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Step by step instructions, with video demonstrations on how to install a basement egress

One of the quickest ways to add value to your home is to renovate your basement. When renovating your basement, by law, you must add an egress, or emergency exit; this is also true if you want an additional room to be considered a bedroom for resale.

top view of basement egress

You can solve the problem by cutting a large opening in a basement wall and adding a window that meets code requirements for an egress. Around a thousand to two-thousand dollars and a few days of hard work for two people is usually about what it will take to complete the job.  While this may seem a dirty project, there's nothing particularly complicated about it, when you consider the value it will add to your home.  The first step is to make sure you have all the tools necessary to do the job. You will need a lot of ambition and a shovel to dig the hole. Plan your work around the weather; make sure the weather is not going to be rainy; otherwise the dirt may wash back in the hole causing you to dig it out again. You will need access to a hose to clean the dirt and mud off the foundation before you begin cutting the foundation.  You will need a concrete demolition saw to cut the hole in the foundation;  if you do not own one you, can rent one at Home Depot or another tool rental store. Because of the amount of dust it creates, you will need eye protection such as goggles and a tight-fitting dust mask so you won’t breathe in concrete dust. You will also need a wheel barrel to haul off any debris. Once you have all the items, you are ready to start.
To begin, you must first dig a large hole next to the foundation that is at least six inches deeper than the bottom of the future window and about forty eight square inches around. It would be wise to go deeper by eighteen inches, and then lay in drain tile and covering it with half-inch gravel; this will allow for proper drainage in the event it does rain. You will then need to clean the wall the best you can and draw the perimeter of the future window with a grease pencil or chalk, adding two inches all the way around to account for the wood frame. Then, use your concrete saw to make the cuts. The first cut should only be about a quarter to a half inch deep, while you concentrate on making a straight line. Once you have your first cut, you can go back over it and focus on cutting it deeper. If you are cutting a cinder-block foundation, a one inch deep cut is sufficient. For a solid cement foundation wall, you will need to finish with a cut that’s at least three inches deep.  Ideally, the cut should extend halfway through the wall. With the opening cut on both sides, start tapping the upper blocks with a hammer until they either break loose whole or crumble in pieces.  In most cases, a jack-hammer or sledge hammer would work best.
Now that you have your hole, you will need to build a pressure-treated box to fit the new opening which will become your new frame.  view of framed basement egressOnce you have built the box, and checked to ensure it fits the hole snugly into the opening, remove it and apply construction adhesive to those surfaces of the opening. Press the box so that the outer edges are flush with the outside of the wall. Now you’re ready to secure the window to the surrounding framework. According to most code specifications, you should expect to need a window with an opening of 5.7 square feet. Some codes count the glass area, while others measure the area with the window open; it is best to make sure a full-grown man can fit safely through the opening.  A vertical casement window with 6 square feet of access is a good choice for a retro-fit installation. The bottom of the window opening should not be more than forty-four inches up from the floor. Most codes will allow a concrete block on the floor of the well to serve as a step, as long as it doesn't interfere with the window's opening.
Make sure to purchase a window with installation fins surrounding the frame; most window frames have the slots and fins may be purchased separately. To install the window, ensure the fins are properly fastened to the window. Apply a generous bead of caulk to the box perimeter. Place the window in the opening and have a helper on the inside center and level it while you nail through the mounting fins into the surrounding box. With the window nailed in place, mix a small amount of mortar and fill the gap between the wall and the box, and any cracks in the concrete that were caused by demolition. To finish the installation on the outside, cut the top trim to fit, press it into the siding recess and nail it in place. Finally, caulk the seams between the trim and basement wall, between the trim and siding, and all around the window. Then, prime and paint the trim. Once you have finished installing your new window, you can insert the window well. Lower the well into the hole. Level the well side to side and attach it with screws. To finish the bottom of the well, add about three inches of gravel to the floor to keep rain from splashing mud against the window.top view of basement egress
Now that you have finished all the messy work outside you can begin framing the wall around the window inside. At the window, position the studs so the inside perimeter of the framed opening lines up with the outer perimeter of the window casing. Then, insulate between the casing and the box. Nail metal J-bead to the box on all four sides. Keep the metal bead about a sixteenth inch away from the wood casing. If necessary, add cardboard shims between the J-bead and box to bring the bead in line with the outside of the window casing. With the J-bead nailed in place, slide strips of half-inch drywall into the bead channel and nail or screw the strips to the framed opening. Caulk the sixteenth-inch gap between the metal bead and the casing. 
Now that you have a properly built egress-window-escape route that will pass inspection, you can begin the task of finishing your basement. Once you have the drywall completed you will need to install corner bead where the opening meets the wall. Finally, finish with drywall joint compound, and paint the jamb extensions with a primer and paint of your choice. You now have a whole new living space. And of course, what's good for you will be good for the next owner as well. With an extra bedroom, you could recover ten to twenty times your window installation investment when you eventually sell your home, not to mention the new window will add much needed light to the previously dark-gloomy basement. Of course, the primary benefit of a deep window egress is an easily accessible opening through which you can escape, or a firefighter can enter in the event of a basement fire. If you are thinking of renting out your basement space, or having a family member or friend live in the area, remember those tiny little windows that most basements are built with are not sufficient as an escape route in the event of an emergency.