Your Comprehensive Guide to Basement Windows

Jun 20, 2024
basement windows, MILGARD

When was the last time you thought about your basement windows? The windows in this area of the house tend to be a “set it and forget it” project – until you realize it’s time to replace them. New construction projects have another set of considerations, like building codes and whether the basement will be finished. This guide will go over everything you need to know about basement windows, no matter what kind of project you’re working on. 


What Are Basement Windows?

Basement windows are specially designed windows installed in the basement level of a home or building. They serve several important functions, including providing natural light, ventilation, and an easy exit in case of emergencies (known as egress windows). Basement windows come in various styles and types to meet different needs and building codes.


Standard Basement Window Sizes

Basement window sizes vary based on the type and intended use of the window. For general purposes, standard basement window sizes range from 14 inches to 32 inches wide and 10 inches to 24 inches high. You can choose these small basement window sizes if you only want ventilation and light. 

However, if you want an egress window, it will need to have an “actual opening,” which means the space where the person can exit, of at least 820 square inches. To meet these requirements, window sizes typically range from 24 inches by 36 inches to 48 inches by 48 inches, depending on the style. Check your local building codes, because egress requirements can vary by area.


Why Do You Need Basement Windows?

Whether you’re building a new home or looking to replace basement windows, you might be wondering: Do I even need windows? Before you skip windows for the basement or seal them up, consider all the benefits:


  • Natural light: Basement windows bring in natural light, making the space feel brighter and more welcoming.
  • Aesthetic appeal: They can improve the overall look of the basement, making it more livable. This is especially important for finished basements.
  • Ventilation: Basements can be damp. Windows provide necessary ventilation, helping to reduce moisture and improve air quality.
  • Egress: Larger basement windows can offer a safe exit in case of emergencies. They might be required by building codes in some areas. 
  • Increased home value: Well-designed and functional basement windows can add value to your home by making the basement a more usable space.
  • Energy efficiency: Modern basement windows are more energy-efficient. They typically use insulated glass and other features to help maintain a consistent temperature and reduce energy bills.


Types of Basement Windows

Choosing the right basement window style depends on your ventilation requirements, available space, safety needs, and personal preferences. Here are a few of the most common styles for basement windows.


Hopper Basement Windows

Hopper-style basement windows are hinged at the bottom and open inward from the top, providing good ventilation. They’re compact, making them ideal for basements with limited space, and are easy to clean from the inside. Their small size and the way they open also helps make them more secure, but they won’t work as egress windows.


Awning Basement Windows

Awning windows are similar to hopper windows, but they’re hinged at the top and open outward. This design allows them to remain open even during light rain, providing continuous ventilation. They’re often used in basements where consistent airflow is needed. Like the hopper style, these are small basement windows that usually won’t meet the size requirements for emergency exit.


Sliding Basement Windows

If you’re looking for basement egress windows, the horizontal sliding style is a popular choice. These windows feature two sashes that slide horizontally past each other. They’re easy to operate, have a wide opening, and don’t require exterior space to open. They’re also very versatile and can be made in narrower shapes that fit basement openings. 


Casement Basement Windows

For larger basement areas, casement windows are also a good choice for egress windows or if you want a lot of ventilation. Casement windows are hinged at the side and open outward like a door. They provide a wide opening that uses the full frame of the window. However, they do require exterior space to open fully.

basement windows, MILGARD

How to Replace Basement Windows

Replacing old basement windows doesn’t have to be a chore. Consider the following factors to ensure you make the most of your replacement windows.


Window Type and Function

When replacing basement windows, first determine their primary function, such as improving light, ventilation, or providing an emergency exit. Choose the right type of window based on your needs: hopper, awning, casement, or sliding are the most popular options. 


Size and Measurements

Learning how to measure replacement windows is essential for a proper fit. Measure the existing basement window openings precisely, considering the depth, width, and height of the space. If you need an egress window, make sure it meets local building codes for size and opening requirements.


Installation and Waterproofing

A basement window installation project almost always requires a professional. Properly sealing and waterproofing windows is especially important for basements, which are already prone to mold and water damage. Hiring a professional can also help ensure the window operates correctly.


Material and Durability

The unique properties of basements also mean it’s important to choose durable, low-maintenance materials. Vinyl windows are a cost-effective option and are long-lasting and easy to clean. For the ultimate durability and energy efficiency, go with fiberglass windows


Energy Efficiency

Most modern basement windows come with energy-efficient features like double- or triple-paned glass. Consider additional options like Low-E coatings, 4th surface coatings, tints, and argon or krypton gas between panes for even better thermal performance. 


Budget and Cost

Determine your budget for the project, including the cost of the windows, installation, and any additional features like window wells or security enhancements. Vinyl basement windows are usually the most affordable, while fiberglass is on the higher end. However, don’t forget to consider the long-term energy savings and potential increase in home value when evaluating the cost.


Basement Window Treatments

Once you install or replace your basement windows, it’s time for the final step: decorating them. Even windows for basements that are unfinished can be spruced up with these ideas. 


Blinds for Basement Windows

Blinds are a versatile and practical basement window treatment, providing excellent control over light and privacy. Choose moisture-resistant materials like faux wood or aluminum to withstand humidity. Vertical blinds are ideal for larger windows, while mini blinds work well for small basement windows. Motorized blinds can add convenience, especially in hard-to-reach areas.


Curtains for Basement Windows

Curtains offer a cozy and decorative touch to basement windows. Lightweight, sheer curtains allow natural light while maintaining privacy, whereas heavier drapes can add insulation and block light when needed. Always opt for moisture-resistant fabrics to help prevent mold and mildew. 


Glass Block Basement Windows

Glass block basement windows are a durable and stylish way to provide natural light while ensuring privacy and security. Glass blocks require minimal maintenance and are resistant to moisture, making them an ideal choice for both basement and shower windows. They’re also available in various patterns and textures, allowing you to customize the look.


Basement Window Grids

Window grids are a decorative touch that enhance your home’s curb appeal, and are especially popular for basement windows that face the street. They come in various styles, like colonial, prairie, and diamond, so you can add visual interest to your basement windows and make them match your home’s architectural style.


Ready for New Basement Windows?

Basement windows shouldn’t be an afterthought. Even if your basement isn’t finished, they’re essential to add natural light and ventilation to the space. Consulting with a professional is also especially important for basement windows: They can help you choose the right style and make sure the windows are properly installed to help prevent water damage and leakage. 

MILGARD Certified Dealers are experts in their field and can help you plan your perfect project. MILGARD products are the highest quality, backed by an industry-leading warranty and excellent customer service. Connect with a MILGARD Certified Dealer near you to get started on your basement window project. 

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