Means of Egress | Windows – Doors – Halls – Stairs

Means of Egress

Means of egress is basically an escape route from a dwelling in the event of a fire or other catastrophe according to most building codes. These general guidelines are based in the 2012 IRC.

Door Egress

There should be a clear path from everywhere in the dwelling to a door without going through a garage. There has to be at least one door at least 32″ wide. This is a small size for an entry door. Just know that it can be very difficult to get furniture through a door this small. It is best to have a front door and a back door. They really should be 36″ wide.

It has to have a floor or landing on each side of it that drops down no more than 1 1/2″ from the top of the threshold. If their is a landing on the outside, then it can drop no more than 7 3/4″ as long as the door does not swing out over it. Hallways, stairs, and bedrooms also have to meet specific criteria.

Window Egress

In order for a window to be compliant in residential applications, it must meet the following criteria to provide an adequate means of escape from a bedroom, basement, or a habitable attic that does not have an exterior door in the event of a fire or other emergency. The most popular size for first floor bedrooms is a 2’8″ 5’2″ double hung window. For applications where the sill is more than 44″ above the finished grade, the best choices for double hung units are 3’0″ 5’2″ and 2’8″ 6’0″.

  • 44″ Max sill height off the floor
  • 5.7 Square feet minimum clear opening for second floor and up
  • 5  Square feet minimum clear opening for first floor (Sill must be within 44″ of finish grade)
  • 20″ Minimum clear opening width
  • 24″ Minimum clear opening height

Other Considerations

  • All stairs and hallways have to be a minimum of 36″ wide.
  • Stair risers can not exceed 7 3/4″.
  • Tread runs can not drop below 10″ so long as there is a one inch overhang.
  • There must be a continuous graspable handrail down any flight of stairs.
  • It should be between 34″ – 38″ high and project no further than 4 1/2″ into the stairway.

For more detailed specifications follow this link to page 88 of the International Residential Code.

Maintain a Practical Means of Egress

Even after inspection, it is important to maintain proper egress for any bedroom. It is important for the occupant to be able to escape from fire or other catastrophe in a hurry.

  • Do not permanently shut an egress window or door with nails, screws, glue, or anything else.Means of egress can be made safer with the use of  lighting down stairs.
  • Do not block the window or door with a piece of furniture or anything else.
  • Do not change the grade level on the outside making it too far to jump.
  • Do not cover the outside with a storm window or cover it with plywood even if it is broken.
  • Do not paint the window or door shut!
  • Do not use stairways or hallways for storage