Bedroom in the basement, anybody know the codes? (Illinois)

16 Replies

I'm about to go under contract for a home in the West Chicago Burbs and want to potentially add a bedroom to the unfinished basement, but I'm worried I may (probably) have to add an egress window in order for it to be legal, especially for a rental.

Does anybody have any input on this?  I know it varies a lot by state and even county or city, but wanted to know if anybody had experience, specifically in the Chicago area.  

Also, what would you estimate something like that would cost?  I'm thinking at least a couple thousand...

Experience only in CO. In order to advertise it as a "conforming bedroom" then it has to have an egress window. As I understand it, you could advertise the house as having a non-conforming bedroom (but you need a closet of a certain size to be a bedroom) However, I learned that the egress window size that my screw up contractor selected was about 3 times as large as it had to be. Do yourself a favor and look up the building code for yourself and then you can challenge the contractor as to why he/she is using a bigger window than necessary. It could have saved me a thousand dollars per window had I looked into the code myself. If you are renting to Section 8, there may be additional rules about the egress window type and size. Also, if you need to cap the window well for safety, make sure you can still open the window after you put the cap on (another great contractor screw up). 

Originally posted by @Bill Coleman :

Experience only in CO. In order to advertise it as a "conforming bedroom" then it has to have an egress window. As I understand it, you could advertise the house as having a non-conforming bedroom (but you need a closet of a certain size to be a bedroom) However, I learned that the egress window size that my screw up contractor selected was about 3 times as large as it had to be. Do yourself a favor and look up the building code for yourself and then you can challenge the contractor as to why he/she is using a bigger window than necessary. It could have saved me a thousand dollars per window had I looked into the code myself. If you are renting to Section 8, there may be additional rules about the egress window type and size. Also, if you need to cap the window well for safety, make sure you can still open the window after you put the cap on (another great contractor screw up). 

 Thanks for the input Bill.  If you don't mind me asking, how much did it end up costing you in total.  And, I guess, how much SHOULD it have costed you?

@Jim B.  You are absolutely right, a basement bedroom MUST have an egress window. I had one quoted for me about 6 months back, and the cost to create an egress window from an existing basement window, was about $2200. 

@Roman Pak  thanks for your input as well.  I figured as much...

That's not really as pricey as I expected, but I guess it depends on the exact scenario too.

No problem. Good luck.

My cost was $2500 per window but my realtor told me he has a guy who will do it for $1500 a window. This is an all-in price. 

I just did this on my last flip. I cut 2 in for the bedrooms. I'd say the cost to do it is around 2,500/per. I did mine for the cost of the windows and lumber. You also need a closet in Illinois to call it a legal bedroom.  Don't be afraid to put one in, they're not too bad to cut the Crete.

Conforming bedroom in a basement -

1) Proper ceiling height- varies around the country, usually between 6'-10" to more common 7', and this can get complicated if there are any soffited areas of the bedroom ceiling

2) Closet- even a minimum size on this, usually 22" deep

3) Proper electrical, proper heating requirements - must have a light and a switch located at the entrance, must be able to be heated

4) Minimum square footage size of the room, usually 70 sq feet

5) Egress - varies wildly in cost due to conditions, half below ground basement, fully below ground, walk out, set backs etc...

Like Bill said - consult the local building dept, the codes for egress window wells are super strict, very detailed and can be confusing, they can get very picky, right down to if it needs a ladder the distance the ladder can stick out from the window well wall and then the clearance in front of the ladder to the window.

Be very careful talking to anyone about egress windows with wells, this is one of the most screwed up things we continually hear about, and very expensive to fix if done incorrectly

You will definitely need a egress window. Even is this wasn't code, can you imagine what would happen if there was a fire and someone couldn't get out.

I had a home with a basement apartment. The basement was half underground.  The basement had windows that were large enough to be egress windows, but were 4 feet off the floor. To be code compliant, all we needed was to to install permanently attached bench under the window so people could get out.

@Adam Anderson   You are so right. whenever I was tempted not to put in the egress, I thought of people being trapped in a fiery basement. Not something I can live with. So in went the windows.

Arc fault CB may be required in the basement bedroom as well depending on your local code.  Just something to keep in mind when wiring it up. 

I'm not so sure that egress window is code if you have other means of egress, such as a walk out basement.  There are way too many houses in these areas with glass block windows in the basement bedrooms for it to be code given a basement door.

Price to punch in a window will vary significantly between brick and frame construction. 

Unless the bedroom has a walk out patio door it has to have an egress window. Code is so nobody is trapped in a bedroom in a fire without a way out of the house

Thanks for your input everybody.  Much appreciated. 

I've used a Tilt n Turn (euro style) window for this purpose and it is much less expensive than the $2500 range I am reading here. It depends of course on the size but I recall the window price being in the $500 range plus installation ($1000 range total) unless you're cutting concrete etc. This window tilts in (hinges on bottom) but also opens up to 85 degrees like a door. 

Advanced Windows in Chicago is my source. My salesman there is Greg. 

Remember too, each township, village and municipality has their own overriding codes (trumping Illinois or National code) so it is best to call the village and ask them directly or a local architect. 

While basement bedrooms are legal in Chicago anything under grade will not count as a bedroom when the appraiser comes out on that next refi so keep that in mind too. 

@Jim B.  Something to consider regarding the "bedroom" in the basement.  @Dooreuhn Cee  reminded me of the 100's  (I exagerate a bit) of Chicago basements I've seen with bedrooms & the only egress was a basement door to the backyard.   Even though the appraiser wouldn't count it as a bedroom or it couldn't be listed as an above grade bedroom, none of that mattered to the end buyer or renter who would still see it as a bedroom & use it as such.

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