Residential Window Well Code Requirements

May 11, 2020

Residential Window Well Code Requirements

Some homeowners might think window wells are simply a way to bring natural light and fresh air to their basements. While they are perfect for doing just that, window wells also help them meet the necessary building code requirements. According to the IRC (International Residential Code), basements of a certain size must have an emergency egress, which window wells fit the bill for. To ensure you install the right egress for your basement, we’ll break down the residential window well code requirements you’ll need to abide by.


The first residential egress window code covers the well’s overall dimensions. The horizontal area of the window well needs to be a minimum of nine square feet, with a minimum horizontal projection and vertical width of 36 inches. Given the math involved, some homeowners may expect the dimensions to be the toughest part of installing a window well. However, especially with a professional on your side, achieving these required measurements is quite easy.


A common, convenient accessory for window wells is a sturdy, reliable egress ladder. Therefore, homeowners must follow egress window ladder codes during this project, too. If the depth of your window well exceeds 44 inches, you’ll need to install a permanent ladder or steps leading to the opening. Additionally, your ladder cannot encroach upon more than six inches of your window well’s required dimensions. The interior width of the ladder must be 12 inches at minimum and project at least three inches from the interior wall of the window well. Finally, the vertical spacing of the ladder rungs cannot exceed 18 inches on center.


Screens, bars, and other forms of covers are allowed on your window well as long as they meet a few simple window well code requirements. First off, the size has to meet the minimum net clear opening size for emergency egresses, which is five square feet and an opening width of 20 inches. Second, the cover must be able to open without the use of a key or any other special tool that could hinder your escape route.

Now that you have a better understanding of residential window well code requirements, you can enhance your basement in the best, most legally abiding way possible. At Window Well Supply, we can provide you with the right polycarbonate window well covers for your new emergency egress. Once your window well project is complete, you can experience enhanced comfort—and enhanced safety—while spending time in your basement.