Homeowners have a whole slew of Building Code requirements that must be met in order to live in the Sunshine State.
From turtle glass to hurricane-safe solutions, many of Florida’s regulations revolve around your home’s windows for improved safety and security. These include egress windows.
A window is considered an “egress” window if it is large enough for an emergency entrance or exit. After all, the word egress literally means “the action of going out of or leaving a place,” as defined by Oxford.
As you may imagine, this vague definition leaves many with a list of questions: where in your home are you required by the Florida Building Code to have egress windows? Do you have to have a certain number of egress windows per square foot or by room? What constitutes “large enough for emergency entrance or exit” and how high and wide must they be?
We’ll discuss all these things and more in this post to help you see if you’re meeting your state’s building code requirements.
What Exactly Makes a Window an “Egress” Window?
In order to protect your Florida home and family in the event of fire or other emergency, egress windows are required for entrance and exit for firefighters or support staff.
You must be able to open the window from the inside, without keys or additional tools, and be able to climb out or crawl through, while a fireman must be able to enter the room in case of fire or other emergencies.
Egress Window Opening Requirements
The Building Officials and Code Administrators International Chapter 10, Section 1010.4(1999) states that emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet (0.53m2), except on grade level windows that require a minimum clear opening of 5 square feet.
The minimum net clear opening height dimension is 24 inches (610mm) while the minimum net clear opening width dimension is 20 inches (508mm).
The Florida Building Code 2001 (FP), Chapter 10, Section 1005.4 offers the same specifications as BOCA and most other provisions. Local municipalities may have some variations in the requirements.
Height from Floor (Sill) Requirements
Emergency escape and rescue openings shall have the bottom of the clear opening not greater than 44 inches (1118mm) measured from the floor.
Keep in mind that the sill height requirement should also be appropriate for the room's occupants. For instance, in a senior living housing building, 44 inches is much too high for older, physically-disadvantaged occupants to hurdle. Even children should be able to reach the latch to allow them to escape in an emergency and need to be considered. A certified window installer in Florida could help you adjust the sill height according to your specific needs, all within code.
Egress Window Size Requirements
The codes allow flexibility in the shape of the window. What's important is that a person could actually escape from the window; obviously, a window that was 6 inches wide would be useless even if it were tall enough to meet the minimum clear opening requirements.
Beyond your opening space and the size of the window itself, there are few other considerations to stay up to code. The floor area, for instance, plays a big role for those stepping out of the window to exit the home and has a number of regulations listed in The Florida Building Code.
Accessibility matters too. An emergency escape window must lead to an actual escape route, like a backyard or pathway, with access to a public way or a screened area. With this in mind, an egress window that exits into an internal courtyard without external access, like a closed pool area, wouldn’t comply with the code’s requirements.
We strongly advise reading Florida State’s Building Code Requirements and consulting with a certified installer in the state to ensure you’re really in compliance.
Where Do You Need to Place Egress Windows?
Egress windows are required in every room in your house used for sleeping purposes, AKA in your bedrooms. They’re also required on any floor and in basements with habitable space— but as a Florida resident, you probably don’t have to worry about the basement part!
Thankfully, bedrooms typically must have two means of egress; the door is one and the window is another, but this extra window route offers peace of mind should the door be blocked.
Egress Windows & Hurricane Shutters
Due to the threat of hurricanes and tropical storms, many homeowners choose impact windows as an added measure of protection against heavy winds and flying debris. An egress window can still certainly be constructed with hurricane-safe glass.
Other homeowners choose the more affordable option of installing hurricane shutters instead of impact glass. However, there is an ongoing debate as to whether shutters contribute to injury and death in the fires that often follow storms.
If you have hurricane shutters instead of impact glass, you should have manual cranks inside to allow for egress in the case of an emergency.
Remodeling Requirements for Egress Windows
If you are remodeling your home, replacing windows or building an addition, your windows must meet the requirements for egress dimensions.
Luckily, our team at Storm Solutions works with residential and commercial customers throughout Southwest Florida to help you understand and meet egress requirements— all while choosing the best storm protection.
Check out our Window Pricing Calculator for an estimate on replacing your windows with storm-safe, Florida Building Code-compliant egress windows, today.