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by Theo Stephens March 29, 2022
Homeowners who plan to finish their basement will soon find out that remodeling is not only about picking colors, drapes, the size, and the shape of the windows, among other choices. It also involves building permits and plans.
Yes, you do!
There are only a handful of areas in the United States where no building code is mandated. Everywhere else, you need a permit to install an egress window legally. Each jurisdiction, meaning the county, city, or town your home is located in, has its building regulations.
The IRC applies to one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses and refers to the egress window code in Section R310. This section defines the size, the opening requirements, the shape of the window, and measurements of your window well. Find out more here for detailed code requirements.
Whether your contractor applies for your building permit or you do it yourself as a homeowner, municipalities require you to fill out forms, provide specifications and structural plans for your window, and pay permit fees. This process may sound more daunting than it is. The following steps will help you through the process.
The easiest way to find your local building department is by looking up your county or city’s governmental website and searching for building permits or inspections. From there, search for information related to egress window permits. Sometimes the requirements for pulling a permit are stated very clearly, and sometimes they are not. We recommend calling or going to the building department in person in such cases.
Before you can apply for your permit, you need to collect several items that you have to submit with your application. This list might include but is not be limited to:
Structural drawings are needed when the structure of your residence is altered by the planned remodel. Installing an egress window requires concrete cutting of the foundation wall and therefore falls under this requirement. Having a structural engineer involved in this process is always the way to minimize risks.
In most instances, you will have to hire a structural engineer who comes out to your property, evaluates your specific situation, and then provides you with a set of drawings. The cost for these drawings varies based on where you live. According to Angi’s List, you can expect structural engineers to charge between $100 to $200 per hour.
Some companies sell egress window kits that come with an engineering drawing, such as the BRIGHT IDEA EGRESS Window Kit With Exoframe™ and Window Well for buyers located in Colorado. This provides a great benefit as you do not have to have your engineer create a set of drawings. He will only have to verify and stamp that the structural changes work for your situation.
Egress windows have to have the following specifications:
Aside from the size and placement requirements, you may also have to follow the U-factor-specific energy efficiency regulations. The U-factor can vary from county to county or city to city.
“U-factor is the rate at which a window, door, or skylight transmits non-solar heat flow. For windows, skylights, and glass doors, a U-factor may refer to just the glass or glazing alone. NFRC U-factor ratings, however, represent the entire window performance, including frame and spacer material”
If your jurisdiction requires a certain U-factor, include this data with your window specifications when submitting your documents. (Leave the data sticker on the window until after the final inspection)
Having the correct sized egress window is not very useful if the window well is not big enough for a person to crawl out or firefighters or rescue personnel to get in. The regulations for a window that is below grade, which applies to most basement windows, call for the window well area to be no less than nine square feet in width and length. If your window well is deeper than 44”, you will have to install a ladder to provide access. Click here for more details on the window well size and other requirements.
The application is ready for submission once you have prepared all your documents. In many instances, you can submit your paperwork online. You will most likely have to pay an application fee, which gets the ball rolling. Depending on the application load of your local building department, it can take a while before you hear back. Based on your local department’s setup, you may be able to simply walk into your local office and hand them the plans. A planner might be available to review your documents on the spot and give you the permit right then and there, but that differs widely from locality to locality. After your permit is approved, you or your egress window installer are ready to start the project.
Inspections are part of the permit process. A building inspector will evaluate your work onsite to ensure that everything has been installed to code as you work through your project. A final inspection will take place once your installation is complete.
Besides the required items you need to submit to receive your permit, there are other tasks you want to take care of before you start your project, such as calling a utility locating service. An underground utility locator will come out to your property and mark exactly where your gas, electrical, and water lines are going into the house. It is imperative to know before you or your contractor starts the excavation for your egress window well. It would be quite an unpleasant and, more importantly, costly surprise when the digging begins, and suddenly your main water line or gas line is ruptured.
Where do you find a utility locator service? Check with your local municipality or check out Call before you dig, find your state, and start the process. The best part is this service is free!
You may ask yourself, why should I go through this process? There are several reasons.
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