About sixty years ago, egress window and egress window well requirements began to show up in the Universal Building Code as being necessary to protect the general public living in single family homes. An egress well will do a number of things:
- provide light;
- enable air circulation to a typically dark and airless area of the home;
- allow for emergency escape and allow for rescue personnel to get into the basement to help people to escape.
In this guide, we will review the types of wells available, their installation and maintenance, and what to consider when purchasing.
Understanding Egress Requirements: Legal Necessities
Legally, building codes require an egress window well to be installed when there is a bedroom, also called a “sleeping room”, in the basement. Checking with your local building inspector will give you the requirements for your community. State guidelines are listed here, but your local codes may be more stringent. More than one egress well may be needed, depending on the square footage of the room.
More than half of the fires that cause fatalities are between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., when the occupant’s guard is down and the sensory warnings (like smoke smell, or crackling flames) are not active in sound sleep. So it is vitally important to have an easy means of escape.
Material Choices for Egress Wells: Durability and Maintenance
Egress window wells need to be a minimum of 36” x 36”, and can be made from a number of materials. Comments on durability, maintenance, and ease of installation by a homeowner are listed below.