We are building a home with bedrooms in the basement. Two of them have windows that are below grade. We plan to use egress windows that are approved for bedrooms, but our building inspector tells us that they need appropriate window wells that have steps leading out. Can you provide any information about buying or making these window wells?
Linda Smith, Siler City, NC
Lynn Underwood, code official for the city of Norfolk, Virginia, replies: The International Residential Code specifies that “basements with habitable space and every sleeping room shall have at least one openable emergency escape and rescue window or exterior-door opening for emergency escape and rescue.” This means that every basement that has habitable space within its perimeter must have a code-approved egress window or door. Each bedroom inside a basement must have its own egress window or door. The problem is that basements are below grade. The code recognizes this fact and has proposed a solution: concrete window wells with a ladder cast into them.
You can cover the top of the window well with a grille, as long as it is opened easily from inside the well without the use of a key or tool.
Editor’s note: Bilco (www.bilco.com) manufactures ScapeWel, a window well that is claimed to satisfy IRC requirements.