Egress Window Installation Basics
If your basement renovation involves a bedroom, then an egress window installation will probably be in your future. Most municipal building codes require a basement egress window well for entry and exit in the event of a fire or other emergency.
The type of egress window well you choose will largely be determined by your local building codes—most specify a window with a minimum area of 5.7 feet and a minimum width of 20” to 22”. Make sure you check the standard in your area. Installing the window will call for quite a bit of physical labor, but the carpentry can be fairly simple. Here’s how to proceed:
What’s your wall made of? If your foundation is constructed of concrete block, cutting the window opening is messy, but straightforward. If your foundation is poured concrete, then you should really consider hiring a professional to cut the opening.
Tough enough? You’ll need to consider the structural integrity of your house when you plan your egress window well. If the wall you’re considering is parallel to the first floor joists, you shouldn’t have a problem. If the wall is perpendicular to the floor joists, however, you’ll need to consult with a structural engineer—your window opening will probably need a reinforced header.
All’s well that drains well. When you install your egress window, you’ll need a window well if the window will be below grade. Drainage will be a problem unless you plan ahead. Make sure the slope away from the window location is at least ½” per foot for 10’ to 12’ away from the window location. Make sure all downspouts are angle away from the proposed window location. Also, if possible, dig down with a post hole along the foundation until you reach the foundation’s perimeter drain and back fill with gravel up to the bottom of your window well.
Get out your shovel. To start, you’ll need to dig out an access area at least 6” deeper than the bottom of the future window and 4’ square. Clean the exposed foundation wall and mark the location of the window opening with chalk. Measure from a landmark that is common to both sides of the wall, like an existing window or pipe opening. Go inside and transfer the measurements to the other side of the wall.
Cut the opening. You’ll need to rent a concrete saw. These machines will generate a ton of dust, so be prepared with safety goggles and a respirator. For a block wall, score the concrete around the opening at least 1” deep. For a solid wall, try to score the concrete as deep as the saw blade will allow. When you’ve finished outside, make the same cut on the inside of the wall. To limit dust, isolate the area with duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Open up! With a chisel and small sledgehammer, knock out the blocks in the opening and clean the edges of any leftover mortar and block pieces.
Jammed up. Construct a window jamb to match the opening in the wall. Your window jamb should be made out of 2” thick lumber wide enough to match the width of the blocks in your foundation wall. Apply construction adhesive to the outside of the jamb and slide it into the window. Fix the jamb to the wall with concrete nails or a powder-loaded setting tool.
Install the window. Install the window following the manufacturer’s instructions. Generally, your window will have nailing tabs or some sort of hardware to fix the window to the wooden jamb. Use galvanized hardware to attach the window; making sure it is level and plumb.
Button up. On the outside wall, apply mortar to any gaps between the wooden jamb and the foundation wall. On the inside, fill gaps with low-pressure foam and trim around the window as normal.
Access to your egress. You’ll need to shore up the earth walls around your egress window well with a metal window well or landscaping bricks. If your access area is too deep, you may need to provide steps or a ladder—check your local building codes.
Life123. “Egress Window Installation.” 17 Feb. 2010 [http://www.life123.com/home-garden/building-renovations/window-installation/Egress-Window-Installation.shtml].
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