Regulations Your Home’s Window Wells Need To Follow

Posted by Allyson Schwab on June 1, 2021

Regulations Your Home’s Window Wells Need To Follow

Every part of your home has a purpose, and the window wells are no exception. In fact, they’re subject to building codes and laws just as the rest of your home is. Window wells may not look like much, but they’re an important safety feature and a means for keeping your basement bright, protected, and dry. Here’s a breakdown of the various regulations your home’s window wells need to follow.

Why You Need It

Beyond the fact that window wells are there to provide sunlight in otherwise dark, below-ground basements, they also provide a means of escape and entrance in case of emergency. Worst case scenario, the house is on fire, and you’re in the basement. Regrettably, the basement door is blocked by roaring flames. What do you do? In the absence of a window well, the answer would be “not much.” Thanks to building codes, however, window wells must be installed to provide house residents with a way to crawl to safety in the event of an emergency. The window well is also an entrance for emergency personnel who may require another way to enter the home and seek out those in danger. To allow this, window wells must be made according to certain guidelines.


According to the international residential code for all single and two-family homes, metal egress window wells must measure out in the following ways. The windows themselves must be no less than 24 inches high and 20 inches wide. The windows need to be no higher than 44 inches above the basement floor to provide easy access. Outside, metal egress window wells must provide about nine square feet of open area. If the window well is deeper than 44 inches, it is required to have a permanent ladder attached to the furthest wall and must not block the window. The same goes for steps in larger window wells. Also, the floor of the window well may have a few decorations, but the path to the ladder must remain clear. The technical aspects are a bit more detailed than all that, but that’s the gist.

Cover It Up?

When it comes to regulations your home’s window wells need to follow, it’s generally up to you to cover your window well. Adding a window well cover adds another layer of protection from precipitation, dirt, nesting vermin, and plant growth. It also prevents children and smaller animals from stumbling into the well, risking a sprained ankle or trapped critter. Covers do need to follow certain rules, however.

They must support 40 pounds per square foot, be made of plastic or metal, and must be easily moved in an emergency. While you can have a cover with an internal latch, it must be a simple and easily unlatched one. By no means can window well covers be locked from the outside. Moreover, any internal locks should be easy to undo in an emergency. No matter what, cover it up!