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Fire Exits, Egress Windows and Fire Safety

One of the things that sometimes come up in older houses are the egress windows in a basement or even in a regular bedroom.

Today, at a home inspection, we were at a condo that was built in the 1970’s.  “The cool thing to do” in the 1970’s was to have windows high off the ground, short and wide as the room windows.  This may have been a “cool” look in the 1970’s but can cause a problem when it comes to fire safety.

Requirements for an egress window now is that it is no further that 44” from the finished floor, no shorter than 24” high, no slimmer than 20” wide and must have an open area of at least 5.7 sq. ft. Requirements can vary from state to state so check you local code.

In this case, the condo association isn’t going to relocate these windows in every single condo, and they don’t have to due to the age of the house.

It is important, whether you live in the dwelling or you rent it out to tenants, to always have a plan in case of a fire.  If you have windows that are too far from the ground, place a bed or dresser under them and practice with children so they know what to do in case of a fire.  Always have a fire plan with your family so everyone knows where to go and what to do in case of a fire.  If you live in a two-story house, make sure there are ladders or a plan to escape from the top floor.  It is recommended now that each bedroom has a smoke detector in there and at least a carbon monoxide detector within 15’ of each bedroom.  This can usually be fixed by placing a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway and a smoke detector in each bedroom.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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