bricks, gale-force winds, and explosions. The window may shatter, but the tough film will hold the pieces together.
  • Polycarbonate sheeting: Polycarbonate sheeting is 250 times stronger than glass and as clear as glass, so it still allows sunlight to enter. Polycarbonate sheets are sold under the trade names Hyzod, Tuffak, Lexan, and Makrolon.

If you have an alarm system, don’t assume that it’s automatically wired to your basement. The alarm panel is wired to several zones, so make sure the basement windows are included or equipped with sensors.  

Creating a code-friendly escape route

If your basement is being used for extra living space such as a home office, game room, or bedroom, the International Residential Code (IRC) requires two forms of escape: an exit door and a window large enough for an emergency responder to enter and an exit for people trapped inside. To bring your basement windows up to code, you’ll need to add an egress window with a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet, with a width of at least 20 inches and height of 24. To allow for easy escape, the window’s sill height must be within 44 inches of the basement floor.

Casement, double-hung and sliding window styles work well for this requirement. You can install the windows yourself in four steps or you can hire a contractor. In both cases, you need to secure a building permit. 

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