Does My Basement Really Need An Egress Window?

Under local building codes, Egress windows are a requirement for homes with basements. Installing one and ensuring its seals are in good shape can help stop water seepage.

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Egress window repair

When you were building your home, chances are your contractor told you the basement requires egress windows. Some of you have probably not heard of it or given it much thought. Out of curiosity, you probably questioned the sense of having them. Odds are, your folks used wooden windows for many years. And all along, nobody may have ever mentioned or talked about egress windows.

A proper window seal is essential in stopping water and moisture from entering the basement.  Unfortunately, seals deteriorate because of shifts in the foundation or loose caulk. If your egress window is leaky, it can cause many problems, so the sooner you fix it, the better.

What is an Egress?

An egress window refers to a large window that’s typically used as an entry or exit to a basement during an emergency. Like a smoke detector, it’s important to your safety and that of your family members. A well-configured egress window can provide a reliable escape route during a fire outbreak and easy entrance to firemen with full firefighting gear.

Because of the critical function this installation plays, it’s a requirement under local building codes in the Appomattox, VA, area. Often, it’s paired with an egress well and connected to steps or a ladder for easy exit.

Since it’s a requirement in specific locations in a home or building, an egress window must meet specific size requirements to be considered as an egress window. Codes vary from state to state and city to city. However, the typical egress window must fulfill the four laid out by the IRC (International Residential Code). The stipulated sizes are:

  • 20 inch (minimum opening width)
  • 24 inch (minimum opening height)
  • 5.7 sq. ft. minimum net clear opening)
  • 44 inch (maximum sill height) 

Minimum net opening is a very important aspect of the egress windows as it is the actual space that exists when the window is wide open. During an emergency, it’s where a person can crawl through to safety. To achieve this type of clearing, a 20-inch window must be 42 inches high.

Prevent Basement Window From Leaking With the Proper Seal

Egress windows aren’t just useful as entry points or emergency exits. They also add light to the basement, making it bright. That notwithstanding, they can leak and become a problem. And the biggest damper is the fact that they can introduce water into the basement, damaging your walls, carpet, and wooden fixtures. When moisture builds up, it also encourages mold and mildew to grow. Your basement will eventually feel dank and musty.

Sealing Your Egress Windows

Here are the steps typically taken to seal your egress window:

  • Loosen old caulk around the window frame and peel it away.
  • Wipe the edges using a moist cloth to remove dust, dirt and caulk particle.
  • Insert silicone-latex into a caulking gun.
  • Make a 45-degree angled cut on the caulk tip before placing it against the window seam.
  • Squeeze the trigger of the caulk gun gently to release caulk that’s about ¼” or ½ cm wide and deep.
  • While releasing, cover one seam in a long motion until reaching the corner.
  • Smooth the caulk, then wipe off excess caulk from the window.
  • Repeat the procedure on other seams if your basement has multiple windows.

Sealing is a one-day job. It will probably take a few hours at most. But its impact on your basement is significant. In fact, it could mean the difference between a clean dry basement and a moldy, smelly and damp one.

Is there a lasting fix to leaking windows?

Sealing the basement window is more of a stop-gap measure to prevent water and air from entering the basement. However, sealing alone won’t stop window leaks permanently. If problems with the window well persist or the grade of the ground remains the same, you can expect water to continue seeping through the basement window. And your window seal will get loose or break down again. But the major culprit is foundation shift, which happens over time.

Looking to replace your old leaky wooden basement window or repair the seals of your egress window? We can help you install a high-quality replacement window complete with great insulative qualities and waterproof ability. Schedule a free basement inspection today if you need a more lasting fix.

JES Service Area Map

Service Areas

HAMPTON ROADS & NE NC

1741 Corporate Landing Pkwy
Virginia Beach, VA 23454

NORTHERN VA & DC

8122 Bethlehem Rd
Manassas, VA 20109

MARYLAND

1250 Reames Rd
Middle River, MD 21220

CENTRAL VIRGINIA

2410 Southland Dr
Chester, VA 23831

WESTERN VIRGINIA

456 Old Courthouse Rd
Appomattox, VA 24522

SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA

1401 Southside Dr
Salem, VA 24153

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