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Question DetailsAsked on 10/29/2016

Sunken living room with long windows that open is there a max distance from floor to window before floor is leveled

We had long windows in the sunken living room that did not open. When they were replaced we made them open. We need to raise the floor 5.5 inches and that will put the opening of the window at about 14 inches from floor to opening as they are now 19 inches (subtracted 1" for pad and carpet). Is there a code that says there needs to be a certain amount of room between floor and opening of window.

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Yep - talk to your local building department about which code applies in your area. Ignoring situations specifically requiring safety glass anyway because you are near to stairs or a door, which might or might not apply - usually not in your case, unless you are within 3 feet or stairs or a door:

For the current iteration of the most common codes, IF the window opens more than 4", AND there is more than 9 square feet of glass in the window AND the bottom is less than 18" off the flooring (20" in some areas, 24 in others by local amendments) AND the top of the glass is over 36" off the floor, then you need either safety glass or an approved barricade preventing body contact with the glass.

Barricade type depends on circumstances, but commonly a railing to same standards as on a deck - with same ability to resist load against it, non-climable design (for tots), not over 4" openings in it, etc. Can also be a solid barrier able to resist the specified force without breaking or deflecting enough to contact the glass - thick plexiglass or acrylic sheet is sometimes used for this purpose, as are banister and stiles like in normal stair balcony railings.

If willing to limit the opening to 4" or less, most opening devices can be modified to blocked to prevent that. If these windows are required egress windows, there are devices that limit the opening to that amount but allow pushing past the blockage with 15# of force for emergency exit.

Also, if an emergency egress window, be sure any barriers used (if you go that route) be sure to not violate the dimensions required for egress. in some cases, you may find you need a barrier for safety, but it is then too high for egress so you need a step-up or platform sothe barrier is not too high. In those cases, the life-safety provisions conflict - soem code officials will decide which you need to follow, others will say raise the window or put in barrier to meet minimum required height and then put a step-up platform in front for the maximum allowable height per the emergency egress requirement. The theory here is that the barrier is needed to prevent children from falling through the window, which they are far more likely to do when running (on the floor - not on the step-up platform), then use maximum allowable egress height barrier to protect against kids falling through the window when standing on the platform. Sounds sort of screwy I know, but imagine large, low-sill height windows in a 100 story building and you can visualize the issues at hand.

Obviously, if in a sunken room you may have little or no height to ground level from the bottom of the window, so the falling-out protection would not be needed - just the mandated protection against falling into the window while tripping and falling within the room.

On that note - if but only if the bottom of the window opening is more than 6 feet off the ground (can be less - I have seen it down to 3 feet in some areas by local or state code amendments), then either the window has to be safety glass or the bottom of the glass AND bottom of the opening has to be at least 36" above the floor under the International Building Code, or 24" under the International Residential Building Code - whichever applies in your area. Or your area may have specific code amendments on this - many major cities specifically write their own standards for this issue.

If you have an architect on the job, he/she should be able to answer what your local area requires and which code they use. If not, talk to the local building permit department about what standards apply in your case. They may have a guideline document on-line - or local window dealers or the contractor who redid the windows may have a copy they can show you.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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