Are you considering a renovation to add additional space to your home? Make sure you and your contractor are meeting construction standards regarding egress windows, lest your new addition become a safety hazard.
We’ll take a look at the basic rules governing the need for egress windows, then dive into the specifics of regulations for Florida residents.
What is an Egress Window?
An egress window is a window designed to allow for easy, effective emergency escape and or rescue. Required by building codes in most states—including Florida--for any room considered a bedroom, these exist to make sure you’re never completely trapped in a room due to fire, flooding, or other disasters.
Such windows must meet certain specifications for size, shape, operation, where their exit leads to. Egress windows must serve as consistent, reliable exits for emergency personnel to reliably identify and conduct necessary rescue operations.
So, what codes govern egress windows in Florida?
Egress Window Regulations in Florida
1) Minimum Opening Area
To qualify as an emergency escape and rescue opening under Florida codes, your egress windows need to have a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet in general, with that reduced to a mere 5 square feet for grade floor windows—that is, windows with a sill less than 3.6ft above or below a level ground floor.
For replacement windows, this requirement is reduced by 5%, making the measurements for general windows and grade floor openings 5.42 square feet and 4.75 square feet, respectively.
2) Minimum Opening Height and Width
Escape and rescue openings under Florida building code must open to a height of at least two feet for new installations, or 22.8 inches for replacements. The net clear width, on the other hand, must be 20 inches or 19 inches for new or replacement installations.
It’s important to take these two codes separately; if you merely meet the minimum height and the minimum width, you’ll end up with an opening area of 3.3 square feet—well short of the requirements for any egress opening. Either height or width or both must be larger than their individual minimums to meet the opening area minimum.
Other Code Aspects
There are other concerns to keep in mind if you’re installing an egress window, beyond simple window measurements.
For example, under the Florida building code, an emergency escape window needs to exit into an actual escape route (a public space, back yard, or pathway) with access to a public way or a screened area that exits away from the building. In other words, you can’t have an egress window that exits into an internal courtyard without external access (a closed-in pool area, for example).
Operation parameters are also laid out in the Florida building code. To qualify as egress windows, your windows must be operational from the inside without tools, keys, or special knowledge; if a normal person couldn’t escape through the window in an emergency without having ever seen it before, with nothing but his or her bare hands, it doesn’t meet code.
Looking for a copy of Florida's full building code on accessibility? Click here for a web-viewable copy.
Trust a Professional Installer When Planning Egress Window Installations
If you’re looking to install egress windows without compromising the storm-readiness of your home or property, consider making the move to impact windows.
You can find out more about egress window installation, and impact windows in particular, by contacting Alco today for more information or project consultation.