Basements are an interesting part of your home, as most of the time they are below ground level, often called “below grade”. This makes it challenging to get natural sunlight into basements although sometimes, when the ground is sloped, one basement wall will support a sliding patio door for sunlight and access. Even then, what often happens is this door is under a deck so light is still a problem.
In order to bring some natural light into the basement, there are different windows that are installed at the top of the wall. Some may be just above ground level (pictured in the foundation here) and others require a well to be dug out around them to provide enough sunlight.
Picking Your Basement Windows
When you think about replacing your home's windows, don't forget to evaluate how energy efficient your basement windows are. This is especially important when you have finished some/all of the basement, including heating it. Like every other window in your home, your basement windows affect your home's heating and/or cooling costs.
Here is a quick overview of the key decisions you need to make when picking new basement windows?. At my handyman business, we prefer to measure and order custom basement windows from our regional supplier, Harvey Building Products. This saves time with the installation as we're able to reuse the existing rough framing in which these windows site and we've installed 100s of them over the years.
- Vinyl, aluminum or wood, and given these windows are close to the ground, vinyl is ideal as it is more energy efficient than aluminum and less prone to moisture problems. For finished basements you can get wood windows that are vinyl clad on the outside.
- Energy efficiency ranges from single pane to double pane windows with different options for the air or gas trapped between the glass panes, providing higher levels of energy savings.
When buying windows, be careful to get the manufacturer's documentation to support any planned tax credits. You can learn more about these tax credits at the Energy Star web site, and the insulating value will be determined based on where you live.
- Window style will depend on your home and type of windows throughout your house, although it is common for basement windows to be different. Hopper windows open at the top while awning windows open at the bottom.
- Window size is important. Today's International Building Code (IRC) requires windows to be a minimum of 24 inches wide by 20 inches high, to allow exiting the window in case of a fire.