Basement windows are an often neglected element of home décor. If you’re redoing your basement, you may want to give the windows an update.

It can be hard to think of your basement windows in the same way as other windows, usually because they are very small or awkwardly placed. What’s the best way to update the look of your basement windows? Here’s some helpful tips and tricks.

How to Replace Basement Windows

If you’re doing a very serious basement remodel on an older home, you may find that you end up replacing basement windows entirely. While it’s possible to do this yourself, it may be very difficult.

You might need to dog a bit to get at the basement window properly. It is probably for the best if you hire a contractor to replace basement windows, as contractors will have the necessary equipment.

Family-Room-by-Giambastiani-Design Basement Windows: Replacing and Decorating Them
Image source:Sun Valley Landscaping

Basement Windows Treatment

Decorating basement windows is largely about illusion. Often, you don’t have much choice in where the windows are placed, or how they are shaped. Create a centered layout between basement windows where you can. Place beds, couches, and other major elements right between the windows where you can for a nicely balanced look.

Treat the layout around basement windows much like you do for above ground windows. If there’s a lot of space under the basement window, don’t be afraid to fill up the space. Place art or even furniture in this gap. It’s still useful space and a source of natural light in a dimmer space.

When it comes to curtains for basement windows, remember to follow the function of the space. If you’ve decided to use the space as a family room, for instance, you should select treatments that highlight the basement windows’ natural lighting. Use the basement windows treatment as a chance to compliment your décor and make space seem less like a claustrophobic, cold basement.

Royal-York-Apartment-by-Peter-A.-Sellar-Architectural-Photographer Basement Windows: Replacing and Decorating Them
Image source:Peter A. Sellar – Architectural Photographer

Valances are a good choice, as they maintain the function of the basement window while adding a touch of style. Steer towards lighter colored fabrics and other materials to make sure the light brought in by the windows isn’t blocked unnecessarily. If you want to draw attention to the windows, go for brighter, bolder colors for the window treatment and colors.

For storage-focused basements, you should select very functional shades that are easy to open and close as needed. You want to have enough light to see everything, but you also want to make sure heat and sunlight don’t damage anything. Some items don’t do well if left in warm conditions for very long. You may also want to make sure that the basement remains secure, especially if you’re storing valuable in the basement.

Egress Windows

What is an Egress Window?

An egress window is a basement window that exit from a basement via the window. This is an important safety feature, as well as being an interesting addition to a basement that is serving a more family or gathering oriented function.

Depending on your budget and design, you can have an egress window serve as an alternative entrance and exit from your basement. It will also give you a larger window and light source to work with as you decorate your basement.

Family-Room-by-Meister-Construction-Ltd Basement Windows: Replacing and Decorating Them
Image source:Meister Construction Ltd

There are a variety of different kinds of egress windows, though the most common are essentially hinged glass doors. Make sure they can lock from the inside for security. Casement windows have side hinges and take up very little space, while still having wide openings. Glider (or double hung) windows will need to be very large to meet code.

Even when open, these windows are still half blocked by glass. Awning windows swing out from the bottom, which is not ideal, as it may trap someone during a fire. Their opening hardware and hinges are centered on the middle of the window and can also block escape.

All basement egress windows will need to have a good sized window well to be able to open without any issues. Make sure there is also a ladder to allow people to climb out of the window well to safety. If the well is going to be under a deck, make sure that someone can get out from under the deck safely and easily.

Egress Window Requirements

There are some new requirements for basement windows, and you may need to invest time and money on an older home to make sure the basement windows are up to code. There may also be additional local requirements.

Great-Neighborhood-Homes-by-Design-Build-Firms Basement Windows: Replacing and Decorating Them
Image source:Design Build Firms

What are these basement window requirements?

  • Minimum width of opening: 20 in.
  • Minimum height of opening: 24 in.
  • Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft. (5.0 sq. ft. for ground floor)
  • Maximum sill height above floor: 44 in.

If you’re looking to use the basement as a living space, you will need to have the space inspected. Don’t take short cuts, and not just because of the inspection.

Good egress windows are vital to keep the home safe and make sure that everyone can safely get out in case of emergency. Don’t try to cheap out. A good, safe egress window is well worth the investment.

Glass Block Basement Windows

For more light and air flow in the basement, you might want to install some glass block basement windows. These are the kind of basement windows you often find in older homes, with glass blocks surrounding a simple vent-style window. You can also get them without the vent if you just want more natural light coming into tour basement.

Bouldin-Creek-Residence-by-Restructure-Studio- Basement Windows: Replacing and Decorating Them
Image source:Restructure Studio

When looking to purchase and install glass block basement windows, be sure they are secure. While the air vent is often small, you don’t want it to be an entry point for pests or particularly creative small children. Glass blocks are made so that they obscure the view inside without sacrificing natural light.

Ending thoughts on basement windows

A basement window should be used to make your basement a more hospitable area, whether it’s going to be a storage area or a gathering spot. Always check your local regulations and don’t feel pressured to go cheap when getting a basement window installed, as safety is a vital concern.