Exiting ("Means of Egress") Questions and Concerns

Do I need an exterior door landing for my 36-inch wide garage door that opens to the side yard?

Yes. Section R311.3, I.R.C., requires “a floor or landing on each side of each exterior door”. ***Please note: The exterior door landing may be as much as 7 ¾ inches below the top of the door threshold, provided the door (other than exterior storm door or screen door) does not swing over the landing.

Can the door landing simply be a flat gravel area?

No. The door landing must be poured in-place concrete, pavers with set in-place borders or an equivalent permanent structure (approved in advance by the "Building Official").

I want to add a new pre-manufactured "spiral stairway" that connects to my second story master bedroom (exterior) deck. This will not only provide direct rear yard access from the second story but also provide a secondary exit from my master bedroom. Is a "spiral stairway" allowed?

Yes. However, keep in mind that an exterior stairway is a structure and in addition to the required building permit, it can not be built within a minimum building (rear yard / side yard) setback, unless approved through a formal "zoning variance." In addition, the new stairway handrail/guardrail must be contiguous with the existing deck guardrail (any gap must be less than 4 inches). If the new spiral stairway leads down to a pool and/or spa area, a child proof barrier must be added at the top of the spiral stairway system, refer to swimming pool & spa barriers.

May I use key lock door hardware that is keyed from both sides on my primary entrance (exit) door?

No. It can only be keyed from the outside. “All egress doors shall be readily operable from the side from which egress is to be made without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort”, reference section R311.2, I.R.C.

I am building an addition to my residence. I need to relocate my existing exterior A/C unit from my rear yard to my side yard. Does the City allow side yard installations?

Yes. However, in addition to installing the unit in compliance with the manufacturer’s listing and installation instructions, all exterior mounted A/C units located in side yards must not obstruct any required fire access to the “emergency escape and rescue opening” (refer to General Building Code Terms for definition) (minimum 36 inch unobstructed access width).

I want to enclose my existing covered patio and create a habitable living space. Are there any nonstructural code issues I should be concerned about?

Yes. As an example, you CAN NOT enclose your existing covered patio, if the only “emergency escape and rescue opening” (refer to General Building Code Terms for definition), from an existing bedroom, opens into this existing patio area. All emergency escape and rescue openings must open directly to the building’s exterior, and may not go through an adjoining room.

In addition, once the covered patio space is enclosed, the existing adjacent habitable rooms that once relied on exterior operable windows/doors (that directly opened to the patio), may no longer meet the minimum natural lighting and/or natural ventilation code requirements. Reference section R303, I.R.C., for exceptions. Another concern is the sizing of the existing heating/ventilation/ air conditioning (HVAC) unit to properly accommodate this newly added conditioned space. The existing HVAC unit may have to be replaced with a larger unit. An HVAC contractor/installer should be consulted.

I am adding a bedroom to my unfinished basement and noticed the window well does not have a ladder in it. At what point does the window well need a ladder?

As part of the “emergency escape and rescue opening” and rescue/emergency route for all bedrooms, basement window wells need a ladder when the vertical depth of the window well is greater than 44 inches at any point. The ladder shall be permanently affixed to the window well, and usable with the window in the fully open position. The ladder rungs shall have an inside width of at least 12 inches, shall project at least 3 inches from the wall and shall be spaced not more than 18 inches on center vertically for the full height of the window well, reference section R310.2.1, I.R.C.

Also make sure that the height of bedroom’s window sill leading to the window well is no greater than 44 inches above the bedroom’s finish floor and that the size of the window well complies with section R310.2, I.R.C. In addition, the minimum size of the bedroom window “emergency escape and rescue opening” shall comply with section R310.1, I.R.C.

I want to add exterior decorative wrought iron in front of my windows. The use of wrought iron is for aesthetic purposes and provides for added security. May I use wrought iron over my bedroom windows and key lock the wrought iron release from the inside?

No. The wrought iron device must be releasable or removable from the inside without the use of a key, tool, special knowledge or force greater than that which is required for normal operation of the “emergency escape and rescue (window) opening”, reference section R310.4, I.R.C.