Egress (Fire Escape) Requirements

The International Building Code has been adopted statewide in Texas as well as by almost all city
governments. In establishing the code, the authors considered the need for a firefighter with an
oxygen backpack needing to be able to enter your home through your windows in order to pull
you to safety. These requirements only apply to “sleeping areas” but could include your office or
study if it has a closet in it, which can allow the city to say it really is a bedroom. Any sleeping
area with a door directly opening to the exterior of the home is exempt from meeting the egress
requirements on windows. Only one opening meeting egress requirements is needed in each
sleeping area. Upstairs sleeping areas are also required to meet egress requirements.

The requirements are all based on “clear opening” which means that with the window fully open
(which must not require any keys or tools as some burglar bars do) , the size of the opening must
be a minimum of 20” wide AND 24” high AND a total of 5.7 square feet. Multiply the width in
inches by the height in inches, then divide by 144 to get square feet. Many windows will meet
one or two of the requirements but not all three. All three requirements must be met.

A good rough rule of thumb is that a window 3 feet wide by 5 feet tall will usually meet egress.
Bedrooms in older homes with twin 3 foot by 3 foot windows above a bed do not meet egress.
Some cities will allow these to be replaced “in like kind” (in the same way, if that is what was
already there, a practice called “grandfathering”) but a better way is usually to use a 2 panel
horizontal sliding window so that one entire side slides over, easily meeting egress requirements.
This will even save you a little money on the window purchase.

Another way to meet egress in a tough situation is to use a crank out casement window,
especially one with “egress hinges” that opens fully from the edge of the frame, much like a door.

Please call our HELP LINE at 1-888-839-6326 if you need additional information on this or any
other issue. Even architects and builders commonly ask us such questions regarding new homes
they are building.

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