Window well finishing

Hi, I was doing a inspection the other day and I came across something I hadn’t seen before. The house was built in 1999 and had the deep window wells for the basement windows. They covered the top outside window well with a shingled type wood cover. Then in the basement they took out the window and framed and drywalled into the window well and wired it to use for a T.V. or stereo. They still had a window well with the ladder in it for emergency egress in the basement. Is this legal to do as far as building codes. I made a note that this could be a problem for water to enter the home.
Thanks, Rick

Ricky, pictures? They framed and drywalled the window well, right? So if there’s a fire, I guess the people in the basement RIP THE TV OUT OF THE WINDOW WELL , THEN RIP OUT THE DRYWALL BEHIND THE TV, THEN RIP OUT THE FRAMING BEHIND THE DRYWALL. THEN CLIMB INTO THE WINDOW WELL AND DO THEIR BEST TO SMASH THROUGH THE SHINGLE WINDOW WELL COVER (which might be nailed to a plywood or OSB underlayment). Man, I hope it’s not my mother down there in that basement. She’s 82 and she can’t physically do all that. No, it’s not OK. Don’t think codes, think worst case scenario, your mother as the “at risk” person, and you being liable because of your report language.

Sounds like the window well was designed to make the basement a legal living area. Then someone decided to seal this egress thinking that watching T.V. was more important.

At this point, It’s not our job to find out whether this basement is a legal living area or not. Simply report that the window well is completely sealed and that this particular basement egress is no longer operational.

I think the original questioner meant to say that there is an ADDITIONAL window that is equipped with a ladder for egress. If I were an inspector, I think I would say words to the effect that the window well construction is unconventional, and the determining the legality of it is beyond the scope of the inspection, and leave it at that. If you start listing everything that COULD go wrong and miss one item, if THAT item ultimately is the one that goes wrong, it could be troublesome. But then, I’m not an inspector, as you can see by all those red letters up there.

Provided there is still at least 1 emergency escape and rescue opening for the basement, what they owners did was legal.

…unless the windows no longer meet the requirements for natural light and natural ventilation in occupied spaces. For each room, 4% of the floor area in natural ventilation openings and 8% of the floor area in natural light (glass area) is required, unless the room has artificial light above a certain level of foot-candles, and mechanical ventilation with a certain number of air changes per hour. I don’t know, are inspectors required to make code conformance studies? Or simply raise the issue of possible non-conformance, and recommend that a design professional be consulted to verify conformance?

Thanks for all your advise, I think I’ll use a little bit of all of it next time I see this. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures that’s about to change with my reports as I’m finally ready to switch over to the computer generated reports. The room with the framed in window well is located about 10 ft. away from a egress window well equipped with a ladder in the same room if that helps in picturing the situation.
Thanks again, Rick Muller

The tv is not a fixture.