Add a Basement Window to Gain Livable Space

Basement Windows

Are you thinking about finishing your basement? If so, a great thing to do to make a basement more pleasant and feel less like a basement is to introduce natural daylight. A typical windowless basement room can feel like a cave. If you can find a way to add a window or glass door to your basement, you’ll be glad you went to the effort to make it happen. We all like to be able to see outside. A view and daylight make us happy.

If your property slopes and a portion of your basement is not underground, you probably have an opportunity to add a window in at least one wall. It’s even better if you can add windows on two walls, even if one of the windows must be high on the wall to be above the soil on the outside. In my opinion, rooms with windows on two walls always feel best. If the land slopes enough, you might be able to create a true walk-out basement. Making those doors be glass will give you the benefits of both a door and a window.

Adding Basement Windows to this Partially Underground Basement Room Transforms It into a Pleasant Office.

Windows in New Basements or Existing Basements

Of course, it is easiest to put windows in a basement wall during new construction. But it is not as difficult as you might think to add windows to an existing basement. Cutting through a concrete block wall or even a poured concrete wall is frequently done, provided you have the right tools. They make great saws just for cutting concrete. I’ve done this numerous times. The job requires a special saw to cut the holes. Even if you are an accomplished handyman, you may want to hire someone to cut the hole in the basement wall for you. Then you can do the rest of the work yourself. Or you could save yourself some trouble and hire a contractor for the entire job. It is safer and easier to simply write a check, sometimes.

Windows in Fully Underground Basements

If your basement is fully underground and you don’t have a sloping yard to work with, windows can still be placed high in basement walls and a window well can be created on the exterior to lower the ground down outside the window. You can build the well yourself out of concrete block or bricks. But there are prefabricated window wells made specifically for this purpose that make the job much easier. Just be sure to provide good drainage around and out of the bottom of this well so you can avoid any flooding potential. Placing a clear cover over the well will help keep water, leaves, and snow out of the well. Adding basement windows even below grade in a window well will still provide your basement with a good deal of natural light and alleviate the “cave effect.”

Windows in Bedrooms

The Building Code requires operable windows as a means of egress (and escape route) from all bedrooms. Egress windows must open to a clear opening of certain dimensions for escape. If you are adding basement windows to create a bedroom, be sure to confirm that the window you add meets these egress opening requirements. The building code also has a requirement for natural light and ventilation in bedrooms. Your egress window should satisfy that requirement, as well.

If your basement window needs to be an egress window and is below grade, you will need to use a window well that also meets the building code requirement for egress. There are approved covers for these window wells that allow approved egress.

Adding a window to your basement will dramatically change the feel and usefulness of your basement. For more useful tips and ideas about basement design click here.

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch

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