Egress Windows and the Law

According to the Virginia Residential Code, all finished basements, regardless of when the house was originally constructed, are required to have an emergency egress. In addition, all basements with bedrooms are required to have an emergency egress in each bedroom but are not compelled to have it in other rooms. These windows are designed to allow for quick escape in the event of a fire and to admit a fully outfitted firefighter without hindrance. Most basements will also require the addition of a window well on the outside of the egress window, comprising a dug-out area that’s at least 36 inches wide and extends at least 36 inches out from the window. The window itself must satisfy four requirements: it must be operational from the inside without the use of a tool or key, the bottom of the window opening must be within 44 inches of the floor, the window must open to a height of at least 24 inches and a width of 20 inches, and it must have a net clear opening of 5.7 feet. A net clear opening refers to the area of clear space that exists when the window is open.