Egress Windows

I just conducted an inspection of a home here in Juneau Alaska with a beautiful Anderson vinyl clad window in the bedroom. Only 14.5 inches of vertical clearance. The engineers doing engineer reports (CE’s in Alaska are allowed to inspect homes using their PE license) and most of the appraisers are calling for any bedroom window that doesn’t meet the egress requirements of the 2003 IRC to replace said windows so that they meet at a minimum the requirements for a replacement window.

I am not arguing that the window should or should not be replaced. But, if is should be replaced, why? There is nothing in my reading of the 2003 IRC or 2003 IEBC that would require replacement. The IEBC says it just can’t be made “less conforming” or “less safe” by repairs or alterations. The realtors and APPRAISERS are calling for these windows to be replaced but no one can tell me where that requirement comes from.

A question to the code enforcement division of the City and Borough of Juneau got the following response.

“Egress windows can sometimes work even if they do not meet the full current code for clear area opening of min. width and height, as well as distance from floor depending on which code was in effect at time of installation. And if the only item out of compliance is the finish floor to sill height requirement there is now flexibility to build in a permanent step.”

And now I should have a matrix of when certain building codes were in effect? Does anyone know what the egress codes looked like for 1971?


Escape Well

  • The following text is excerpted from the International Residential Building Code (IRC-2000).

There is a building code requirement for an emergency egress, or escape, window from every sleeping room. At least one window in each bedroom must be of sufficient size to permit the occupants to escape in case of fire and to also allow a fully outfitted firefighter to enter.

** Minimum width of opening: 20 inches. (508 mm)*
** Minimum height of opening: 24 inches. (610 MM)*
** Minimum net clear opening, other than Ground Floor: 5.7 square feet. (0.530 m2)*
** Maximum sill height above floor: 44 inches. (1118 mm)*

Window wells, windows below grade: See notes below.

- Where openings are provided as a means of escape and rescue, each shall haveasill height of not more than 44 inches above the floor.

- All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet (0.530 m2).
- For example, 820.8 square inches, or at the minimum, 20" wide by 41.1" high, or 34.2" tall by 24" high.

- The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 MM).

- The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).

- Window wells required for emergency escape and rescue shall have horizontal dimensions that allow the door or window of the emergency escape and rescue opening to be fully opened.
- The horizontal dimensions of the window well shall provide a minimum net clear area of (9) sq. ft. (0.84 m2) with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm).

- Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) below the adjacent ground level shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position.

- Bars, grills, covers, screens or similar devices are permitted to be placed over emergency escape and rescue openings, bulkhead enclosures, or window wells that serve such openings, provided the minimum net clear opening size complies with Sections R 310.1.1 to R 310.1.3, and such devices shall be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening.

The second site, from '04, says window egress code has been around for 35 yrs.,HPIB:2006-13,HPIB:en%26sa%3DN

The second site, from '04, says window egress code has been around for 35 yrs.,HPIB:2006-13,HPIB:en%26sa%3DN

Ok, I need a code miner.

I contacted the local code official and got part of the story.

Homes built prior to 1965 when the egress requirements were adopted into code are required to have a net clear opening of 4.0 sf 20 in width and 24 in ht with a 48 in sill height. (as amended by the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska).

In 1965 Juneau adopted the 1964 UBC requiring net clear opening of 5.0 sf 24 in minimum dimension, 48 in sill height

In 1971 Junea adopted the 1970 UBC reducing the minimum dimensions to 22 in.

This remained in place “**until the 1975 CBO was adopted 11-4-1979”

**1) Any ideas what the 1975 CBO was and if the egress dimensions were changed by that? The code official won’t be back in until Monday and didn’t provide me any more details in her e-mail.

  1. Any ideas when the egress area was increased to 5.7 net for floors above ground level in the UBC? (I will have to verify that is the code they used)

  2. Any ideas when the sill height was reduced to 44 in the UBC or IRC?


Why are you so concerned about code enactment dates? I use today’s building code as a reference when it comes to safety. That is, I recommend compliance with today’s codes for safety related issues. The buyer’s and sellars can quibble about whether or not to replace or upgrade an item.

(For what it’s worth, I’m not aware of any code that mandates window replacement.)

The appraisers are making them requirements and the banks are backing them up. Basically they are saying that having windows that don’t meet current code deduct from the value of the home, since the buyer may have to replace them with windows that are up to code.

The code officials for the City and Borough of Juneau are saying that they must meet the code that was in effect when the home was built. If not, then they must meet the minimum of 4.0 sf, 20 in width, and 24 in height with a 48 inch sill height.

I am not a code inspector. But, if the appraiser is going to want the window replaced, I want to know why. Since I couldn’t find any code requiring window replacement either, I started digging to try and figure out what grounds they had.

The other thing they are requiring is a step in front of a window if the sill height is over 44 inches above the floor. However, I have now found that the code officials will allow 48 inch sill heights, if that was what was in effect when the house was built, (and if it meets all the other requirements).

So, I am trying to find out when the sill height dropped to 44 inches.

I had a house with windows like these. They have a special bar/step that you bolt into the wall and that’s all it takes to bring it into compliance. Even if you don’t have to, it’s safer to have the step, especially since it’s very difficult for small children to get out of a window like that.


From a practical standpoint, many townships have opened this discussion up to their own interpretations and spin. My own township permitted large double hung style units be installed, which are slightly smaller than what the code calls for. Bottom line is that a township can typically allow smething to be LESS restrictive than current code provisions, but not MORE restrictive, unless reviewed and permitted by their State.

So, if an appraiser calls for this, he is going to have a hell of a time, if the AHJ has permitted this. The notion that a bank will state that the home is less valuable is nonsense. This is especially true if the township has issues a certificate of occupancy for the unit.

Since we are not Code Officials, one can mention egress in their report, but should not quote it as gospel. In fact, of one were to mention egress requirements in EVERY report, I suspect that the MAJORITY of homes we inspect would be red-flagged.

Remember the TOWNSHIP makes the decision as to what is compliant and what is niot. Our own town made a 180 in the past 6 months from their position when I built my house 9 years ago. They want replacement windows to conform to egress requirements. Someone took them to court, and because the state doesnt require replacement units in older homes to conform (replacement into same opening), the town could not enforce their own code requirement or interpretation.

We aint the AHJ, guys.

Maybe in New York.

UCC 2006 is the Minimum code for new construction in PA. Municipalities may have a standard that is more restrictive but not less than the minimal national standard.

Considering that a building code of any sort is nothing more than a minimum basic standard that is subject to a myriad of varied interpretations, I agree with Joe D. F. that is should not find its way into a report.

A condition is safe or it is unsafe. It is or it is not conducive to WDO, etc…

Many valid points have been lost in the discussion of the applicability of a certain code. Can my child escape should the home catch fire? That is the issue that confronts the home inspector.

How can a home built in 1964 be required to conform with current egress requirements?

From City and Borough of Juneau Title 19:
**Title 19 modifies the international codes. Section 19.11…. modifies the International Property Maintenance Code. Section 19.04.…. modifies the International **
**Residential Code.
[size=3]19.11.702.4 Emergency escape openings.
Add a new sentence at the end of the section as follows:
“In the absence of a determination of code requirements or if no code was adopted at the time of construction, a window is approved for emergency escape or rescue when it has a minimum opening of 20 inches of clear width, 22 inches of clear height, 4.0 square feet of net clear opening and a finished sill height of not more than 48 inches to a walking surface.”

Is there a difference here between a city requiring retroactive egress window installation, and a city requiring GFCI installation?

Whole thing ticks me off. I don’t want to be a code inspector. The state law says I am not a code inspector. Yet, I have spent the better part of a week now researching this. [/size]**

If you inspect it and didn’t mention it in your report and a fire happens, you could of saved someone’s life if you mentioned it and you will probably be sued if you didn’t mention it. The court doesn’t give the inspector the innocence when someone dies.

It’s all about safety and saving life …

Old Post … But the original poster was OUT of his place. WHO gives a crap if the city or appraiser requires it and by what code they are saying it.

Its their call NOT his, the same as when he makes a recommendation to do something in his report … Stupid Post.

If its unsafe in YOUR opinion … Recommend Modification … Then Move On and let buyer / seller / realtor quibble YES or NO