Replacing Basement Windows with Egress Windows in Alberta

Egress windows – serve as an exit point in case of fires or other emergencies. Evacuation windows must meet certain codes in order to perform their function. When installing egress windows, care must be taken to ensure that regulations are followed. If the rules and regulations are not followed, these windows can become deadly in emergencies, and you may be required to change windows that do not meet the regulations and pay a fine.

In Alberta, basements are required to have windows of sufficient size to evacuate in the event of a hazardous situation. In addition, by law, all rooms used as bedrooms must also be equipped with escape exits.

The NBCC details specific size requirements:

Egress windows must provide unobstructed openings of at least 0.35 m² (3.77′) and at least 380 mm (15′′) in size. To ensure that an unobstructed opening meets these criteria, the distance between sashes, linings, thresholds, and opening mechanisms should be measured. (See Figure 1 below)

Requirements for emergency exit windows

When should you get egress windows?

The National Building Code of Canada states that bedroom windows must meet the following requirements:

  • Provide a minimum of 5-percent LIGHT for the floor area of the room.
  • Provide VENTILATION adequate for year-round mechanical ventilation.
  • Must be properly sized to provide EMERGENCY ESCAPE, be opened from the inside without use of keys, tools, hardware or special knowledge.

Requirements for basement windows

Basement evacuation windows are different from evacuation windows on other levels.

The style and size requirements for egress windows are the same regardless of where they are installed. But in the basement, windows are usually more than one and a half meters above the floor. Naturally, at this height, it is recommended that a step be built under the window to provide easy access in the event of a fire or other emergency.


When converting basement windows into basement bedroom windows to accommodate a playroom, it is often necessary to cut a concrete wall to enlarge the windows.

To enlarge your window opening, many window replacement companies recommend hiring professionals who can perform the work in a quality and professional manner. Your window replacement company should provide accurate measurements based on local building codes and requirements.

Without the permission of the municipality this type of work cannot be performed. Before you start replacing windows, check with the company to see if they have all the necessary approvals to perform the work. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to get permission to cut.

After the opening is enlarged, the new window can then be installed.


If the window is located in the basement, the additional cost may be:


If your basement windows do not meet safety standards, replacement windows are necessary!

In case you have knowledge of general contracting and your budget is limited you can do the following necessary preparatory work:

  • Calling the utility company to mark underground hydro, gas, cable and water lines. This is required by law and simple logic. It is not worth risking an increase in the budget at the expense of the possibility of damage to hidden lines. In addition, the law requires you to call the utilities before beginning excavation work. Dig Safe Canada has a list of all provincial regulations.
  • Determining the size of the future evacuation window.
  • Ordering a window of the appropriate type and size. There are special requirements associated with egressive windows
  • Making a window frame from pressure-treated lumber.
  • Possible digging of space for a window well (this may be necessary to provide an evacuation exit).
  • Window well installation (may require an expensive custom size).
  • Adding a flexible PVC irrigation pipe that will allow the well to drain properly.
  • Laying tarps indoors to protect the finished basement from water damage when cutting concrete. Water is used to reduce friction on the cutting blades and can damage exposed items indoors.

You shouldn’t skimp on professionals when doing concrete cutting work. Only professional concrete cutters will be able to do the work properly and make sure that you avoid serious structural damage and.or additional costs:

  • Proper opening size and location (including accommodation for the window frame.)
  • The right type of egress window well is used to meet code and height requirements. It will also include proper irrigation to allow the well to drain instead of fill with water during rainstorms or snowmelt.
  • All permits are in place prior to construction. This means that the specific requirements for your area are met for egress windows, concrete cutting, and any special codes related to the project.
  • Window well is positioned away from the downspout to prevent flooding.
  • Oversized openings are reinforced with metal bars or plates.
  • Budget overview and itemized scope of work identifies any extra costs associated with special finish work, concrete pours, reinforcement, thick walls, or decorative stones.
  • Breaking up the concrete and removing the pieces of the wall area to accommodate the window and frame.

Casement, vertical or horizontal slider windows are suitable for installation as egress windows in your basement. Canglow always advises its customers on the various efficiency options available to protect your basement from draughts. Properly selected and installed windows will make your space more comfortable and save you money on utility bills year round.

Window Wells

Window wells are indispensable if you are installing a window below ground level. On average, a window well costs between $30 and $100 at retail. Also keep in mind that you will need to do additional excavation, grading and other prep work. Depending on the requirements of your project, hiring a professional will cost you anywhere from $500 to over $2000.

Window wells are required to be at least 760mm (29.92′′) away from the window. This arrangement will allow for unobstructed egress in the event of a fire or other emergency. Standard basement awning windows are not suitable because they do not meet building codes and requirements. The size of these windows does not allow for unobstructed evacuation.

Best Windows for Basements

Installing egressive windows in the basement is an effective way to increase the living space of the house, and in the case of further sale, to increase the value of the home. You should not risk your own safety and budget by trying to do the project yourself. A professional concrete cutter can guarantee you that the work will be done safely, quickly and correctly. In addition, by entrusting “hard work” to professionals you will be sure that the work will please you for many years.

  • Casement Windows
  • Egress Windows

Proper installation makes all the difference. The installation will be done with the proper concrete tools, TapCon or Ramset nails/fasteners and hardware for a secure fit. You can expect waterproofing with caulking, flashing and concrete glue.

Interior and exterior trims, hardware and security features can be done at the time of window installation for a complete, finished product.

Hiring a professional window company will also provide you with a warranty on both materials and labour. This will cover any problems you may encounter long after the project has been finished and save you from doing the work again.


A casement window is a window that is attached to its frame by one or more hinges. Casement windows are hinged at the side. They are used singly or in pairs within a common frame, in which case they are hinged on the outside. Casement windows are often held open using a casement stay.

They are opened with a crank, lever, or cam handle, which is placed around hand height or at the bottom and serves as a window lock. A crank, stay, or friction hinge is necessary when the window opens outward, to hold the window in position despite wind. This is a safe option for your basement window renovation project, and is also one of the best energy-saving options. They can meet egress windows of a larger size.

Egress Window 

The cost of an egress window is an important factor, with low-end windows costing only $200 – $300, whereas high-end, larger windows cost almost $1,000 apiece. Hiring a pro will obviously increase these costs, too. Additional requirements such as excavation for a basement window and the addition of a casement and stairs will also increase costs substantially, by $1,000 or more. On average, homeowners pay approximately $2,300 for the installation of egress windows.


When you hire a window installer to handle your egress window project, you’ll be assured of getting the proper window for the specific application you’ll be using. For example, the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC) requires minimum light for the floor area, year-round mechanical ventilation and properly sized to provide sufficient height, width and area to be used as an emergency escape route.

You can add value to your home with an extra bedroom, home office space, entertainment room or even an in-law apartment in this typically underused area below ground. While this seems like an easy enough DIY project, one of the first things you’ll need to do is add an egress window to meet building codes.

Today’s building codes require a means of escaping from your home in an emergency situation when the use of normal building exits isn’t available. While windows are not typically considered the main escape routes, having access to an unobstructed egress window can save lives. Full vent in-swing awning and hopper windows that meet the proper size and opening requirements can be used as egress windows.

What other rules apply to egress windows?

  • Windows with security bars installed must be operable from the inside without special tools or knowledge.
  • Egress windows cannot be higher than 1.5m (4.92′) above the floor.
  • If a sprinkler system is installed in the room, an outside window is not required for emergency exit.

As you can see, replacing basement windows with egress windows can be the difference between life and death. Ensure your home’s windows are up to code and enjoy the light, ventilation and peace-of-mind that every homeowner deserves.


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