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Q.I know that the sill of an egress window in a second-floor bedroom must be no higher than a certain distance from the floor to allow for easy escape. But what if it’s a tall window that is only 12 inches off the floor? Is this a code violation?

A.Kelly Reynolds responds: All three model codes limit the maximum height of the sill to 44 inches. There is no minimum distance that a window must be from the floor, even for second-story windows. However, if the window extends to within 18 inches of the floor, it must either be safety-glazed or have a bar or other physical barrier to prevent someone from falling into the glazing.

To meet code, the open area of an egress window must have a minimum width of 20 inches and a minimum height of 24 inches, plus the opening must be a minimum of 5.7 square feet. Note that a 24x20-inch window does not meet code, because it creates only a 3.3 square foot opening. To comply, the window open area would need to be at least 24x34 inches to equal 5.7 square feet.

Kelly Reynolds is principal of Kelly P. Reynolds & Associates, a firm specializing in code interpretation and plan review, with offices in Chicago and Phoenix.

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