Interpreting Basement Egress

So, I have read the basement egress “code” a few times and got a call back on an egress issue I wrote up. This house has an “unfinished basement.” The “mechanical room” in the basement is framed but no drywall installed.

The 2018 IRC says:
R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue opening required.

Basements, habitable attics and every sleeping room shall have not less than one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, an emergency escape and rescue opening shall be required in each sleeping room. Emergency escape and res-cue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.


Storm shelters and basements used only to house mechanical equipment not exceeding a total floor area of 200 square feet (18.58 m2).

This basement is more than 200 square feet total. The “room” that houses the mechanical equipment is framed but not drywalled.

I understand that it can be interpreted in a few ways. That being said, does basements mean finished or unfinished or both. Does a basement larger than 200 square feet require one emergency egress besides the stairs leading to the main floor?

Also, I inspected another house that had a finished basement and 2 bedrooms. One bedroom had two doors. The main door lead to the closet and another door inside the closet which lead to the mechanical room. That “bedroom” was not required to have an egress because it housed a mechanical room, therefore was not considered a bedroom. The other room had and egress. The living room however did not have an egress but had stairs leading to the main floor.
For this house I did not write up the living room in the basement for not having an egress window because one bedroom and the stairs were essentially two means of egress.
This new house had just the stairs and no window egress. One of the 4 casement windows though was blocked by a sewer clean out and did not open.

Am I completely misinterpreting this egress issue? Don’t want to look like a fool to these guys.

When was the house built? Why is it a bedroom? Realtors are always trying to ADD bedrooms to the listing. I just tell the buyers flat out if it can’t be a bedroom. You can always recommend it, but codes are not retroactive. Rental inspections are different. They require a secondary egress for basement bedrooms (a walk out will work).

Why would you need EERO in an unfinished basement? When they finish it they may have to bring it up to code, but that’s on the contractor and the permit.

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Modular home built in 1971. The home from my previous post where the basement was added some years back.

There is no bedroom. Just an unfinished basement with a framed in mechanical room.

This does not pertain to this post.

My theory, if their only means of emergency escape is through the stairs leading to the main floor and the main floor is engulfed with fire or smoke, are they supposed to escape through that? At least in the previous house I inspected they could have still left through the bedroom window.

My clients already backed out and contract is terminated. The listing agent (also in my previous post) says I “made some errors in my report” that caused my client to back out, which I know is false cause they told me why they backed out, but none-the-less she is emailing me some items that I called out and wanted to discuss them. This basement egress issue being one of them.

Jacob, the way I read it is that an unfinished basement that exceeds 200 sq ft IS required to have some sort of proper emergency egress (besides the stairs). If this is what you stated in your report, you are in the right.

The stairs do not open “directly into” as stated in the IRC.

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This is my narrative. I should have included that 200 square foot but since she wants me to explain it I can send a better vesrion of it to her.

This is how I am interpreting it.

You read correctly… that is the latest code. However, this varies by state in latest code. Some have amended the original IRC and removed this requirement, some left it in place. For example, NY requires every basement unless the exception you mentioned is used. NJ does not require it… only in sleeping rooms. I believe this new requirement was added in IRC 2012, however, I don’t have access to your state’s IRC, so I cannot confirm if it applies to you or not. I would confirm with local building inspector.

Alaska uses the 2012 IRC but the 2018 IBC. Confusing but I pulled the 2018 IRC interpretation for it.

You need to check your state’s adopted, specific, version of the code, not just IRC 2012 or IRC 2018 unless they adopted the code without any amendments.

It wasn’t requirement in 1971.

So, what exactly did you write about basement EERO. There’s no benefit for you or your client in trying to bring a 50 year old house up to code.

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See previous post above.

So when do you call out no basement egress?

Here’s a kink: is a staircase acceptable for the only means of egress for this interpretation?

If there is no bedroom in the basement I would not expect to see a second means of egress here even on new construction.

That’s because your state did not adopt the new requirement for basements, mine did. Here, all basements, regardless of bedrooms require an egress, unless smaller than 200sqft and is used as mechanical room.

To CMA, I always point out any potential safety hazards to my clients and put it my reports. I usually explain that even though this was Ok back in the day, it’s frowned upon now. It may or may not be required to correct by local codes and more than likely, the seller isn’t going to do anything about it, unless they have to based on local compliance.

If there is no egress in a basement over 200 sqft, I’ll state it as a safety hazard. Covered my ass and let others fight it out…

I could be wrong but I always understood that a staircase would only be considered an egress if it leads directly outdoors. A local fire department may have a better way of answering this. Just a thought…

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Egress: emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.

Therefore, interior stairs is not an egress.

I disagree with that statement.
Don’t confuse Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings with

Means of Egress

The means of egress shall provide a continuous and unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal egress travel from all portions of the dwelling to the required egress door without requiring travel through a garage.

Egress from habitable levels including habitable attics and basements that are not provided with an egress door in accordance with Section R311.2 shall be by a ramp in accordance with Section R311.8 or a stairway in accordance with Section R311.7.


How about emergency egress vs means of egress?

You have the code right, just not the application. Anytime I want to add “modern safety standards” that quote is the exact language I use. I would not call out secondary egress on a non-habitable basement (no finish walls, no electric, no heat). I use it most often for stair railings, smoke or CO alarms, etc. On the other hand I don’t call out handrails that don’t return to the wall or older decks with non-graspable handrails.

I also inspect City and County rental properties for licensing. This is a pass / fail inspection. NO bedrooms in basements without secondary egress (this may be just a walkout, however, no one is forced to install EERO (although some have)).

You have to use your own judgement, but be careful, yours is not a code inspection.

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