Egress (emergency escape and rescue) windows are windows in the bedroom which allow the homeowner to escape through that window in case of fire. The egress windows can also be used by fire-fighters to enter the bedroom and carry somebody out. There are specific requirements for egress window.
Let me explain egress windows using the following example. Let’s say you have an old house and you would like to replace your windows. You get a couple of estimates and find out that your windows are not up to code (egress code). If you are replacing the windows using the retrofit style, you do not have to replace them with egress windows, because the code was not in place when the house was built. However, if you choose to have windows installed using newer construction methods, with collapsing frame and new moist-stop, you must use a new window that is up to the egress code. This is a simplified explanation, which I hope offers some clarification for your egress window questions. If you want to read a more extensive explanation, we had an expert on building codes and construction do the research. Our code interpretation and safety expert has performed a thorough review of the codes that govern egress windows in San Diego County. The following are his findings…
“After an extensive review of the applicable codes regarding egress windows for sleeping rooms, the simple answer is that whatever size the window is, if it was in compliance with the existing building code when built, it needs only to be maintained. I see no current requirement forcing a change to the structure.
The critical words that apply when reading these types of code are: SHALL means- must be done or there is no choice or has the force of law. SHOULD means- might be a good idea or could be done if you would like but not mandatory.
When you read the California Building code CBC Title 24, Part 9, Section 1026.2 of 2007, it says in essence ALL NEW construction shall meet these requirements. As a point of interest, the City of San Diego Building and Fire Departments are respected as leaders throughout the nation on the subject. Nowhere in the aforementioned document does it say you must or shall change the size of the opening.
I checked all of the Cities in San Diego including the County, as well as the City and County of Riverside and the code as stated above is what they all abide by.
The code that controls this question is California Building Code CBC, Title 24, Part 9, Section 1030.7 quoted here, “Emergency Escape Openings Required- emergency escape openings SHALL be maintained in accordance with the code in effect at the time of construction.” Note: I capitalized the word shall for emphasis. The code goes on to say, “Required emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys and tools. Bars, grilles, grates or similar devices are allowed to be placed over emergency escape and rescue openings provided the minimum net clear opening size complies with the code that was in effect at the time of construction and such devices shall be releasable or removable from inside without the use of a key, tool or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the escape and rescue opening.”
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