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