All About Egress Windows
When folks think of windows, they’re usually thinking of aesthetics; windows allow natural sunlight into your home, they give you a chance to look at the scenery outside, and they add beauty to your home. When windowmakers think of windows, they think of these things too, but they also have to think of something a bit more mundane – building codes. Egress windows are an essential part of building a secure home; this article will explain what they are, and some of the codes you need to follow in Winnipeg.
What is egress? It’s the action of leaving a place. An egress window, then, is a window you can use to leave your home. These windows are essential for emergencies; if there’s a fire in your home, a single stairwell is insufficient as a means of escape. For bedrooms and floors with doors that lead directly outside, these windows aren’t strictly necessary; there are clear escape routes in the case of an emergency. In basements, however, egress windows are absolutely essential, and there can be some practicality to having egress windows on higher floors as well.
The City of Winnipeg has developed comprehensive guidelines to lower level development; in other words, guides to how basements need to be built. For bedrooms, they have very specific requirements: egress windows are necessary unless you have a door that leads from the bedroom outside. Some highlights from the guidelines: The window must be openable from the inside without the use of tools or special knowledge; the window must provide an unobstructed opening with a minimum area of 0.35 sq. m. (3.77 sq. ft.) with no dimension less than 380 mm (1’3”). There also needs to be a 2’6” space of clearing in front of the window, including any area the window itself might obstruct when opened. In other words, you need a wide clearance and an easily opened window. To fit windows that comply with these requirements, you may need to widen the window opening; various contractors can do this for you, but you’ll need a permit.
Basements aren’t the only places that are especially hazardous in emergency situations; upper floors can also have their exits obstructed by flames. The Government of Manitoba has comprehensive regulations on means of egress for homes in case of fire. The regulations vary depending on how recently your home was built, and whether or not you have sprinklers in your home. Access to a balcony by an easily opened door negates the need for an egress window. For those not fortunate enough to have balconies, the egress window needs to be easily opened, and if it’s more than 900 mm off the ground, needs to be served by stairs and a landing. The egress window must also be permanently idefinited as an emergency exit. There are quite a few different dimension requirements for the window that we won’t go over here, because they vary depending on a number of factors; you can read about them in the above link, or call us for a consultation.
While egress windows must be practical, they can also be beautiful. You can have egress windows in a wide variety of styles, they can use decorated glass, they can even have grilles, so long as they meet the requirements of being easily opened and have sufficient clearance. Practical and pleasing; that’s what windowmakers love!