Egress Window Requirements in Denver
If your home needs extra living space but you don’t want to build an extension, turning your basement into a bedroom can be a smart solution. However, it’s important to know that according to egress window requirements in Denver, basement bedrooms must feature egress windows so residents can quickly escape in the event of an emergency.
Most homeowners have thought about how to leave their homes safely if a fire breaks out. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook escape routes for basements. In a fire, basement occupants have only one way out—up the stairs and through the door. But fire spreads fast and can cut off exits in seconds, making escape impossible.
This guide from US Egress aims to help homeowners understand egress window requirements in Denver.
Denver Requirements for Egress Windows and Window Wells
When constructing basement living spaces, homeowners must include egress windows to comply with Denver code. New homes will likely already have egress windows built to code, but homes built many years ago may not.
Minimum Egress Window Requirements in Denver
Denver’s minimum requirements for egress windows are:
- Window height must be at least 24 inches.
- Window width must be at least 20 inches.
- The bottom of the exit can’t be more than 44 inches from the floor.
- The exit must have a net clear opening of at least 5.7 square feet. (Exception: Below-grade or grade-floor exits need a net clear opening of at least five feet.)
- Occupants must be able to open the window from inside the room with no special knowledge, tools, or keys.
- The exit must lead to a yard, public area, or court.
Window Well Requirements in Denver
Because most basements are below ground level, egress windows generally exit into window wells. Window wells restrict access to the basement from the outside, but occupants can easily open them in an emergency.
Denver window well requirements are as follows:
- Windows wells must have a horizontal area of at least nine feet.
- Window wells must have a horizontal projection and width of at least 36 inches.
- Covers, bars, grilles, or screens must open without any keys, tools, or special knowledge.
- Window wells must have proper drainage and connect with the home’s foundational drain system.
- Window wells with a vertical depth of more than 44 inches must include permanently affixed steps or ladders.
- Window wells must be large enough to fully open the egress window without obstruction.
The requirement for window well covers, bars, grilles, and screens is particularly important. Some window wells have bars welded in place, while others are locked and require a key to open. Homeowners may seal window wells to prevent other people from getting in, especially if they live in an area with a high crime rate.
Locked window wells are against Colorado code for one reason—they’re very dangerous. In the event of a fire, flood, or other disaster, occupants can’t escape in time. Rescue workers also can’t get in to help people who are trapped. That’s why it’s so important for homeowners and builders to understand egress window requirements in Denver.
Existing Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings
If you move into a new home and it doesn’t have a dedicated egress window for the basement, do you need to install one? In Denver, existing windows can serve as emergency escape and rescue openings if they meet these requirements:
- A minimum net clear width of 20 inches
- A minimum net clear height of 22 inches
If you choose to replace the window, it needs to meet the requirements above. The window must also be the manufacturer’s latest standard-size window that fits in the existing frame.
These requirements are less strict than those for new egress windows. However, windows still need to be large enough for people to exit in case of an emergency.
Egress Window Requirement Exceptions
Are there any exceptions to these requirements for egress windows? Denver building codes require emergency escape windows in most cases, but there is one exception: Basements under 200 square feet that are used only for storage do not need an egress window.
It’s important to note that for this exception, homeowners must use their basements only for storage during normal operation. If anyone uses the basement as a sleeping area, Denver requires it to have at least one egress window.
Does Your Denver Home Meet Egress Window Requirements?
Egress window requirements in Denver may seem overwhelming, but they’re in place for a good reason. Egress windows give you peace of mind that you and your family can escape safely when an emergency strikes. But these windows offer more than just safety—they also let fresh air and sunlight into your basement, making it a more cheerful place to sleep, play, and live.