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Window Egress: Definition, Laws, and What You Should Know

May 20th, 2013 | 3 min. read

Window Egress: Definition, Laws, and What You Should Know

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Whenever our exterior designers visit with homeowners, they have discovered that most folks have questions about window egress laws when the designers bring up this topic. They get asked questions like “What does window egress mean?” and “What are window egress laws?” Well, we’re going to talk about what it means and how it affects your home’s design.


Window Egress Definition

Egress is defined as the act of coming or going out. In the window business, egress codes are laws about the size of operable windows for the purpose of allowing people to escape if there’s a fire in the home. These laws are very specific about what each room can and must have in terms of escape methods should an emergency situation occur.


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Window Egress Laws

Window Egress Laws Minimum Size RequirementsEgress regulations actually only apply to rooms like bedrooms and home offices that don’t have doors opening to outside. Egress laws for at least one window in these rooms require the following:

  1.  The window must open a minimum width of 20 inches
  2. The window must open a minimum height of 24 inches
  3. The clear opening must add up to 5.7 square feet
  4. The windowsill cannot be more than 44 inches off the floor
This opening would be large enough to allow people to escape during a fire and rescue personnel to climb in a window with equipment on their backs. Additionally, the windowsill height would still allow children to climb out, and fortunately, standard building procedures already adhere to this regulation.


Do egress windows cost more money? 

If you're replacing an existing egress window, it does not cost more because it is designated as an egress window. Window prices are based on material, size, type, and options. An egress needs to meet certain size and type configurations, but it's not considered a special window resulting in a higher price. 

A 42" x 72" black, double-hung Marvin window will cost the same whether the room requires an egress window. 


Window Styles and Egress Laws

You want to be well-informed about these window egress laws when choosing the styles of replacement windows for your home.  It would be a terrible situation to get incorrect information from a remodeling contractor about your new windows, only to discover through a dangerous experience that they were not in compliance with code. This is why we always make sure the homeowners we meet with understand what they can and cannot have in each room of their house BEFORE they make a final decision about replacing their windows.


For example, one of our clients was getting ready to replace some of her larger bedroom windows with picture windows (which don’t open), and counting on some smaller windows to open for ventilation.  However, even though the smaller windows were big enough for a regular-sized person to fit through, they did not meet the egress law because a firefighter with a pack would not have been able to fit.  After consulting with our exterior designer, she decided to make sure all her windows had the ability to open as a safety feature.


Are you thinking about replacing your windows and have further questions about window egress laws? We’d love to help! Feel free to post a comment below or contact us directly.


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