Know Your Egress Codes Before Finishing Your Basement

Basement egress window wells were the latest feature, amongst many others, that we saw in place in some very attractive homes in Brown’s Park near downtown Marietta, GA. It seems to be rare to find new homes these days built with fully enclosed basements with stairs from inside of the house to be the only way to enter/exit the basement.

Basement egress window wells are, by far, probably the most boring feature of these homes but a necessity, nonetheless. I’ll be posting an article, or two, very soon on some other great features found in these feature laden home plans.

If you are considering building your own home, searching for a new or existing home or remodeling your basement into livable space, then you need to know your local egress codes.

Here’s why…

Why do I need to include basement egress windows in my new home plan?

Basement egress window wells are required in houses with full basements as stated in the International Residential Code (IRC) 2000 Egress Code.

The IRC 2000 Egress code for one and two families states:

Definition of egress as described in IRC 2000 (Section R310) as it pertains to windows below ground level:

Window Wells/Area Wells:
Required where window opening sill height is below ground elevation.
Horizontal dimensions: = 9 sq.ft. (width x projection)
Horizontal projection: = 36″

Sill height of window above floor: Not to exceed 44″
Minimum opening area: = 5.7 sq. ft.
Minimum opening height = 24″
Minimum opening width: = 20″

Required on window wells deeper than 44″ and must be permanently attached.
Ladder may encroach into well up to 6″.
Step distance between rungs: = 18″
Rungs:12″ wide or greater and must project a minimum of 3″ away from wall but maximum of 6″.

Shall be removable without special tools.

Code sponsored by: The International Code Council (ICC), the Building Officials Code Administration (BOCA), the Uniform Building Codes (UBC), and the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).


If you are planning on building a home of your own and the plan calls for a full basement, you will be required to include egress window wells.

In fact, building codes in your area most likely state that a window well for basement emergency egress is required when the sill of the egress window is located below exterior grade.

These window wells are in the construction phase and, therefore, have yet to have the ladders installed.

More benefits for installing basement egress window wells

  • Basement egress window wells allow the sun’s rays to turn a dark and gloomy basement into a daylight basement.
  • If you meet the established egress codes, you are able to finish your basement, thus, practically doubling your living space. The basement is the most affordable space of your home to turn into a living area. The temperature stays relatively stable for the better part of the year…at least here in the South it does.

Do you really need any more reason than that? Not on your life!

Don’t forget to install those safety grates!

Where can I find manufacturers of basement egress window wells?

  • The phone book. Look in the section labeled ‘basements’ or ‘windows’.
  • Word of mouth. Ask friends, family, co-workers and home improvement center associates for advice.
  • The internet, of course.

  • Boman Kemp Basement Window Wells
  • Mar-Flex Basement Window Well Systems
  • Bilco ScapeWEL Window Wells
  • Wellcraft Egress Window Wells
  • …there are many more…


    Randy Boerstler

    Randy Boerstler

    Writing a home building blog that chronicles new homes during different phases of construction from a consumers' point-of-view is rather unique and loads of fun. Basically, my tips are a collection of checklists for what I think should (and should not) go into building a quality home. So let's have fun seeing what's new in the housing market these days!

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    • Tammy Lane

      QUESTION: we are remodeling a full basement with exits
      inside and outside. Do we have to have egress windows in the 2

    • Tammy Lane

      QUESTION: we are remodeling a full basement with exits
      inside and outside. Do we have to have egress windows in the 2

    • Kopeskmi

      I am going to put in an egress in my basement but now I am nervous that I am too close to the corner of the house- I think I am only about 14 inches away. Can I still cut into my basement foundation?

      • Randy

        I’m not an architect, but 14 inches from the corner of the house sounds a little too close for comfort. Why so close? I would definitely consider other options.

    • Kevin

      I am looking to convert some basement space into two bedrooms. So I was looking to put in an egress window in each. Now my house is really close to the lot line I share with my neighbor. Can I be too close to my lot line with my egress window well? I think the foundation is about 6 feet from the edge of my lot.