An egress window can be installed relatively quickly and the return on your investment is often better than some other higher-end home improvement projects. The key to success is establishing a game plan before you dig one patch of dirt or buy one piece of material.
While cutting a hole in your foundation may seem like a daunting DIY project, the Bright Idea Egress window kit has been designed and engineered to make the process as easy and quick as possible and to reduce the chance for error.
We recommend you watch our installation video and review other resources to help you understand our easy install process.
We also highly encourage you to send us a photo of your space (from the inside and outside) so we can help you choose the best window size for your needs. Floor to ceiling height is especially important. Please send us those measurements as well. You can send us questions and upload up to 5 photos via our Contact Us form.
STEP 1 — PREPARE
- Research the building codes in your area. Most require egress windows be large enough to accommodate a fully-outfitted firefighter in case of an emergency.
- Pull a permit for your project.
- Some jurisdictions might also require an engineering study to obtain a permit, this is a reasonable request and for your protection. If you can’t find the information you’re searching for online, don’t be afraid to call your local building department for clarification.
- Reach out to the local utilities in your area to notify them about your intent to dig on your property. Each state has an “811” number and a website you can contact to have underground cables, wires and utilities marked to ensure that you are excavating safely.
STEP 2 — INSPECT FOR POTENTIAL CHALLENGES
Check for drainage issues.
- A quick way to test your drainage is to run a hose next to the area where you plan to place the window. If water flows away from the house, you likely have good drainage, but if it flows towards the house, you might have an issue.
- Poor performing gutters could be the culprit. Are your gutter downspouts directed correctly? Do you have issues with gutter overflow? If your basement smells damp and you see moisture on the walls after a heavy rain, it could mean that your gutters aren’t doing their job. You might consider replacing or increasing your gutters and adding more downspouts.
- Drainage issues could also be due to improper grading. Removing dirt can help fix a grading problem, but if the cause of the drainage issue is unclear, you may want to consult a landscape contractor. The best and most accurate way to determine grade is done by using a transit. With mathematical values, you can extrapolate exactly how much dirt must be removed. This way you can find a landscape contractor who has the capability of removing that much dirt and know exactly how much it will cost.
Older home? Pre-excavate to eliminate any surprises.
- If you have a home that was built in 1930 or earlier, you may want to pre-excavate before digging your final hole to eliminate any potential surprises. These could include waterlogged soil, large tree roots, buried concrete or foundation issues, which you’ll need to address before you go any further in the process. The problem is that older homes of this era often have foundation walls that are jagged, out-of-plumb or deteriorating. Dig until you feel like you’ve exposed enough foundation to draw a conclusion about potential issues.
- A significant benefit of the Bright Idea ExoFrame™ is that it works with most foundations. Whether you have a foundation on a footer, or a caisson the ExoFrame is structurally engineered to carry a floor joist load, point load and serve as exterior trim.
STEP 3 — MEASURE
Before you order your window or any other materials, you’ll need to measure the interior and exterior space where you plan to install the egress window. Keep these requirements in mind:
- A minimum clear opening width must be at least 20"
- A minimum clear opening height must be at least 24"
- A minimum clear opening size must be at least 5.7 square feet
- The top of the bottom sill on an egress window can be no higher than 44 inches from the finished floor
We highly encourage you to send us a photo of your space (from the inside and outside) so we can help you choose the best window size for your needs.
STEP 4 — GATHER MATERIALS & SCHEDULE RESOURCES
The Bright Idea Egress Window Kit includes:
- Patented ExoFrame Structural Steel System
- European Tilt & Turn Casement Window with laminated glass
- St. Paul Corrugated Window Well with interior flanges
- 3M Windo-Weld™ butyl gasket (for superior seal)
- Assorted shims
- 4 pre-expanded fasteners (for mounting window straps to the concrete)
- 14 concrete lag bolts
- Escape ladder, with zip screws
- Interior trim kit (optional)
- Window well cover (optional)
What you will need to provide:
- Measuring tape
- Plastic sheeting
- Exterior silicone caulk
- 24 and 48 inch level
- 500-1000 pounds of rock
- Hammer drill
- Impact wrench
- ¼ and 3/16 concrete drill bits (most likely SBS+ )
- Concrete saw (or a professional concrete cutter)
- Multi master oscillating tool or Sawszall (for interior trim)
- Paint (for interior trim)
- Duct tape
- Carpet protector
- Big vinyl catch bag
- Angle grinder with metal and concrete cutting disc
- Plywood (optional, makes removing dirt easier)
- Interior latex caulk
- Lightweight electric jackhammer with excavation spade (optional, but handy)
- Circular saw or track saw (for interior trim)
What you might need to schedule
- Confirm concrete cutter is available on the day you plan to install
- OR reserve a rental concrete saw
STEP 5 — DIG IN
- Clear any furniture and blinds from around the window (we like a 5 foot work radius).
- Enclose the small section of your basement around the window in a plastic sheet that funnels into a vinyl catch bag (ideally this should be about 38” wide) to minimize the mess.
- Protect your landscaping and pathways to the full extent possible using tarps and plywood.
The Bright Idea Egress system comes with an interior flange window well. That means you will only need to excavate a hole that is slightly larger than the footprint of the window well. With inside flanges, you’ll also have less backfill, less chance of settling dirt, and less manual soil compaction.
Plan on spending at least a few hours digging your hole. You’ll want to excavate 14 inches below the bottom cut of the window to ensure good drainage.
STEP 6 — MAKE THE CUT
Once the hole is excavated and secured, the next step is cut a hole in your foundation using concrete cutting saws to enlarge the opening in your foundation wall.
The cut should be 1-1/4" larger than the width and height of the window you purchase.
NOTE: This is the one part of the installation where we believe hiring a professional is well worth the expense (usually between $250-$500). Hiring a concrete cutter is relatively in-expensive and a pro can cut more precisely and prevent you from potentially getting injured. Having a pro on hand will also make removing the wall slug easier. You can ask your concrete cutter to quarter the block for easier removal and disposal, it’s usually worth the extra cost.
STEP 7 — INSTALL THE EXOFRAME
Watch the installation video
- Apply the butyl gasket along the outer edge to help seal and waterproof the frame.
- Before setting the frame, it’s important to inspect the wall to ensure there are no bumps or aberrations that would prevent the frame from sitting flush against the wall.
- You can usually hammer out those kind of imperfections.
- When you’re ready, work with a partner to lower the frame into the hole. Then use shims (included) to level the frame.
- Once level, simply secure the frame to the wall. Drill holes in the ExoFrame where you can fasten to the most suitable structural substrate (wood or siding is usually not a suitable structural substrate). A 5/16” metal drill bit is provided with the kit. Use an impact wrench to drive your screws into the concrete.
- Note that with the ExoFrame, no exterior trim is needed.
- Note that the ExoFrame should be level but it doesn’t need to be plumb.
STEP 8 — INSTALL THE WELL
- At final installation, the window well should sit a few inches above the ground depending on the surrounding grade.
- Determining the height of the window well is crucial for proper drainage. Make marks on the wall that identify the proper fastening height and width BEFORE you mount it.
- Drop the well into the hole.
- Verify it is level from side to side.
- Fasten to the foundation all the way to the bottom. Use ¼ inch concrete lag bolt fasteners. Make sure the well is mounted with the inside dimension that matches the call sizeof the well (ex: 50- inch well mounts with 50-inch inside dimension) otherwise, your cover may not fit.
- Fill the floor below the level of the windowsill with 500 to 1,000 pounds of rock.
- Tamp down the back-filled dirt around your well. Tamp down the dirt for every foot you backfill.
- Mount the escape ladder.
STEP 9 — INSTALL THE WINDOW
- Set the window into the ExoFrame. It can only go one way.
- Trace the edge of the window with a pencil.
- Remove the window. Apply a bead of silicone caulk inside the pencil line. (you may also consider using painters tape on the outside of the pencil line, this will guarantee a clean and straight caulk line.
- Reinstall the window, pressing against the ExoFrame, the excess caulk will be displaced.
- Fasten straps to the concrete wall.
STEP 10 — INSTALL INTERIOR TRIM KIT
The interior trim kit ships flat and assembly is required
- Assemble interior trim flat pack, click here for assembly instructions
- Measure each side of the return of the interior foundation wall and mark the corresponding corners of the trim box.
- Using a circular saw, ideally a track saw, carefully trim the jamb to fit the reveal.
- Fasten the trim box in a suitable fashion.
If you follow this process, the entire installation should take one day if you’ve got two people to handle the job.
One last thing: make sure you’ve planned out how to haul away your dirt and your concrete slug.