If you live in a fairly new home, this topic may not be an issue in that most new homes have some type of secondary entry way. In older homes, such as we deal with in our area quite frequently, a second entry to the Basement was not an important feature. Most homes, new or old, will have some type of exterior entrance to the Basement, a stairwell, a Bilco door unit, a walk out Basement door, etc. However, depending on what you are using your newly finished Basement for, you may be required to provide more egress than just two exit points.
Many families, when finishing off their Basement, are looking for a guest room or additional sleeping quarters. If you add a Bedroom to your Basement, this room will be required to have its own source of egress to the outside. This could be a door or a window, but this would be in addition to the main egress points in other parts of the Basement.
Inevitably, when we bring up the subject of egress requirements with our clients, we are asked “how can we get out of complying with the code?” And mostly this question comes up in the discussion of budget. Adding an additional means of egress to a Basement can easily add $5,000 or more to the cost of the project. Here is the answer that we give to the issue of complying with the egress requirements of the code. We try to get our clients to understand that the code is there to address the safety of their family and guests in the case of an emergency, such as a fire. We try to get them to look at the situation from the other side of such an event. Do they want to be able to say that everyone got out safely? Or, heaven forbid, they are lamenting the fact that someone got trapped in the Basement because they chose not to comply with the building codes that were there to enhance the safe use of their new space.
In relation to the scope of the project, the topic of egress in the eyes of a client can be a budget buster. However, as far as egress being “friend or foe”, I can promise you that it will be your friend when it counts the most. In the end, we recommend that you hold the safety of your family and guests in the highest regard and do not skirt the code requirements when it comes to egress. You will not be sorry.
Next Time… Planning Your Basement Space #6: Enjoy Your New Space
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