Egress windows are intended for one purpose: safety. They are required in residential settings to provide a means of exiting during an emergency and allowing firefighters to get inside.
The term egress actually really refers to the size of a window, not the type of window. To qualify as egress, windows have to meet specific size requirements.
According to the International Residential Code (IRC), egress windows must meet the following criteria:
- At least 20 inches wide
- At least 24 inches tall
- Minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet for the ground floor and 5.7 square feet for other floors
- A sill that is no more than 44 inches above the floor
Most cities and towns in the United States and Canada follow IRC codes, but check with your local building department to be sure. Even if egress windows are not required, you should have them installed for the safety of your family.
IRC standards do not specify the design of an egress window, but casement windows usually work best, especially where space is limited. They have hinged sashes that swing out, leaving lots of room to crawl through.
If you’re simply replacing an existing egress window, budget anywhere from about $200-$1,200, depending on the material. A vinyl window will fall on the low end of that range, fiberglass will fall somewhere in the middle and wood will fall on the higher end.
If you’re adding an egress window where one doesn’t exist - which means cutting a large hole in the wall - you’re looking at spending $2,000 to $5,000 for professional installation. Planning to tackle the job yourself? That brings the cost down to about $500-$1,000, but DIY is not advisable unless you have experience.
If you’re replacing a smaller window with an egress window, keep in mind that it is less expensive to increase the height of an opening than the width because less structural work is required. Ask your contractor to increase only the height, if possible.
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