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DIYer 10-25-2007 11:29 AM

Adding egress in existing window opening
2 Attachment(s)
Hi there -- I checked the threads and didn't see these questions addressed.

In a basement bedroom I want to increase the opening of an existing window to meet the code for egress. It's a 1932 Tudor revival with brick exterior. There is a lintel supporting the brick veneer. The window currently lies directly below the floor joists (i.e. no concrete above the top of the window).


1) The window I want to convert to egress runs parallel to the floor joists. The rough opening will be 54 inches wide. Do I need to install a header, or do the 2X10's (I believe double, maybe triple, can't tell yet because I haven't taken out the window) floor joists currently above the window serve as the header?

2) It's a poured foundation, 14 inches thick. I am considering contracting out the cutting of the foundation. The rental cutoff saws won't cut that deep and the chain saws are at least $1400. Does anyone know of other potential options for cutting the foundation myself. The DIY books recommend getting a contractor to cut poured foundations (as opposed to block foundations).

See the attached images for reference.

Thanks for any input you might have.

glennjanie 10-25-2007 01:26 PM

Hello DIY'er:
An electric jack hammer would cut the hole out for you and an electric chipping hammer with a 'bushing head' would true it up and make a nice opening for the new window.
The existng 2 X 10's would probably suffice for the header in your case.

DIYer 10-26-2007 08:00 AM

Thanks for the quick input Glenn. I never thought of a jackhammer as a precise cutting tool.

More to follow, just need to expose more of the structure and snap some pics.

inspectorD 10-26-2007 08:17 PM

The only way to know if there is any load above is to follow the path down ...outside.
Are there windows above this area where the header is being carried by jack studs which land above this opening? Those kind of things. Or post a picture and we can help that way.

I think its a great idea to install an egress window. Let us know once you have some structure exposed.:)

DIYer 10-27-2007 09:55 AM

4 Attachment(s)
I peeled back another layer of my onion, I mean house, and it looks there was no proper header installed for this window. The interior brick was set directly on top of a 2X6 (I think). See the first 2 images.

There is a window above but there is no way I can tell if a header is installed without wrecking the lathe and plaster inside. 3rd picture. I doubt there was because there is no stud framing on the exterior walls of this house. You can see the lintel for the exterior brick in the 4th picture.

I think what I have to do is remove a few courses of that interior brick and instal a lintel. Then I need to put a header in beneath the lintel supported by 2 jack studs that will bottom out on the foundation, after the opening is made wider. I can anchor the king studs to the foundation. This will all be tricky because the joist is in the way.

The bigger trick will be removing the brick in a controlled manner so as to make room for a header, without disturbing the brick above.

I think that the interior brick extends from the rafters to the foundation, alot of weight. 2X12 header to be safe.

More thoughts on this? Am I on the right track?

glennjanie 10-27-2007 01:36 PM

Hey DIY'er:
Yes, you are on a good track. I don't think we have to worry about you.

mudmixer 10-27-2007 03:16 PM

The size is not the only requirement for a window to be an egress window. There is a requirement for the maximum sill height. - Check with your local code office since not are all the same.

you don't want to go through all the work with the right window and find out it is installed too high.

inspectorD 10-28-2007 07:59 AM

So there is the picture...worth a thousand words.:D
You don't have a brick have a brick structure. You have a home with interior and exterior brick which holds the next floor above. This will not work with conventional framing since shrinkage of the wood will end up cracking your structure above.

This is a big DIY project . My opinion is to get an engineer to figure out what you actually need to do and DIY from there. Or hire it out.
The code for hieght in my area is 42 inches for the sill off the ground ...but find out from your building code guy what they want Mudmixer said, depends on where you live.

Good luck and tell us what you find out.:)

DIYer 10-28-2007 11:27 AM

Uh oh, I 've already taken out the brick ... kidding.

The code for my area is that the sill height must not be more than 44 inches off the ground. Openable window dimensions must be 5.7 ft^2 and minimum dimensions are 35" X 24" tall or 20" X 41" tall. I've got the window well requirements figured out. There are relaxed ceiling height and no natural light requirements for houses built before 1990 in my area.

It will be a while before I post on this again. Need to mull it over. I see some large purchases in my near future, larger than what I was originally anticipating.

Thanks for everyone's input, I'll let you know what I find out.

DIYer 10-30-2007 02:19 PM

I figured it would take me longer to get this sorted out but....

I talked to several structural engineers who would be happy to take a look for 400 bucks, but I did find one who wanted to chat. He's also done alot of this kind of analysis and here was his perspective.

1. In a foundation this old, it is very unlikely that the concrete is reinforced. Therefore, when cutting the new opening (especially this big) one would very likely develop cracks at the corners of the new opening. This isn't a deal breaker, but would also likely lead to unsightly cracks in the brick mortar. If you've done any re-pointing you know it's an art not easily mastered.

2. He recommended, if I decided to go forward with the opening, to first drill a few holes (not all the way through) into the foundation to see how soft the concrete was. If the bit penetrates easily, similar to the old mortar, then it could lead to alot of $ cost $ in shoring up the foundation. If you work at it for a few minutes and don't get very far, then you have harder concrete (makes sense). I know that when this house was built, concrete was hard to come by so these foundations tend to be soft.

3. Reinforcing the internal and external brick was the other issue. The reinforcing would include 2 angle lintels bolted together. One would be on the outside and the other on the inside. You would pre-drill through the external lintel and brick, slide the bolt through, line up the other lintel (on the inside) and drill matching holes in the angle iron. Then bolt them together. This is way over-simplified. For example, in my house the mortar for the external and internal brick does not line up therefore the lintels would not line up. Also the stresses of reinforcing the brick could also lead to unsightly cracking of the mortar on the outside.

So why do you still need an engineer to take a look? Because they will do the load analysis and recommend lintel span and bolt size.

No wonder contractors don't return my call when I leave a voicemail explaining what I want to do!

So for other folks considering this, the older the house the more complicated especially if you have a brick structure, and a soft foundation.

My cost benefit analysis indicates that I should frame in some steps below that window so that someone can get out in a fire and forget about meeting egress code. It all boils down to, can you get out of the existing window? If yes, then forget about adding egress (at least for an old brick house like this). If no, and you expand a window, budget in some $$ for unexpected costs.

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