Q. We are planning on building a new house soon on a lot that we own on the outskirts of town. We are working on our house plans and have a draftsman doing the drawings. I’m familiar with egress window requirements but I’m confused about what is the requirement for sleeping rooms and which rooms really apply. There is in our plan an attic room over the garage that we plan to use for overflow sleeping but it does not allow for a large egress window. Our draftsman says all we must do is label the room a recreation room on our plans for the building department. That doesn’t set well with me. Should I consider other options for egress, or should I go with my draftsman? — Kate in Steuben County

A. The IRC (international residential code) never mentions a code requirement for egress windows. What is required is EERO (emergency escape and rescue openings) — commonly called egress opening — and yes it can be a door or a second exit.

These are required for any room that has a probability of it being a sleeping room, not the possibility. It is possible to pass out in a bathroom, but it is not typical behavior, so bathrooms don’t require EERO. Simply because you label a room a den or study or recreation room does not automatically avoid the EERO requirement. So, if that recreation room has the probability of being a sleeping room it will require second form of egress that meets the EERO size requirements. Same thing goes for basements that have no windows or doors to the outside.

An architect once said that if you don’t label any of the rooms of your plans and look at the plans you can tell which rooms could become sleeping spaces.

Code requirements are intended for just these situations, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize anyone in your family or guests. Consider that at some point down the road the house will be used by some other family, and they would want the same protection afforded the code requirement of the time.

Jeff Deahl is past president of the Builders Association of Northeast Indiana. Questions for the Square Corners column may be submitted to jeff@craftsman-design.com.

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