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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Gogan

What are Egress Windows?

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

What is Egress?


/ēˌgres/Noun: The action of going out of or leaving a place.

The National Building Code 2010 has numerous references to egress in the different sections that refer to different building types. In this article, we will be specifically addressing the requirements for Part 9 of the National Building Code, Housing and Small Buildings and in particular Section 9.9.10. Egress from Bedrooms.


Facts about Egress Window Size and Standards

It is required by the NBCC, National Building Code of Canada, that every home must have egress windows in every bedroom as well as the basement (any room designated for sleep).

Egress windows are windows that meet specific size regulation, and allow for an unobstructed exit in the event of a fire or other emergency. In Canada, egress windows are required in every room that is a bedroom or is used for sleeping at night time.

General Requirements for Egress Window Size:

  • Tip: To measure your windows properly, you should do so between the jambs, sills, opening mechanisms, and sashes. This is the "Unobstructed Opening"

The unobstructed opening of an egress window and how to measure it
  • The unobstructed opening should not be less than 0.35 m2 (3.8 sqft) in area with no dimension less than 380 mm (15 inches)

  • Note: that this window should maintain the required opening during an emergency without the need for additional support or tools

  • All dimensions should be over 380 mm (15 inches)

  • If a window well is required, it must be out from the window at least 760 mm (about 30 inches) to provide easy exit

  • The window well opening must be more than 760 mm (about 30 inches) deep

  • 44 inches (about 1118 mm) maximum sill height from the floor level

Measure and Check Your Bedroom Windows

How To: determine if your windows are egress and calculate your ft2 of unobstructed opening.

Properly measure the unobstructed opening of an egress window
  1. First ensure there is no one dimension less than 380 mm or 15". If yes, then they are not considered egress.

  2. If all dimensions are greater than 380 mm or 15" then measure your windows width inches and height inches and divide by 144. Examples below

example 1: W19" x H22" = 418" / 144 = 2.90 ft2 (< 3.8 f2)  
example 2: 20" x 30" = 600" / 144 = 4.14 ft2 (> 3.8 f2)
Description of approved egress windows in Canada

Allowed Window Types for Egress Windows

Awning windows used for egress in Canada

Note: That although Hopper windows can also be egress they may require additional work to meet egress requirements. For instance, although the unobstructed opening is large enough you still need to crawl beyond the overhead opened pane to escape the window. Meaning your window well may need to be deeper and longer than typically required. Not ideal for basement egress.

Although awning windows utilize the same technology as casement windows, the crank mechanism actually takes up the space that would otherwise be used to exit. That is why by their design, it is impossible to make awning windows in an egress option.

Why Most Windows Don’t Meet Egress Requirements

Most older homes were actually built before egress window requirements existed. This means that they did not follow the current egress window requirements. However, some new homes still lack egress windows.

What typically see 3 scenarios:

  1. The homeowner has purchased new windows and was unaware of egress requirements. This is extremely unfortunate for the seller. We typical ask that the seller discuss this with their window specialist and whether permits were taken for the project

  2. Some cases it was a DIY projected and the seller was unaware of the egress requirements

  3. (Most Common) An older home where the basement was later finished and sleeping areas added to accommodate a growing family but the original windows remained and do not meet current egress requirements.

  4. The homeowner hired a specialist and had a permit but the casement windows do not have a Egress Hinge.

Casement egress window hinging in the center of the opening
Hinge Middle

On regular casement windows, the hinge is set closer towards the middle. (Noted Left Picture) On regular casement windows, the sash opens up to 90 degrees, which is potentially great for allowing tenants an exit. The problem with these units is the placement of the sash. But when opened, the sash ends up in a vertical position slightly off center of the window.

This is what prevents regular casement windows from meeting fire code.

Thankfully, for most problems in the world of replacement windows, there is a solution.

And when it comes to making your casement windows meet fire code compliant, that solution is the egress hinge. Egress casement windows operate just like regular ones.

However, when the sash is in the open position, it sits on one side of the frame. This

An egress hinges opens from the outside allow the maximum opening
Egress Hinge

is possible with the specific functionality of the egress hinge. Consider the difference in the right picture.

Basements and attics were in most cases remodeled into offices or family rooms but later changed into bedrooms. If you convert your basement into a bedroom without the guidance of an inspector, or permit it can be quite dangerous and potentially an unexpected expense when selling your home.

Additional Facts About Egress Windows

  • Unobstructed opening is the actual clear/free space available when you fully open the window

  • The opening should be large enough to allow people to crawl through

  • Tools and keys should also not be used to open the window

  • You are free to install grates and bars as long as keys or tools are not needed to open them

  • In some cases, basement windows need to be converted to meet the guidelines, which involves cutting into the basement concrete wall. This must be done by a specialist to ensure that it adheres to the building codes and permits in your area

  • There are casement windows that when opened hinge near the center of the window. There are some instances where the hinge of these windows can be changed to allow for egress. Meaning instead of hinging toward or near the center it will hinge further to the side and therefore allowing for the required egress opening. Consult with a window specialist.

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