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I have a basement with a partially finished bedroom (currently used as storage) on one side, a gas furnace and tankless water heater at the foot of the staircase in the middle, and a newly finished family room and art studio on the other side. I need an egress window to complete the project and am trying to figure out the best place for it.

Local code here in Portland, Oregon says an egress window should be installed in the bedroom if the basement has a bedroom, and otherwise in a room you spend significant time in. I might complete the finishing of the basement bedroom in the future (say 2-3 years), so it would be nice to locate the egress window there to meet that requirement. But currently, we spend more time in the other rooms.

Another factor is that the best place structurally to put the egress window is in the bedroom. That has an existing window that could be enlarged, while placing it in the other rooms would require creating a new opening and modifying a load-bearing wall. So current practicality and future planning would point toward locating it in the bedroom, while the utmost consideration of current safety would point toward locating it in the family room.

One factor I don't understand is what kinds of situations an egress window would help in. Is a fire likely to occur near the furnace or the staircase, blocking a path from the family room on one side of the basement to the bedroom on the other side? Or would an egress window anywhere in the basement be accessible in most emergencies? I have a contractor to do the installation, but he wasn't sure about the relative safety benefits of the two locations.

In short, I think one option is to locate the egress window in the bedroom, even though that isn't used as a bedroom now, so that it will be ready if we ever want to use it as a bedroom in the future. And the other option is to locate the egress window in the family room, knowing that if we ever want to use the bedroom as a bedroom, we would then need a second egress window there. What would you do, and why?

  • It's not an egress window, it's an Emergancy Escape and Rescue window. If there's a fire in the house, this opening allows emergency responders a safe way in and out. Also, code doesn't care if you store boxes in the room. If it walks like a bedroom, and talks like a bedroom, it's a bedroom. So it needs an Emergency Escape and Rescue opening. – Tester101 Mar 6 '16 at 2:33
  • If the art studio could be considered a bedroom, the local government might require an Emergency Escape and Rescue opening in there as well. – Tester101 Mar 6 '16 at 2:40
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It goes in the bedroom because it will have a door, and that door may become blocked or might be inadvisable to open during a fire.

If there's no walls yet in the basement, or at least no doors, anywhere in the basement will serve your current requirement. There's no reason to not put it where it eventually belongs.

The idea is that the entire rest of your house could be on fire and when you wake up in that bedroom you have somewhere to go. In an open floor plan, consider the basement as one giant bedroom that needs two means of egress: the window and the staircase.

Proximity to gas fired equipment isn't really a concern (I don't think). It might be best if it wasn't near them but not if that's where it should go, which is situation dependent (this may warrant further research, see *below).

IIRC most home fires stem from electrical faults and from open flame or space heaters. So you need to be prepared for anything.

*This is all off the cuff, your codes may be quite particular about these things and your contractor should be well aware of them, or they shouldn't be your contractor. IMO that is the difference between a handyman and a contractor.

  • Thanks for the input. I just updated the last paragraph of my question to clarify a little more what I think the options are regarding the "potential" bedroom. – arlomedia Mar 6 '16 at 0:11
  • @arlomedia - A mock up of the existing and eventual floor plans might help. Also, I don't see any edit. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 0:13
  • I jumped the gun ... just added the edit. :-) – arlomedia Mar 6 '16 at 0:16
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    @arlomedia - It doesn't really change my answer. You're not after proximity so much as you're after accessibility. A few more seconds to cross a room is preferable to, well crap, that's blocked too. As in if, the window is right next to the stair case and the first floor is on fire. It's not about if there's a fire in the basement (you're toast then anyway) it's about not being able to exit a burning building because there aren't two means of egress. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 0:36
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    @arlomedia - You probably should look at the code requirements for installing egress windows. Sorry, that's the best link I could find. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 0:46

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