At the surface, a basement window is a very simple thing. For buildings with a basement, they often have windows opening to the outside. These windows allow light and fresh air to enter, giving the basement a more comfortable feel. Typically, they open by rotating outwards with the hinge at the top of the window. And so, they seem like a simple thing, until you consider other things that they must allow in and keep out.
Basement Windows and Water
First off, it is important that basement windows keep water out. Being that basements are below ground, they are always susceptible to flooding. A leaky window will result in some degree of flooding. So, basement windows must remain in good repair and seal tightly when closed. Also, the ground near the window must have proper drainage and not funnel water to the window. External attachments can be purchased, such as a foot tall shield around the basement window, keeping water and debris away.
Basement Windows and Safety
Another thing to keep out is burglars, because any window at ground level is an inviting target. A simple glass window can easily be broken with a rock or boot. So, reinforcing basement windows or building them with glass bricks is a common solution. Other solutions involve window coverings or use of a cross brace. There are several steps you can take to prevent burglary. It is also recommended that the basement be locked from the inside, so burglars cannot enter the main residence from the basement.
Basement Windows and Cold
Finally, in colder climates, basement windows are a common location for cold air to leak into a home. To prevent higher heating bills, it is important that the windows seals have additional forms of insulation to hold in heat.
Basement Window Requirements
The International Residential Code states that windows must be 24"W X 20"H to allow occupants to escape in case of fire, or for firefighters to enter if needed. Different municipalities may have other requirements, but in general, at least one window is required in a basement. If a basement is meant for storage, the number of windows is not important, but if a basement is for living space, it is generally advised to have as many windows as possible to allow in more light. Overall, a basement window brings more concerns than simply being a window. However, once addressed, they present no more trouble to a homeowner than any other window.