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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I bought my first house and got all excited to build my first home theater in the basement, but when I went to the city to get a building permit for it they said I needed to put a second egress in the room. An extra window big enough for someone to climb out of. Now I'm all for safety, but I have seen very few HT that have a window in them.


I know building codes probably vary from place to place, but does anyone know how to get around this short of cutting out the cement wall ($$$)? And what problems may come up if I just don't get a building permit?


Thanks,

4Life
 

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Ask that question to your home owners insurance carrier. Then decide. The window can be treated for both sound and light problems. Egress is not something to try to get around.
 

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Wayne is right. Until you need to escape a fire, you won't need the window. But when it happens, there's not enough time. However, nobody says it has to be a window; you could consider a basement door, which would be opaque.


All that being said, I've been under the impression that bedrooms require egress that other rooms don't. Check the building codes yourself to be sure, and also follow Wayne's advice about checking with your insurance company.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
thanks. I probably should qualify "way around" by saying its a standard basement with windows aready there, so I was hoping to somehow bring it up to code without cutting the walls.


The thing that I don't understand is why its alright if I watch tv down there now without a 4th wall (3 cement ones that exist), but the minute I put up a 4th I have to get another exit.


I appreciate your advice though (Wayne, Larry), I didn't even think of insurance, I was thinking more along the lines of when I go to sell the house, it not being up to code.


Any suggestions on what to ask or look for in a building contractor that will add the correct egress?
 

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Of coarse it varies by town, but our local building code requires an egress window in the basement if the room is defined as a "bedroom". Their definition of a bedroom is any room that contains a closet. Even though it's being used as an HT or Home Office, once you put a closet in it, the town considers it a bedroom and requires an egress window.
 

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Chances are the current code requires basement egress that was not required when the building was constructed. Major modification would require that the entire modified area be brought up to current code.
 

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Oooo, greywolf has a good point. When altering an existing building, it does have to be brought up to code. I know that around here, if you are replacing the subflooring in an old house, and the sewage pipes become exposed at all (pier and beam houses), then all the sewage pipes have to be replaced and brought up to code. So what do you do when replacing the subflooring? Finish it before an inspector shows up.


Is there a way to define the room as a non-bedroom living space to avoid having to have a second egress?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Toxarch, but I actually called the City Architect on it and no matter what you do, if you build a single wall down there for anything (except a bathroom) you have to have a second egress.


Its the right thing to do, but I'm sure I'll need lots of help when I get to the soundproofing the room, so I'll be posting again.


Thanks everyone for your help!
 

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Not to dampen your spirit for building a HT, But in my county they say that if you add a bedroom you need the window (or door) exit. They specify how large of a window and a maximum dimension for the distance between the floor and the sill. I don't have the regulations in front of me but I remember that the distance was small enough that most people could crawl out the window without the aid of any steps.


Now the problem. Hiring a contractor to cut a hole in the concrete and either putting in the window or door is relatively straight forward........it's the drain water issue that can be a headache. Once you put this big "catch-basin" against your foundation you've got to figure out where the water is going to go (rain and snow melt). Be sure to plan ahead. In new construction (around here) there is often a drain at the bottom of the steps that connects to the either a sump pump or the house drain system.


I think they make both window and stair wells with water tight covers intended to mitigate this problem.


You may want to check out some homes in your area to see how they've dealt with this problem before selecting the window or door design.
 

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Does the basement itself have a second means of egress? If so wouldn't having 2 doors to the HT suffice? You just have to have 2 ways out of the room, right? Does one of them have to be a window?
 

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Montgomery County, MD. also required a window, and its miminum size was specified. It was no big deal. When the acoustical treatment was installed, I had a bifold type door insert made that fit inside the window opening but was flush with the interior wall. This was treated with the same acoustical material. Thus, when it is closed, no light enters the room, and you are hard pressed to tell where the window is. should it ever become necessary to use, just pull on the "handle" and the door opens, revealing the window.
 
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