I am looking at finishing a basement room in my 120 year old house. There is a landing 64" up from the basement floor where it turns and there are an additional five steps up to the level of the main living area. At this landing there is a full door that exits directly outside. The room I want to finish is at the bottom of the stairs.

Is an egress window needed?

The small town I live in doesn't have a building inspector in the winter. City hall has been no help.

  • 1
    Will there be any bedrooms in the basement? Jan 19 at 17:28
  • 1
    I would guess that an egress window's intent is to provide a second way of exit in case of emergency if the primary exit were blocked, so no matter the location of the primary exit, I'd think there would need to be a secondary way out. But if your small town doesn't have a building inspector during the winter, that seems unusual, as then any construction permits wouldn't be able to be closed out. Perhaps see if there's a trusted home builder or general contractor that might give some insight into local requirements.
    – Milwrdfan
    Jan 19 at 17:42
  • Related discussion: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/36405/…
    – Milwrdfan
    Jan 19 at 17:43
  • Where in the world do you live?
    – FreeMan
    Jan 19 at 17:47
  • Will there be a door at the bottom of the stairs?
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 19 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


Under the International Residential Code there's egress and there's emergency escape. Your front door probably qualifies as the egress. An emergency escape in addition to an egress (or an additional egress) is required for any basement larger than 200 ft2. An emergency escape is also required for any sleeping room. See sections R310 and R311 from the code.

Your 18"x36" window is unfortunate, as it's deficient in square footage and height. See R310.2.1 and R310.2.2. Note that the bottom of the emergency escape must be within 44" of the floor, IRC R310.2.3. There are window well requirements too, assuming that conformance would require digging.

  • Thanks everyone. I think I'll just proceed as planned. Worst case scenario is, I'll have to remove one of the 18"x 36" basement windows with something removable. Hope I don't have to enlarge the opening in the two foot thick stone foundation.
    – golfer82
    Jan 22 at 22:19
  • @golfer82, I just read the first sentence from my first link and discovered that I screwed this answer up. I'm revising it. Sorry for not investing minimal effort in actually reading anything with your context in mind.
    – popham
    Jan 22 at 22:39

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