Egress windows are one of the most popular renovation projects and concrete cutting for windows using a wall saw is one of our most requested services. However, egress window legislation can be confusing and often customers will rely on their contractor to make decisions for them. In many cases with other contractors the result is an illegally installed window that can hurt you down the line. In this article, we’re going to make the egress bylaws in Calgary perfectly understandable so you can make a well-informed choice and know that your job is being done properly. You can read this whole guide or you can just skip to sections that are relevant to your concerns. We hope this helps to clarify these issues in one place!
What is an Egress Window?
An egress window is a legally required window capable of serving as a fire escape. In Calgary, unless your suite has sprinklers, “each bedroom or combination bedroom shall have at least one outside window or exterior door openable from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge and without the removal of sashes or hardware” The City of Calgary defines special knowledge as “knowledge of a movement or series of movements that would not be congruent with one simple motion to unlock the window and one simple motion to open it.” If your window or any hardware in front of it requires more than a simple unlatching, or sliding motion then it’s almost certainly illegal.
Keep in mind that all these requirements apply to security bars placed in front of windows. However, the city does require that security bar installation and window well grating is reviewed for approval on a case by case basis. It’s best to check with the city before installing costly security hardware that you may have to remove later.
What are the Dimensional Requirements of an Egress Window?
According to the City of Calgary egress window legislation any egress window must “provide an unobstructed opening of not less than 0.35 m2 in area” and none of the side dimensions can be less than 380mm. When operated in an emergency this window has to be able to maintain these dimensions without any additional support. Keep in mind these dimensions apply to the actual opening of a finished window. So, for example, if you use a slider you can only measure the openable portion of the window, not the full dimensions of the window.
If your window opens into a window well then “a clearance of not less than 760mm
shall be provided in front of the window” This means that your window well has to extend at least 760mm from the opening of the window. With certain types of windows this could mean a lot more than 760mm from the side of your house. If the window sash swings open into the window well then you will still need to provide a clearance of 760mm from this window sash to the edge of the well.
If you want to install a protective cover, such as a grate, over your window well then legislation requires that this “enclosure shall be openable from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge of the opening mechanism.” Any access requirements that hold for the window will also hold for any protective covering.
Acceptable Window Styles
Acceptable window styles are casement, horizontal slider, vertical slider, and tilt and turn, provided it requires no special knowledge to operate. Awning style windows are acceptable “provided the window may open a full 90 degree swing free of obstructions.” As above, this window has to be able to maintain its dimensions without any assistance. So, if your awning-style window can’t be locked in the open position and will tend to swing shut it’s not acceptable as an egress window. Whatever hardware the window uses to stay open also cannot obstruct egress. And, as mentioned above in regard to window wells “awning windows are not permitted for egress where it opens into a window well, unless there is a space of at least 760mm between the inside face of the window well and the sash of the fully opened window.”
Unacceptable Window Styles
The styles of window that are unacceptable are hopper windows, awning windows that don’t meet the above requirements, and any window that fails to meet legislated requirements due to its design.
Do I need a Building Permit?
Most people don’t realize they need a building permit from the City of Calgary in order to install new windows or enlarge existing ones if this requires structural changes such as concrete cutting. Many contractors will tell you this isn’t the case so they can rush the work through but this is completely unacceptable and could cost you in the long run.
You can see the City of Calgary building permit requirements and start applying here: http://www.calgary.ca/PDA/pd/Documents/carls/building-permit/home-renovations-and-basements.pdf
Do I need a Development Permit?
Window installation is subject to land-use bylaws, so if your egress window project will infringe on any of these requirements you’ll need a development permit. These requirements have to do with use of land near property lines. If you think this may be an issue you can contact the City of Calgary for more information.
Do I need a Trade Permit?
No, trade permits are only required if the work includes electrical, plumbing, gas or mechanical work.
I had a new window installed or enlarged an existing window without a permit. What should I do?
If you’ve had work performed in the past and you didn’t get the relevant permits you can still ask the City of Calgary to supply you with the relevant permits after the fact. This can save you a lot of headache down the road if you ever plan to sell your home, rent it, or make an insurance claim.
Call Before You Dig (Click Before You Dig)
If you’re digging a window well for your window you’ll need to contact Alberta One Call to get approval before digging. This is an important safety step that costs you nothing. The permits supplied by Alberta One Call are valid for 14 days so keep that in mind when planning your project. Even if you don’t need a window well you may need to excavate to make room for concrete cutting equipment. You can contact us for more information on these dimensions. You can get started with Alberta One Call here: http://albertaonecall.com/
Rodeo Cutting & Coring prides itself on its safety standards and we are happy to work with you to make this process as painless as possible. Most egress window projects will require concrete cutting using a wall saw. In the future, we’ll write an article providing more information about this process. In the meantime, if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Some Legal Stuff
Let’s get some legal stuff out of the way. This information cannot replace appropriate legislation and legal advice. In this article, we will point to this legislation and help you understand it, but ultimately the responsibility for following the law is your own. If in doubt, call the City of Calgary.