How to Install Egress Windows – Bring Light into the Basement

A basement egress window on the side of a home with rocks and red mulch surrounding it

Egress windows are an important addition to every home and are particularly common when renovating a basement. These large openings allow for the light to come into the basement, but also provide a point of exit in your home in case of an emergency.
If you are planning to create a room out of your basement, then you will have to install an egress window. This way, with the right custom curtains, you’ll be able to make the room feel more inviting. To ensure that these windows look their best, here are the proper steps to install them.

Tackle the Protocol

Man sitting at desk with a penchil and paper working on a construction estimate

You may be in a hurry to create a fancy basement living room or to give your teenage son his own basement bedroom. Still, you need to do some research beforehand. Do the building codes in your area allow you to do that? After all, you’ll be digging a hole around the foundation – and in some cases, even if it is your home, you will need a permit for that. You may have underground cables or pipes in the area where you are planning to dig, so you might want to ensure that safety protocol is properly followed. Contact your local 811 before you dig.

Solve Lingering Problems

To prevent any issues from occurring in the future, make sure that there aren’t any existing issues. How are the pipes holding? Is drainage going to be a problem? After all, half your window is likely going to be in a hole – and if it rains, you don’t want that pooled up water to flow into the room the moment you open the window. With that extra humidity, even heaters and humidifiers won’t be able to keep up. Make sure that the gutters work properly and that you have a way to drain out the water from the front of your windows.

Dig the Opening

An excavator digging out a hole on the side of a home to install and Egress window

Formalities are done with; now you have to get to business. Dig a semi-circle where you plan on installing the window. Dig about 6 inches below the new sill height and keep everything beneath 44 inches. Bear in mind that you need to dig a space wide enough for you to be able to open the window without any issues. You need to make the most out of the space, but the minimum opening area should be at least around 5.7 sq. ft.

Cover the Openings

A woman standing on a step ladder hanging up plastic with painters tape to seal off a room

When you are installing an egress window, a lot of dust is bound to escape. For this reason, you might want to shut your HVAC system off and cover the openings from the supply and return air ducts. Also, make sure to seal the basement door, to prevent any of the dust from escaping. Ideally, you may want to create a plastic barrier, as it will prevent the dust from roaming around like crazy as you are creating the window opening.

Make the Hole

A construction man using a level to mark off spots on the wall for construction

At this point, the next step is to create the rough-in where you want the window to go. You may want to position it 44 inches off the floor at most, bringing it up to the height of an existing window, if possible. To make things easier to follow, you should mark lines both inside and outside the wall, giving you a frame. Make sure you leave enough space for some decorative curtain rods.

Precision is the key in this matter, and the hole should be only slightly larger – enough for you to fit the window in. When cutting the window, do it with a concrete daw, as it should be much easier for you to create a precise opening. Sledgehammers and pickaxes might also be useful here.

Frame the Window

A professional construction worker installing the frame around a new window

Once you have removed the old basement window (if existent) and cleaned up the concrete, it is time for you to frame the new window in the hole using boards. Make sure that you place a generous amount of sealant so that you create a waterproof barrier beneath the boards. Plus, the sealant will be the actual thing that will secure the framing in its place. For a better temporary hold, you might want to drive-cut some nails.

Hang the Window

A basement bedroom with two egress windows

The window has been framed; now you just have to hang it. Use more sealant on the frame face and position the window in the hole created for it. Level the window so it’s all nice and straight. For the best fit, you might want to get a custom window treatment. To seal the gaps and cracks, you should use low-expansion foam designed for exterior projects. Once you hang the window, you might want to trim it using a PVC board so that it does not start rotting or become a pest target. An extra bead of sealant should also be placed there so there is no draft and water doesn’t go through the cracks.

Install the Window Well and Drainpipe

An excavator adding crushed rocks to the surrounding of an egress window

With the window in its place, you now need to install a drainpipe connecting to your home’s draining system. This way, water won’t pool up in front of the window. The window well can be made either from brick or metal, but it should be strong enough to keep the water from pooling up in front of your window – keeping the opening hole in place. For the best results, you might want to work with a contractor.

Installing egress windows might take a bit of work, but once you have everything in place, you will have gained a new well-lit room. Plus, in the event of an emergency, this kind of window may easily be used as an escape. If you’ve never installed windows before, you might want to collaborate with a contractor.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.

Article Author

Zana Dodig