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denemante 08-27-2010 11:23 AM

installing high basement windows
Hey all,

I have a finished basment room with no windows. The slab walls (behind the drywall and interior wall frame) are about neck height. The ceiling joists are about 9 feet.

Since the finished basement walls are just frames to hold the drywall, I'm not worried about cutting through them. What lies behind them is just the 5 foot slab wall, and about 4 feet of framing for the exterior wall (and insulatilon).

I want two windows up in that area (they'll be about 10 feet apart). I'm guessing the windows would be about 14-18 inches high by about 30 inches wide (the goal being big enough for a person to escape).

This is on the back of my house. The room just above it (living room) has two windows. These windows would be a few feet beneath them for asthetics from the outside.

So - I know I'll need a header because I'll be cutting out one or more studs.

1. Do standard rules apply for headers here (based on width of gap)? Or since the entire weight of the rear of the home (about 2.5 stories worth of house) is above them - do I need something extra?

2. When I've cut into other load bearing walls before, I've always braced as I go until I can get the header in. Do I need to do that here? Or can I just use a sawsall from the outside, cut my window hole, work in the header, etc. without bracing?

We have hardiplank siding on the outside, so I'm somehow going to have to work from the inside to slip a header up behind the hardiplank so I don't have to pull that whole area off. That could be hard if there is some kind of temporary brace in there.


jogr 08-27-2010 11:54 AM

It depends by what you mean by "standard rules". If by standard rules you mean the IRC table requirements then you should be fine if you use the correct information. If you mean one of those local carpenter rules of thumb then no. If the window is directly under the window above and the floor joists are parallel with the wall then there is a possibility that the load will only be that of the wall up to the window above so the header might not need to be very large. But that needs to be looked at very carefully to determine what loads it's carrying.

You want to be sure to follow egress window requirements for your area. Your description doesn't sound compliant to me. Here you need to be no more than a certain height off the floor with a minimum opening width, height and area. Opening dimensions are the actual area you can pass through with the window open - not rough opening or anything else.

You definitely need to support the load before cutting the opening. In order to properly flash the window some of that hardiplank is going to need to be removed and reinstalled.

denemante 08-27-2010 02:17 PM

By standard header rules, I meant that the size of the header (2x8, 2x10, 2x12 etc. doubled up) is based on the width of the hole/span. I didn't know whether I'd go by that rule - or because of the location - if I'd need something more substantial.

The joists run perpendicular into this wall. It's a main outside wall, so load-bearing.

This room has no windows now, and it's already a finished theater and poker room. Two standard doors lead off of this room to an unfinished daylight basement area with and outside door and two standard double windows. So I don't think I need to actually worry about Egress. I just figured if I could personally do it, it would be a bonus. This area won't be a bedroom.

Finally, I'm really hoping to find a way to avoid removing the hardiplank. The exterior paint was custom.

jogr 08-27-2010 04:18 PM

The header size is definitely based upon the width of the opening but not by some rule of thumb like an inch for every foot or other nonsense. It can be sized by looking up the opening size in IRC Table R 502.5 (1) if your local building authorities allow use of it. With that table you need to know the span of the joists above and how many floors plus roof etc. You can probably get your building department to crack open the IRC to that table when you get your permit and they will likely be glad to help you decipher it since they will want to check it anyway before they issue the permit.

I have no idea how you can flash the windows right without disturbing the hardiplank. If not flashed right you'll end up with decay issues from water intrusion.

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