It’s about time to elaborate on the topic why egress window installations are a specialty trade. More and more contractors claim they can install egress windows too. But: Not everyone who claims they can install them have the skills to do it. Especially contractors who for example claim they are specialized in all aspects of basements, including egress window installations. Well, that’s an contradiction in itself. One cannot ‘specialize’ in all aspects of basement installations. If you do not work every day, week and month on a specific trade, you cannot master a specialty trade. Granted, there are some cases where a company is big enough to have specialized tradesman on their crew who do nothing but this one special craft. But it stays rather the exception.
Anyhow, please find my thoughts below why one needs a skilled, niche contractor to install egress windows:
- When you start your hiring process, definitely look for a tradesman or contractor who specializes in egress window installations. This will bring you the safety every single step of the project is done properly and safely. It also brings you the quality you seek when contracting a niche trade. It is a physically demanding job which requires a very specific skill level and experience solving issues on the job. There is no ‘one fits all’ solution when it comes to egress window installations. Every single installation has its own challenges and you want someone working on the job and your home who knows what they are doing.
- Make sure your installer adheres to the IRC codes. For more info, see my earlier blog post ‘Egress Window Installations – Part II’. Test him and ask what the codes are. It’s fun and for sure doesn’t hurt to get a feeling if the person knows the basics.
- MYTH: There are a lot of ‘contractors’ out there who will tell you: you neither need a permit nor a structural engineer for the egress window installation.
FACT: This is simply not true. Please check with your responsible building department.
REASONS BEHIND: This false statement might have multiple reasons: the contractor might be neither
insured nor has a contractor’s license (which is the prerequisite to be able to draw a permit!). Plus they want to
give you the cheapest offer in order to have a better chance to get the job.
My gist of the situation: I am fine with local contractors without contractors licenses doing basic construction jobs, as long as they do not apply their craft to safety related constructions. Most people agree after reading and/or listening to the pros and cons.
- Permit drawing (which is required by law for an egress window installation). It almost always requires a structural engineer which – of course – makes the egress window installation significantly more expensive. And in turn makes it harder for any contractor to sell the job. But it makes sure your structural integrity will be intact after the installation.
So, why is a structural engineer so important? I love showing by telling. Imagine your neighbor were eager to get started and decided for a bigger opening of an existing window in the basement in order to install an egress window. They neglected structural engineering (as well as permit drawing) and decided for a local contractor without a license nor liability insurance. They got a cheap price and although there were some hick ups through the egress window installation, it was finally done. Two years later they find suddenly significant cracks in the walls around the installed egress window. Of course, they give the contractor a call. Unfortunately the line is disconnected and they hear from a friend that the contractor went out of business. What now? There was never a contract in place. The contractor did not have any liability insurance. No one to hold accountable. Nothing.
Questions: What do you think would happen in case these cracks lead to massive structural problems? Do you believe your insurance would pay for it?
The answer is as simple as short: No. Without the proper process steps in place nor their documentation, the insurance has no reason to pay. The violation of law and code is reason enough for them to get out of such a case without a sweat.
Your problem: The costs to fix such structural damages are manifold higher than a proper, up-to-code egress window installation.
Of course, it is – at the end of the day – your decision to make.
My advice: just make sure not to be blinded by a short term saving of $700-1,500. Eventually, it will come back and bite you in the back. BIG time.
- So, a lot of people are ‘surprised’ when they get a legitimate quote which shows all costs.Partially because of the above mentioned points but also because of false information in the internet. When you google ‘costs for an egress window installations’, you will find costs which simply have not considered three different cost aspects:
1. Licensed & insured contractor vs local contractor without license & insurance
2. Structural engineering
When it comes down to the bottom line, who wants to save money when it is really about keeping (y)our loved ones safe! BE SAFE rather than sorry.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please comment and I am happy to discuss further.
Stay Fair & Square,