The Law for Finished Basments

Windows: Sill height of window above floor: Not to exceed 44 "

Minimum opening area: ≥ 5.7 sq. ft.
Minimum opening height: ≥ 24"
Minimum opening width: ≥ 20"

Window Wells/Area Wells:
Required where window opening sill height is below
ground elevation.

Horizontal dimensions: ≥ 9 sq.ft.
Horizontal projection: ≥ 36"

Ladders: Required on window wells deeper than 44" and must be permanently attached. Ladder may encroach into well up to 6".

Step distance between rungs: ≤ 18" Rungs: 12" wide or greater and must project a minimum of 3" away from wall but maximum of 6".

Grates: Shall be removable without special tools.

Code sponsored by: The International Code Council (ICC), the Building Officials Code Administration (BOCA), the Uniform Building Codes (UBC), and the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI).

Section R310


R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue required. Basements with habitable space and every sleeping room shall have at least one open able emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room, but shall not be required in adjoining areas of the basement. Where emergency and escape and rescue openings are provided they shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) above the floor. Where a door opening having a threshold below the adjacent ground elevation serves as an emergency escape and rescue opening and is provided with a bulkhead enclosure, the bulkhead enclosure shall comply with Section 310.3. The net clear opening dimensions required by this section shall be obtained by the normal operation of the emergency escape and rescue opening from the inside. Emergency escape and rescue openings with a finished sill height below the adjacent ground elevation shall  be provided with a window well in accordance with Section R310.2.

R310.1.1 Minimum opening area. All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet.

Exception: Grade floor opening shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet (0.465 m²).

R310.1.2 Minimum opening height. The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches (610 mm).

R310.1.3 Minimum opening width. The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches (508 mm).

R310.1.4 Operational constraints. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys or tools.

R310.2 Window wells. The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 9 square feet (0.84 m²), with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm). The area of the window well shall allow the emergency escape and rescue opening to be fully opened.

Exception: The ladder or steps required by Section R310.2.1 shall be permitted to encroach a maximum of 6 inches (152 mm) into the required dimensions of the window well.

R310.2.1 Ladder and steps. Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position. Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be required to comply with the sections R311.5 and R311.6. Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305 mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76 mm) from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on center vertically for the full height of the window well.

R310.3 Bulkhead enclosures. Bulkhead enclosures shall provide direct access to the basement. The bulkhead enclosure with the door panels in the fully open position shall provide the minimum net clear opening required by Section R310.1.1. Bulkhead enclosures shall also comply with Section R311.5.8.2.

R310.4 Bars, grills, covers and screens. Bars, grills, covers and 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 R310.1.1 to R310.1.3, 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.

According to the 2006 I RC-International Residential Code requirements, egress windows and wells are required under the following circumstances: