What The House? What is an Egress Window?

What the House is That??“This house has a really cool basement with a cool room and bathroom, but the room isn’t listed as a bedroom. Why doesn’t it count as a bedroom?”

This is a question a client asked me today and I remember wondering the same thing about a previous house that I owned.

An egress window is required (per code) as a means of emergency exit in order for the room to be considered usable for sleeping purposes. In the room my client was talking about there was a window. That window did open and her teenage son could technically fit through that window to escape a fire. But it still is not considered an egress window. Apparently when formulating this code the creators were considering the ability of a firefighter with an oxygen backpack having the ability to enter the home through that window for a rescue. And in order for that to happen the window would need to meet these requirements (according to homesafetysolutionsinc.com) :

An egress window must satisfy four International Residential Code (IRC) criteria:

• Minimum width of opening: 20 in.
• Minimum height of opening: 24 in.
• Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor).
• Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in

The window must have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft. Net clear opening refers to the actual free and clear space that exists when the window is open. It is not the rough opening size or the glass panel size, but the actual opening a person can crawl through.

The window opening must be operational from the inside without keys or tools. Bars, grilles and grates may be installed over windows but must be operational without tools or keys and still allow the minimum clear opening.

You might assume that a 20-in. by 24-in. window would be acceptable for egress. However, those dimensions would yield a net clear opening of only 3.3 sq. ft. To achieve the required net clear opening of 5.7 sq. ft., a 20-in. wide window would have to be 42 in. high. Likewise, a 24-in. high window would have to be 34 in. wide.

It is always best to check the code requirements for your specific area as this can change depending on what location you are in. Keep in mind that this will only apply to rooms that should be considered sleeping areas. And even though my client’s son can technically fit through that window, she will need to consider the fact that if there is a fire and her son passed out from smoke inhalation a rescue attempt would be more difficult for a fireman who could not get in the window with all of his gear.


Are you considering buying or selling a home in New Braunfels? Give me a call – I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your dream house.

Clair Devers
Key Real Estate Services
Licensed Realtor
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Article Name
What The House? What is an Egress Window?
What is an egress window and why is one required to have a room listed as a bedroom?


  1. There’s only one S in New Braunfels

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