The High and Dry Blog
Toronto’s structural clarity in a sea of confusion.
Follow Up: Why You Need a Window Well
October 08, 2022
GJ MacRae, as a leader in the foundation repair industry with 40+ years of experience, is up to date with all changes to building codes and regulations in the Greater Toronto Area. Recently, Toronto updated its window egress standards for window wells to greater protect homes and prevent flooding. All basement windows are now required to have window wells.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is an Egress Window?
An egress window is any window you may use to escape the building in the event of an emergency. These became required for any home with a finished basement, but the code has been updated to include unfinished basements as well.
Egress windows are better for your family’s safety and security in the event of a fire or emergency.
Egress windows are also an excellent source of light and ventilation for a basement room.
Egress windows are required on other floors of the home than just the basement, as any floor with a bedroom on it has some danger of a stairwell collapsing while residents need to escape.
What Are the Requirements for an Egress Window?
There are some key factors in determining what counts as an egress window, especially for foundational level rooms.
Must Be Openable
– Any window that counts as an egress window must be openable from the inside without the use of special tools or knowledge. If you’re wondering whether your window qualifies for this step, consider whether a person in your home for the first time would be able to open it.
– The size of the window must be no less than .35 square meters with dimensions on any side of no less than 380 millimeters. These dimensions will allow most adults to pass through the window without difficulty.
– There must be 550 millimeters of unobstructed space in front of the window, so that people can exit safely, without becoming stuck or injured. This is where window wells come into play for basement egress windows.
In addition, for any windows opening into a window well, there must be adequate space to exit the window. If the window swings out to open, it must have enough space for the person to climb out of the window and into the well without becoming stuck.
Why is A Window Well Necessary?
For any window that belongs to a below-ground room, the ability to escape is essential. Window wells in this case do not only prevent flooding but also provide a safe and secure escape route for the people in the basement.
If an egress window didn’t have a corresponding window well installed, debris could pile up against the windows over time, making them inoperable. Likewise, the weather could prevent the windows from being a safe or speedy escape in an emergency.
Specific Window Well Requirements
Window wells intended for egress need to fit certain specifications. While Ontario has some guidelines about this, Toronto has set more specific policies in place regarding the size of window wells and the placement of windows.
– Any window well in Toronto intended for egress must have 550 millimeters of space after it to allow adequate space for escape. This measurement is taken from the outermost cropping of the wall or window. Thus, if the basement window swings in, the 550 millimeters is from the wall of the building, where if it swings out it is measured from the outermost length of the window.
– The window must be no more than 1 meter off the floor of the basement. This is to make sure the window is accessible by those in the basement and able to be used easily as an escape route.
Worth noting: the “floor” in question can be a bench surface or built-in surface meant for sitting or a step rather than the actual floor of the basement. It must be built into the basement and unable to be removed.
Why Should I Have a Window Well Installed?
Anyone who owns a home should always aim to keep their building within codes. This makes reselling easier and is safer for your family. However, in addition to complying with regulation, there are other significant advantages to having your home outfitted with window wells.
For one, your residence will have better waterproofing, which means less risk of mold and foundational damage, which causes a massive risk to the health and safety of your family. Window Wells also help maintain the soil composition around some of the weaker points of your foundation, the windows. These structures provide an obstruction for moving debris and roots to prevent them from growing in or moving towards your home.
Finally, you never know when or where disaster will strike. At any time your home could be subject to an emergency. Even if you do not have a finished basement, having a means of escape from a structure fire or other building emergency is prudent.
Can I Install Window Wells Myself?
Yes and No. While you can do any sort of home repair or work on your own, without knowledge you could build a window well that is structurally unsafe, not within regulation, or will dilapidate at an accelerated rate.
When you hire a professional like GJ MacRae, you pay for expert knowledge, meticulous hand excavation, and a window well built with specific knowledge of your property in mind. Not all areas have the same soil composition or structure of wildlife, so a DIY video from California will likely not help you in the GTA.
If you are looking for a professional to help you install window wells in light of these code updates, please contact us here.