Window Well to the Rescue!

Bedrooms below grade need proper escape and rescue openings (EERO). In the context of remodeling a basement this needs to be taken into account if the rooms we are creating are to meet current requirements to be called a “sleeping room.”

Many older homes that have windows into the basement were never designed for escape and rescue and were there to simply provide light and/or ventilation to the basement.

Since proper escape and rescue requires that windows meet minimum net opening sizes, there are almost always going to be necessary changes to the foundation wall to meet these requirements. Besides the opening size, the bottom of the opening can’t be more than 44” above the finished basement floor. In the picture below you can see the nice escape and rescue window installed for this new basement sleeping room.

Escape and Rescue openings

Escape and Rescue openings

While the height above the floor is OK, the net opening size was only 14″ x 33″ and does not meet current EERO requirements. The absolute “minimum” size for an opening that is 33″ high would be 22″ wide (because the window is at grade it can be a little bit smaller than if it was above grade).

Once we have made our opening and that opening is below grade, window wells at the exterior will be necessary. This complicates the whole business of providing EERO to the room because there are minimum sizes for the well that must be met. If it is over 44” deep it will need a ladder and it might even need some sort of guard to prevent someone falling into the well.

All of a sudden meeting the escape and rescue requirement has gotten even more expensive.

So let’s assume that you know there has to be proper EERO and lets also assume that you know there has to be a proper window well at the exterior too. In the following picture you can see that someone went to a LOT of work to build a very nice window well for EERO that is actually big enough for two adjacent basement rooms.

Window well

Window well

There is only one rather costly problem.

It is the wrong distance between the house wall and the outside wall of the well–only 28.”  That minimum dimension is 36.”

So while they had the “idea” right, they obviously did not know all the specific requirements that would prevent them from having to tear it all out and start over. It is also an indication of work being done without permits.

Whoops!

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Carbon Monoxide, and Naps

It may not be the Turkey that makes you sleepy.

Carbon monoxide from an electric oven

Cooking the turkey for hours can introduce considerable amounts of carbon monoxide to the home during the cooking process.  Turkey has a component that has been attributed to that nap after dinner.  Others hypothesize it is just eating too much that leads to sleepiness.  It is also possible that exposure to Carbon Monoxide is a contributor.

If carbon monoxide is a culprit, it is not only related to gas ovens. 

I am not sure how much CO is given off in an electric oven during the cooking of a turkey, but certainly some amount is likely. I will have to wait until Thanksgiving to get more information on that.

Considerable is created when using the self-clean function of the oven. 

My own oven gives off between 28 and 3 PPM for the first 1-1/2 hours of the 3 hour cycle.  After that time, whatever was creating the CO was successfully incinerated and CO levels dropped to normal. 

These amounts are perhaps not enough to kill you, but certainly enough to affect a person–especially infants that might be around.

In the first 15 minutes of operation, my own oven gave off about 28 PPM, after about half an hour it settled down to 12 PPM and after about an hour it was down to 5 PPM.  At the one-hour mark, ambient CO levels in the kitchen 10 feet away from the oven hovered around 3 PPM—with the exhaust fan on and a window open.

I suspect the amount of CO will depend on what the oven is burning off in the cleaning mode, and levels likely could be considerably higher, and for longer periods of time, if the oven is not cleaned very often.  I clean min probably twice a year.  I may start doing it more often now.

Of course your ordinary CO alarm is “not allowed” to alarm, per its listing, at these low levels, so most of the time you will have no idea why you need a nap.

I think the lesson here is to clean your ovens regularly–don’t wait until you can see the bottom of the oven.  You should also run the kitchen exhaust hood the whole cleaning cycle and keep a window open.

Perhaps I will go take a nap, while I wait for the oven to finish.

Charles Buell, real estate inspections in Seattle

Grandfather gets grandfathered

Once-upon-a-time, grandpa was working on a junction box in the basement when he came in contact with the neutral of a multi-wire circuit for the dishwasher/disposal. He had shut the circuit down but because there was no handle tie–the neutral was still energized.

He got such a shock he fell off the ladder and broke his leg—already compromised by long term lead exposure.

There was no way he was going to make it up the stairs, so he thought if he could crawl to the basement bedroom he would be able to get out the window. However, the window was too high off the floor and way too small to fit through. It was not an option.

By now it was getting dark and he was beginning to panic.

The stairs loomed like a mountain in front of him, dark and ominous. There was no light switch to light up the stairs and he might not have been able to figure out a way to turn it on anyway. The missing handrail would also be of no help. So, he began the long painful slide up the stairs dragging his sorry leg behind him.

Fighting all the way, to avoid sliding back down the too steep stairs, he finally got to the top. That is when he realized he left his keys on the basement workbench. He remembered it being a bad idea when he set them down.

Without his keys he could not unlock the keyed deadbolt. It would have been excruciating to reach anyway, but after the stairs he figured he could have managed.

He thought about the back door but calling for help from there would have been useless. It had to be the front door.

He thought about the phone hanging on the kitchen wall 5 feet off the floor, but he had already ruled out being able to reach that.

He lay there listening to himself wheeze, mustering all the common sense he could.  He likely later would trade that for good sense instead.

He decided his only option was to break the very large plate glass panel next to the door to call for help.

He lifted the heavy cast iron Cherub door stop and smashed the glass with one painful blow. The non-safety-glass panel shattered into large guillotine shaped pieces that swooshed down slicing off poor grandpa’s hand.

He bled to death right there.

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle