Adding a Basement Window
Currently an unfinished basement. I would like to a 1 -2 windows on the side that would allow for Light and Fire escape. Providing that the area ouside is doug out and a stair Stepped exit is available, How difficult can it be if the right cement cutting tools are used? Is their a risk of damaging the structual support?
Thanks for any insight.
We do these from time to time. We do egress windows all the way down to small 1' x 3' windows. We've put in some stairs as well.
We use a stihl TS400 with 14" cutting wheel. For one time use, you can rent them from most tool rental places.
It's pretty easy to do. We have one person cutting and the other keeping water on the blade with a hose.
We work with an engineer to determine the best place to cut the openings. Most of the time, we are able to just use standard 2x's but sometimes we need to put in LVLs. If the walls are tall enough, we sometimes put in angle iron to support the cement or blocks above. It just depends upon what the engineer recommends.
Consulting with an engineer is definately the best bet.
What you need to be careful of is putting the window under a beam pocket or other point load that is concealed within the exterior bearing wall. In most circumstances you can cut an opening as described above, but it is best to use a hydraulic "chainsaw" as opposed to a quickie saw. The chainsaw will make neater cuts at the corners, and there won't be overcuts to get the full depth. Most cities have companies that specialize in cutting openings in concrete walls.
Your best bet is to install a header over the opening or leave a considerable depth of concrete in place to act as a lintel. This is where the services of an engineer are very valuable, especially if you opt for the lintel.
You should be able to find a stair-stepped well made from plastic. They're available. I've also seen several made from stacked block in a terraced pattern. If you don't get a stepped well an egress ladder is required if the depth is 44" or deeper from grade.
Per the International Residential Code, the window(s) for fire escape must have at least a 5.0 square foot opening, achieved by normal operation of the window (not disassembly or removal of sashes). There must be a 36x36" space in the well...basically room to get a 36" cube out of the well. The opening of the window must not be more than 44" above the basement floor. All habitable basements require one egress window, and all sleeping areas must have one as well. If you have one basement bedroom and install an egress window/well in it, you've satisfied the requirement for the entire basement. If you have four beds, you need four windows. If you have no bedrooms and just recreational or storage space, only one window is required no matter how many different rooms there are.
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