Basement Windows Tips for Installation and Replacement

Basement windows are usually out of sight and out of mind, but if your old steel-framed, cast-in-place units are starting to show signs of corrosion, or the single-pane glass and lack of gasket are causing leaks and drafts, then it’s time for a replacement. You can permanently put an end to these basement windows problems with innovative basement windows upgrades.

basement windowsHow to Install Basement Windows and Satisfy Egress Codes

Installing an Egress Window

An egress window in a cellar dramatically brightens an otherwise dark, dingy room, but it also has a more serious purpose. It’s large enough to provide a safe exit from the basement in the event of a fire or other emergency. Adding an egress window is essential, and should be considered each time you remodel your basement to make a new bedroom, office or other living space.

You don’t need to add big egress windows. An egress window that has a clear opening of at least 5.7 sq. ft. is large enough to allow a firefighter, with equipment, to enter the home. In addition, the window must be at least 20 in. wide and 24 in. high (while still meeting the 5.7-sq. -ft. requirement). Finally, the bottom of the opening can be no more than 44 in. from the floor.

Prepare for a Big Project

Allow at least three full days to install the window, plus time for finishing the interior. Hiring a contractor to install an egress window and window will cost from $6,000 to between $8,000. If you do the projects yourself, expect to spend $1,500 on materials, tool rental, and refuse container fees.

Good Planning Simplifies the Job

First, find the best location and size for the window. Consider (1) which will offer the best lighting; (2) the effect on the exterior look of the house; and (3) the obstacles you’ll need to deal with for a certain location.

The very best natural light comes from the east and the south. A window situated at the east provides rich morning light, while a southern window provides light all year round.

Rent a Concrete Saw with a Diamond Blade

Your basement or lower-level walls are either made of poured concrete or concrete block. For a poured concrete wall, it is strongly recommended you hire a professional to cut the opening (costs $600 to $1,000). Doing this yourself is difficult and dangerous because of the weight of the slab you cut loose. Cutting through the concrete block is no picnic either. The two major tools you’ll need are a concrete saw and a hammer drill. Choose a concrete saw with either a 12-in. or a 14-in. blade. The 12-in. saw will work fine for an 8-in. thick wall.

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Work

Once cut, the masonry blocks won’t fall out of the wall. You must break them out with a 4-lb. hammer. Be sure to wear eye protection. Chips will fly! With the block broken out, you will see that your cuts are not aligned perfectly. Smooth the sides as best you can be using a brick chisel.

Install the Window and Wall Finishes

Installing the window will go quickly compared with the prep work. Most manufacturers include complete installation instructions with every window. Read through them to check for variations from our procedure. The trim work will vary according to the style of your home. The exterior finish could pose some issues because most foundation walls are coated with rubbery tar below the soil level. If you have lap siding, you may choose to apply furring strips into the concrete and carry the groove siding down into the good area. The window can be trimmed with tile from the inside rather than the more traditional wood sill and casing; however, the wood trim will also work well.

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