Windows and Fire Safety


One of the defects often overlooked by home inspectors today is emergency egress. In case of fire, fire fighters must be able to enter through the bedroom window and occupants of bedrooms must be able to exit through the window rapidly. You can be sure that egress is top of mind in the design phase and it is checked and double checked in plan check and during construction of a new home. However, in the current environment of flips and remodels, egress can be and is often overlooked.


A bedroom window must:

1. Have a clear opening of 5.7 square feet.

2. Have a minimum height of 24 inches.

3. Have a minimum width of 20 inches.

4. Have a maximum sill height of 44 inches from the floor.

(Note: A 20x24" opening does not meet egress requirements, it still needs to have 5.7 square feet of clear opening.)


For new construction and permitted remodels these requirements are checked and enforced, it's never an issue. However, installing retrofit windows does not require a permit and unless the homeowner or investor is paying attention the new windows may not meet egress requirements. Many San Diego homes were built with metal casement windows which are often replaced with sliders. Although the old casement window opened widely enough to easily meet egress requirements, the new slider might not. Remember, not only is the new window shorter and narrower (to fit inside the frame of the original), but now only half the window opens.


Although a residential home inspection is NOT a code compliance inspection, safety should be in the front of the mind of the inspector. Having a tragedy happen because a child couldn't escape a burning house is unthinkable. At Level Best Home Inspection the safety of our clients is our top priority. Schedule your next home inspection now (858) 204-4209.

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