One topic that comes up frequently when selling real estate in and around Eau Claire is the idea of egress windows in lower levels of homes. I thought it would be helpful to spell out the exact requirements for egress windows to be legal in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Building Code
According to Paul, the current building inspector for the city of Chippewa Falls, the Uniform Dwelling Code applies to all municipalities in Wisconsin. The code applies to all single family dwellings, and municipalities may not enact codes that are more strict than the state UDC.
There are three basic requirements that need to be met for a lower level egress window to be legal: It must be low enough, it must have an areaway, and it must be big enough to allow for exit and proper light and ventilation in the room.
Code 21.03(6)(d)1 and 21.03(6)(d)2 state:
- For any window used for exiting, the lowest point of clear opening shall be no more than 60 inches above the floor.
- If the lowest point of clear opening is more than 46 inches above the floor, a permanent platform or fixture shall be installed such that a flat surface at least 20 inches wide and 9 inches deep is located no more than 46 inches directly below the clear opening.
So no egress window can be more than 60 inches from the floor. Ideally, the bottom of your egress window should be less than 46 inches from the floor. If it is between 46-60 inches, you need a permanent step.
An areaway is defined as A small sunken area allowing access or light and air to basement doors or windows. Codes 21.03(6)(e)1 through 21.03(6)(e)6 state:
- An egress window with any point of clear opening below adjacent grade shall be provided with an areaway in accordance with this section.
- The width of the areaway shall be at least equal to the width of the window.
- The areaway shall be a minimum of 36 inches measured perpendicular from the outer surface of the below-grade wall.
- If the bottom of the areaway is more than 46 inches below adjacent grade or the top of the areaway enclosure, the areaway shall be provided with a ladder or at least one additional step to aid egress. Steps used to comply with this section are exempt from the requirements of s. Comm 21.04.
- Ladders or other steps used to comply with subd. 4. may infringe on the required area of the areaway by a maximum of 6 inches.
- The areaway shall be constructed such that water entering the areaway does not enter the dwelling.
Light, Ventilation and Size
The final requirements are that the egress window must be lareg enough to provide enough natural light into the room. An amount equal to or greater than 8% of the floor area of the room must be glazed (window). So if you had a 10ft x 10ft room (100sqft) you would need at least 8 sqft of windows. One 2ft x 4ft window would suffice, as would one 3ft x 3ft window.
The absolute minimum opening for an egress window is 20 inches x 24 inches. Finally, egress windows must be able to be opened from the inside, including screens.
For the complete Uniform Dwelling Code, visit the link below.