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Tips on How to Install an Egress Window in a Concrete Basement Wall

If you have a basement that does not have an egress window and live in an area that requires one, you are probably wondering how to install an egress window in a concrete basement wall.

Why an Egress Window

An egress window in your basement is a window that is large enough to use as an escape route from the basement. Egress means to escape, so it must meet whatever size and codes are present where you live to be a means of exit.

How to Install an Egress Window

Adding a basement window will add a beautiful element to your basement with the increased natural light, and you will provide anyone in the basement with a safe escape route if there is an emergency.

Prepare to Install an Egress Window

Typically, an egress window needs to be large enough for a firefighter with equipment to fit through it, about 5.7 square feet. This generally means your window will need to be 20 inches wide and 24 inches high. The window must be less than 44 inches away from the floor, as well.

You’ll need a concrete saw with a diamond blade, preferably a 14-inch electric one, as well as a hammer drill. Most hardware stores have a collection of tools you can rent if you don’t own one. You will also want tarps, face protection, and gloves.

You need to decide the best place to install your window. Consider where you will get the best light, what it will look like from the outside of your house, and any obstacles you will have to deal with, such as landscaping, wiring, plumbing, utilities, and ductwork. The best direction for lighting is first east, and then south.

Now you need to pick out your window. Be sure you know the size of the wall where it will be, plus what size header you need. The larger the opening you cut, the more support you will need. It is safest to consult a structural engineer here to ensure you are not sacrificing the integrity of the walls. Then sketch what you plan to do and obtain a permit from your local building inspector’s office.

Use tape to outline where the window will be. Make sure your lines are about 3.5 inches wider than the listed dimensions. Add the width of the header plus 1.75 inches to the opening height. Cutting through concrete creates a significant amount of dust, so build a tent with tarps to contain the particles.

Install Your Egress Window

Once you’ve completed the preparation, you can begin your installation. Use the hammer drill to drill level holes on all four corners. These holes allow you to cut from the inside and outside, and the lines will match. After you have your pilot holes, tape the same lines on the exterior.

Use your concrete saw to cut a .5 inch groove from the inside along the lines you established. Finish the cut on a second pass. Go outside and complete the cuts along the lines you made there.

Starting at the top center, use a hammer to knock out the blocks. Be cautious not to damage the edge where the window will go. Smooth the sides with a chisel and fill the block cores with concrete. Cover the wet concrete with plastic so it will not warp the wooden window sill. Drive 3-inch deck screws through the sill and into the wet cement.

Build a header if necessary and screw it into floor joists. Cut the frame sides to be very tight and then install them. Plumb the sides with a level and screw them into the sill and header. Anchor the frame to the block wall with long concrete screws and then caulk around the frame.

Place the window in the opening and level it with cedar shims temporarily. Remove the window and caulk around the frame to create a seal, then set the window in place. Check that it is level and then drive screws or nails through the nailing fin to secure. Bevel the ledge under the window outside so it will shed water.

If this all seems overwhelming, you are not alone. The experts at Basement Repair Specialists have the knowledge and experience to ensure your basement window is installed to code and looks beautiful. You will save the worry and effort that comes with such a vast undertaking. The only work you have to do is make the phone call.