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  1. #1
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    Default Window well covers/grates required?

    Are there any code requirements for window well covers or grates at residential properties?

    Sorry, no picture, but this well's opening was around 2x4', it was at least 5' deep, and it was adjacent to a walkway.

    If there are such requirements, are they different for required egress wells?

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  2. #2
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    No requirement I am aware of in IRC. MA code says any retaining wall over 4 feet next to driveway or walkway needs guardrail. Kind of a retaing wall. You can always make a recommendation for safety.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Michael,

    I suspect that the 2x4 window well is not of adequate size.

    Also, at 5' deep it needs a permanent ladder of steps up out of it.

    Don't know of anything requiring a guardrail around it, but, if there were a guardrail around it, that would just compound the safety aspect of getting up and out of the window well.

    Makes protecting the people above and below at opposite ends of what is needed.

    About the best thing I can think of is an angled grate (no provisions for locking and angled so nothing can be set on it, say at 45 degrees or more). That would allow light in, ventilation in, keep people from falling in, and allow one to egress by pushing the grate up and open (the grate could not be heavy steel bars as that might weight too much to be pushed open, which leaves aluminum or something else light, yet strong).

    Not sure how practical the grate would be, one would have to make sure that it could not be locked closed, that it would not be blocked closed, and that it could be *easily opened* from below.

    I am presuming the window well is for emergency egress.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    I'm not sure about code but around here in ct, I see it all the time on new construction. There has to be a barrier or grate and if egress location must be a hatch in the grate or gate to allow access.
    I always recopmmend both and have never looked up code, but contractors have always installed after the request, indicating it is code as they just blow off whatever isn't


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Ahhh ... yes.

    That recessed window well requires the ladder or stairs (which you did not mention of being present), thus, the stairs needs to have a landing at the bottom and at the top, and all landings greater than 30" above the grade below require guardrails.

    From the 2006 IRC. (underlining is mine)

    - R310.2 Window wells.The minimum horizontal area of the window well shall be 9 square feet (0.9 m2), with a minimum horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm). The area of the window well shall allow the emergency escape and rescue opening to be fully opened.
    - - - Exception: The ladder or steps required by Section R310.2.1 shall be permitted to encroach a maximum of 6 inches (152 mm) into the required dimensions of the window well.
    - - R310.2.1 Ladder and steps. Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) shall be equipped with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the window in the fully open position. Ladders or steps required by this section shall not be required to comply with Sections R311.5 and R311.6. Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305 mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76 mm) from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on center vertically for the full height of the window well.
    Don't know if that is for emergency egress, but at 5' deep it seems as though it would be.


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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    I am assuming it was not for egress as he did not say so. Michael?


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Jerry, thanks for the egress info.

    ----------------

    It was a two part question:

    "If there are such requirements, are they different for required egress wells?"


    The one I was looking at was functioning as a "light shaft", not a required means of egress.

    Now, though, I'm curious, and looking around I see that most manufacturers of egress systems include a grate and a cover
    Boman Kemp Complete Basement Window Systems That Take the Basement to a Whole New Level

    and I'm wondering what these are designed or listed to, so I don't think we "have gotten to the bottom" this window well question quite yet.

    ----------------

    Later ... Boman Kemp says "Hummmm... no one has ever asked that before. Don't know the answer, but we sure should. Will have the engineer who designed our egress systems call you back..."

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 06-25-2008 at 09:21 AM.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Michael,

    I was having problems visualizing window wells 5 feet deep which were not for egress, still am for that matter - why are non-egress windows that far down is what I am missing ...

    ... from-the-land-of-no-basements

    (except when I was a kid)

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  9. #9
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    Cool Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    This may help ? And BTW, the IBC and CBC do not address guards for window wells, but if they did they would probably have to meet the current requirements for guard rail height and spacing.
    Here's photo of a nicely done window well guard. Without such protection window wells can trap dogs, raccoons, possums, deer, cats and an occasional real estate agent. If not rescued before they starve to death or removed after they expire from lack of water they can really smell bad.

    Its possible there may be a local ordinance requiring ww guards so you may want to check with the local AHJ.

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Jerry
    You said "... the stairs needs to have a landing at the bottom and at the top, and all landings greater than 30" above the grade below require guardrails."

    The way I understand the code, your statement above is incorrect.
    Am I reading something wrong?

    Bold is mine
    R310.2 Window wells. The minimum horizontal area of the
    window well shall be 9 square feet (0.9 m2), with a minimum
    horizontal projection and width of 36 inches (914 mm). The
    area of the window well shall allow the emergency escape and
    rescue opening to be fully opened.
    Exception: The ladder or steps required by SectionR310.2.1
    shall be permitted to encroach a maximum of 6 inches (152
    mm) into the required dimensions of the window well.
    R310.2.1 Ladder and steps.Window wells with a vertical
    depth greater than 44 inches (1118 mm) shall be equipped
    with a permanently affixed ladder or steps usable with the
    window in the fully open position. Ladders or steps required
    by this section shall not be required to comply with Sections
    R311.5 and R311.6.
    ....

    R311.5 Stairways.
    R311.5.4 Landings for stairways. There shall be a floor or
    landing at the top and bottom of each stairway.
    R311.6 Ramps.

    (underline is mine)
    R312.1 Guards. Porches, balconies, ramps or raised floor surfaces
    located more than 30 inches (762 mm) above the floor or
    grade below shall have guards not less than 36 inches (914 mm)
    in height. Open sides of stairs with a total rise of more than 30
    inches (762 mm) above the floor or grade below shall have
    guards not less than 34 inches (864 mm) in height measured
    vertically from the nosing of the treads.

    The way I read this is, ONLY "Porches, balconies ramps or raised floor surfaces"
    are required to have guards, therefore window wells are not required to comply with R312 Guards.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Jerry
    You said "... the stairs needs to have a landing at the bottom and at the top, and all landings greater than 30" above the grade below require guardrails."

    The way I understand the code, your statement above is incorrect.
    Am I reading something wrong?
    Before I posted that, I went back and skimmed through 311.5 and 311.6 to make sure it did not include "landings", not seeing it, I made my above post - albeit a very incorrect post it turns out as I missed precisely what I was looking for when I went back and skimmed through those sections.

    Goes to show that "skimming through" the code is not good enough, even when you know what you are looking for.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    I've looked I can't find the info. I know some of the north shore burbs have codes on window well covers, ladders and size based on depth. I did a job northwest a few years ago and ran into it. It was arlington heights, glenview, mount prospect, somewhere.
    Sorry, I know it doesn't help much Michael, it's all I've got right now.

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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Markus, I would not concern myself with jurisdictions that accept what Ive posted below. I would title such as How to trap and kill folks. Id report anything like that in a heartbeat because its highly hazardous to occupants and presents a classic definition of obstructing emergency egress and rescue. EC Jerry would probably describe those rooms as burn room one & burn room two? Should you find a local jurisdiction that accepts that sort of condition I have some friends with "Esquire" after their names who I suspect may be interested?

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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    WC Jerry,

    I've come up with a new name for them ...

    I used to call them 'Fry Room 1' and 'Fry Room 2', but now I'm considering:

    'Unlicensed Crematorium 1' and 'Unlicensed Crematorium 2'

    What do you think?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  15. #15
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    Wink Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    I like "Fry" best as everybody know what that means. I'm afraid we have some folks who may not know what a Crematorium is?
    (small pitcher of cream used by folks who don't like their straight coffee black, right?)

    Then there's always BBQ 1 and BBQ 2.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Here ya' go:

    Per BK's engineering department manufacturers of egress systems utilizing window wells should be getting ESRs for the individual product, for example B-K's ESR for the assembly above is ESR 1856, http://www.icc-es.org/reports/pdf_fi...S/ESR-1856.pdf

    The ESR will in turn reference the ICC-ES Acceptance Criteria for Window Wells, which I found at http://www.icc-es.org/criteria/pdf_files/ac337.pdf., and which includes the following:

    Section 3.4 Window Well Opening Covers: Window wells shall be provided with an opening cover. The cover shall be designed in accordance with the applicable code to support a minimum live load of 40 pounds per square foot. The cover shall be operable from within the window well without the use of tools or special knowledge, and shall require no more than 30 pounds of force to fully open.



    Michael Thomas
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Thanks Michael for the reference, but frankly I have a hard time imagining a elderly senior citizen, child or a person with disabilities pushing that required cover out of the way with flames licking at their backsides? Hell, Id live with the smell of a dead animal that expired in my window well or install a guard rail as I showed in my earlier post.

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Window well covers/grates required?

    Michael,

    From that ES Report: "The ladder is 12 inches (305 mm) wide with rungs that project 4 inches (102 mm) from the wall and that area spaced 12 inches (305 mm) on center."

    From the IRC: "Ladders or rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches (305 mm), shall project at least 3 inches (76 mm) from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches (457 mm) on center vertically for the full height of the window well."

    Question:

    1) From the ES Report "The ladder is 12 inches ... wide" - is that measured inside-to-inside or outside-to-outside?

    The ES Report does not say, but the IRC requires it to be "inside width of at least 12 inches".

    'Looks like' the ladder goes all the way up, with the top rung at the top of the window well, as required by the IRC.

    Of course, though, in the photo WC Jerry posted, that was defeated by placing retaining wall stones around it, raising the height of the window well without raising the height of the ladder to match.

    Another point of interest (at least to me) are those flat grates, what a perfect place to store the garbage cans, full, and heavy, and what about other things which *will* be stored on the grates?


    As WC Jerry said "but frankly I have a hard time imagining a elderly senior citizen, child or a person with disabilities pushing that required cover out of the way with flames licking at their backsides? Hell, Id live with the smell of a dead animal that expired in my window well or install a guard rail as I showed in my earlier post."

    Fry Room 1

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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