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Choosing the Right Egress Window for Your Home

There are several reasons homeowners seek out egress windows for their basements. Protecting their family in case of a fire, adding light to a dark basement space, ensuring building code compliance, and an increase in resale value by making an unused basement space into a legal bedroom are all excellent reasons to consider an egress addition. Certainly, egress windows are a good investment, but this does raise a question as to the average cost of an egress window project.

Like most things, the cost of an egress window can range widely depending on the type of materials and contractor you choose. Below are a few important factors every homeowner should consider to ensure a successful egress window installation.

AVOID DIY ERROR
Owning a home is often a crash course in basic do-it-yourself repair and maintenance. However, there are some projects that require the expertise of a professional contractor. Because of the steps involved in installing an egress window – removing and replacing stud walls, cutting through poured concrete or cinder block foundations and properly sealing to avoid water seepage – an egress window installation is not a weekend warrior project. There are also fairly strict rules that govern the height, width and distance from the floor that egress windows can be installed. Missing even one of those code requirements can result in your basement area not qualifying as a finished space, should you ever want to sell your home.

Most importantly, failure to properly determine the placement of your egress window can result in the unintentional compromising of your home’s structural integrity. Adding extra light to your basement seems unimportant if the floors and walls of your home begin to buckle or sag due to an incorrectly placed egress window. Unless you possess significant engineering or construction knowledge, any project that involves alterations to the foundation walls of your home is best left to the experts.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR
There certainly is a right way and a handful of wrong ways to install an egress window. Choosing the wrong contractor to install your egress window can lead to major headaches and expenses down the road. An improper installation can lead to structural and/or water issues that can be very disruptive and expensive to repair. Hiring a contractor who will take the appropriate measures to protect your foundation and control the water is critical. When it comes to controlling water, a drain should be installed on the outside of the window. This can be tied into the existing drainage system if one exists. One potential problem with this is that it may be unclear if the existing drainage system is still functioning properly. If it isn’t, you are now inviting more water into a system that isn’t functioning properly.

If the existing drainage system is malfunctioning, it may be time to consider adding a new interior drainage system that will control any water that enters from around the egress window. Long-term warranties are often provided with this added system. That added warranty definitely provides peace of mind should potential issues show up down the road. Also, it is important that the soil around the egress window be properly compacted after the egress window installation. Without proper compaction, water can easily seep in around the egress window. As you can see from the scenarios listed, it’s extremely important to hire a contractor who is an expert at egress window installations.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT WINDOW
There are many different sizes, styles, and qualities of egress windows. All of those factors have an impact on the overall price. When it comes to the size of the window, it is important to make sure your contractor knows the building codes in your area and that the window is code compliant. Obviously, the bigger the window is, the easier it is for you and your family to get out if needed. There are two main types of egress windows; sliding windows and crank windows. Crank windows can take longer to open in an emergency and can also require more regular maintenance. Sliding windows are simpler and are exactly what they sound like – windows that slide open on a track. There are many different brands of egress windows and it is important to choose the quality and installation type that meets your specific project goals.

WHICH WINDOW WELL?
There are many different types of window wells. The long-term and short-term aesthetics of the well, its durability, and how it helps with water prevention are all important considerations when it comes to the window well itself. Metal window wells often rust over time and can bow or bend inwards from the pressure of the soil surrounding the well. Modular wells can bow or bend inwards as well when backfilled with dirt. Often times, contractors will backfill with rock to combat the significant pressure put on window wells by the surrounding soils. The problem with backfilling with rock is that you’re inviting water around your window as it can easily flow between the larger gaps between the rocks. Also, there are multiple seams with these types of systems that make it difficult to control the water as well. Custom wells using landscaping blocks are also prone to water leaks and require maintenance to protect against settlement. These wells aren’t fastened to the foundation either, and can often pull away from the foundation which is both an eyesore and a water issue as well.

Molded composite egress window wells are a one-piece system that can better control the water if installed properly. It’s common for long-term warranties to accompany these one-piece window wells. There are also more aesthetically pleasing options available with today’s composite window wells when compared to older models.

TO COVER, OR NOT TO COVER?
Adding a cover to your egress window well can increase the cost but it really comes down to personal preference. Some homeowners choose to add a cover for additional safety so children, pets or other adults don’t fall into the open well. Covers can also help protect against inclement weather – think hail, snow and fall leaves – and the occasional wildlife creature that may wander through your yard. The type of cover and how well it holds up over time are key considerations when choosing a cover for your window well.

Adding an egress window to your home is a smart investment that adds to the beauty and value of your home, but it is important to hire the right contractor who will use the proper materials. Researching your contractor, consulting references from previous customers, and making sure to clearly discuss the installation process and materials can ensure your project goes smoothly and lasts as long as possible. Our handy project checklist below can also be a big help in guiding you and your family through the process of choosing the right egress window for your home.

EGRESS WINDOW CHECKLIST:
__ Schedule your complimentary estimate

__ Ask for customer references and/or read customer reviews online

__ Determine preferred window well type

__ Determine preferred window type

__ Determine preferred drainage options

__ Review payment and financing options

__ Finalize contractor choice & installation date

__ Enjoy your new basement space!

NEED HELP IN NEBRASKA OR WESTERN IOWA?
If you’re interested in an egress window consultation in Nebraska or Western Iowa, we’re here to help. Our Design Specialists can perform an inspection and make a customized recommendation for your home. Give us a call at 1-800-827-0702 or contact us online to learn more.

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