I understand "code" now on basement is to have a secondary (besides
stairs) egress from basement if you want to put living quarters in
basement. I have seen products to make basement windows large enough
to make them emergency exits, but they are a big project, and involve
cutting the basement walls. They are expensive as well.
How about this instead:
Take a built-in ladder, meant to be installed in an attic, and install
it into the ceiling of basement/floor of first floor. Obviously it
would leave a big folded up ladder on the floor on the first floor,
but you could hide it with a built-in bookshelf, maybe a built-in
bench. Maybe you could design it into the floor of a broom closet.
Or maybe you could install it in such a manner (drop it down) that it
could just intall it with a flat trap door over it.
It seems a clever manufacturer could design a ladder that sits flat
from above, and has all the ladder hanging below. (as opposed to the
current attic design, which is flat from below, and all the ladder
parts sit up high). It would make it a lot easier to build to code in
On 20 Jan 2004 07:09:07 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (Rotation
A rope ladder could be concealed between the basement ceiling and the
flooring above with a trap door providing access to the ground floor.
This would provide the emergency exit required whilst causing minimal
visual impact and inconvenience.
First you should be contacting the building inspector. Second your going to
find, I think that they are going to require an outside exit from the
basement. Not through the house. A buddy of mine had to put an exterior
stair well in and a small patio with doors from all but 1 bedroom going to
the outside. He hated the expense in the beginning but got to like it after
I don't have a code-book nearby, but
I believe that the second means of egress has to be separated from the
first by a fire assembly, which you're unlikely to have in a
dwelling, which means that you'd probably have to build a complete
landing/lobby for your stairwell, with it's own outside exit.
 Not only can the two means of egress to pass through the same
spaces/rooms, the spaces that they DO pass through have to
have a (I forget, 2 hour?) rated walls, doors, floors and ceilings
between them. With all the penetrations for wires, pipes etc, sealed.
All of which is a PITA.
Also, it's a bad idea to put your trapdoor someplace where
it's likely to get covered or blocked, so closets are right out.
In any case, the second exit helps you meet your
lighting and ventilation minimums, and if you make it
big enough it will also help get construction materials and
furniture in and out.
Now, if you're too close to the property line to put in a
bulkhead or window well, THEN it might make sense
to put your egress within the building envelope. In which case
I'd go with a masonry tower inside one wall, with a spiral
stair in it. That would meet the requirements, be architecturaly
interesting, and give you someplace bullet resistant to hide
when they come to get you.
email@example.com (Rotation Slim) wrote in message
Hmmm, a trapdoor into the basement under a bookshelf ... that opens
automatically when you tilt the big leatherbound Edgar Allen Poe
volume! Your place would be a hit at Hallowe'en!
I'm pretty sure that the basement egress, as required by code, needs
to go straight outdoors. A corridor or vestibule may be ok but I
believe I've read that access into a garage is specifically not
suitable. And I seem to recall that doors mounted horizontally, like a
lot of backyard basement access, don't count either.
Keep in mind that part of the intent is to allow *ingress* by
firefighters with equipment (like air tanks). This is why the minimum
sizes are rather larger than what a person can squeeze through.
Yes, retrofitting code-compliant sleeping quarters into a basement is
darned hard in many situations.
what if my 5 year old has a sleep over with your little timmy and they
decide to sleep downstairs, in the event of a fire, would they be able
to use or reach this secondary exit, assuming that the primary exit is
blocked by fire? I assume you will have posted instructions on how to
escape in an emergency and that also assumes that you will show how to
use the secondary fire escape.
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