Many older homes with basement windows do not meet the current building safety code for size or ease of egress. In some cases, the windows are so small or high off the floor that it is not possible for occupants, particularly children, to escape through them in the event of an emergency. With regard to these situations, it is normally not required that a homeowner make any changes to the basement windows unless or until damage occurs to the home or remodeling is done. If this occurs, the local building department will require updating be done to at least one window in the basement to improve the level of safety.
These images were taken from homes inspected by our company, Magpie Property Inspections in Aurora, Colorado and Parker, Colorado. One image is of an older home with the original basement window installed in 1972, the second of a newer home with windows that meet the current standard.
The current building code is for basement window openings to be no less than 20″ wide and no less than 24″ tall and must equal a minimum 5.7 square feet of net clear opening. The sill height must be less than 44″ from the floor. The window wells must be 9 square feet with a min 3 foot projection and if the window well is deeper than 44″ a permanent ladder or steps must be installed in the window well.
If you have an older home with old style windows, and especially if bedrooms are used in the basement it is highly recommended that at least one current window and opening be installed for safety.