Egress Windows in Seattle: Added Light, Safety, and Value

Egress Window Seattle Installation

Why are Egress Windows Rising in Popularity?

Every year we get more calls about egress windows than the year before. When considering the trends in the last decade, it makes total sense! In the last 10 years, the percentage of millennials moving back in with parents and the percentage of retirees moving in with their kids has risen higher than ever. In the last 5 years, Airbnb has risen to a valuation of over $30 billion, and Seattle homeowners are taking advantage of the opportunity in droves. Over the last 2 years, home offices have become more than just a feature of an entrepreneur’s home; they’ve become a must-have for working professionals throughout every industry. Coupled with the unparalleled ROI provided by installation, it is clear to see why we’ve been installing an egress window at least once a week all summer long.

What are Egress Windows?

Before we get into the reasons why any homeowner should consider an egress window installation, let's first understand what they are and what they add to a home. Egress isn’t a word you hear or use very often; it literally means “the action of leaving a place.” In regards to construction, it’s a word most commonly associated with rules and requirements associated with fire safety. The legal meaning of egress is “a continuous and unobstructed path from an occupied portion of a building or structure to a public way.” This path can be either vertical or horizontal. Ladders to a balcony, exit signs to designated stairwells, and window wells on basement-level windows are all forms of egress construction.

Without even getting into the added bedrooms and offices, you likely already see why this has such a strong return on ROI based on the added fire safety. In real estate, added safety means added value (this holds true for security features, fire safety, or environmental precautions). As egress exits are associated with fire safety, that means they have the strictest requirements in order to meet code. While egress windows can be on the first or second level of a home, this blog post is primarily focused on basement egress windows as that is what we get calls about every week. To get started, here is an overview from the International Code Council (ICC), the entity that provides updated code each year called International Residential Code (IRC):

Egress Windows Building Code & Regulations

  • IRC 2018 Section R310: Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings

    •  R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue opening required

      • Basements, habitable attics, and every sleeping room shall have not less than one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, an emergency escape and rescue opening shall be required in each sleeping room. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.

      • Emergency escape and rescue openings must be operational from inside the room without the use of keys, tools, or special knowledge.

    • Size requirements

      • The bottom of the window opening mustn’t be higher than 44” from the finished floor

      • The window opening must be at least 24” high and 20” wide

      • The opening area of the window must be at least 5.7 square feet

      • The window glass area must be at least 8% of the total floor area of the room it is servicing to allow for sufficient natural light*

      • The window must have an opening area of at least 4% of the total floor area of the room it is servicing to allow for the minimum amount of natural ventilation*

* Multiple windows can be used to service the same area where one window does not meet the percentages listed, as long as the total amount from all windows in the room meets the minimum requirements.

  • Window Well Requirements

    • A window well is required when the bottom of the egress window is below ground level

    • The horizontal area of the window well must be at least 9 square feet

    • The distance between the window and the back of the window well must be at least 36”

    • The window well must not interfere with the window fully opening

  • Ladders / Steps

    • Ladders and/or steps are required if the window well is deeper than 44”

    • Must be usable with the window in a fully open position

    • Steps or ladder rungs must at least 12” wide

    • Ladder rungs must be between 3”-6” from the back wall of the window well

    • The space between steps/rungs must not exceed 18”

  • Well Cover / Window Grates

    • When used, any covering over the egress window must be easily removed from the inside without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge, or force greater than that required for the normal operation of the escape and rescue opening

See more rules and regulations in accordance to the ICC on their website:

Using Egress Windows to Add Rental Space & Income

These requirements are no joke! At Procraft, we are always up-to-date with codes and regulations in order to advise our clients from the get go, whether that be here on this blog or on-site for a free consultation. In the Seattle area, especially in King and Snohomish counties, we’re experiencing a housing shortage with no end in sight. Egress windows allow for legal bedrooms to be added in basement-level rooms, which can equate to rental income. In areas such as Ballard, Belltown, and Queen Anne where rent prices are over $2,000/month, that is substantial income from a project that typically costs about $6,000. For more information on egress window installation for the purpose of a basement bedroom, see our blog post on the topic here.

How Much Do Egress Windows Add to Home Value?

The price of rent isn’t the only factor to consider! The ROI on an egress window is substantial for homeowners looking to sell. Adding a bedroom or office to an otherwise inhospitable part of the home can add $35k-80k in home value depending on your location. Considering the investment is in the range of $5,500-$8,000 per egress window, you would be hard-pressed to find another home renovation that can be done so quickly with a comparable return on investment.

Contact Us

Are you looking to add a legal bedroom to your home, or maybe a more comfortable living space in your basement? Give us a call and let us guide you!

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