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Windows near floor?


Bill Kibbel
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I was in a new home today (a friend of an associate is having some issues w/the builder). I saw that several large double hung windows on the second level are just a few inches from the floor. They have 2 young-uns, the same ages as mine.

Long ago, when I was involved with new stuff, some municipalities wouldn't allow any operable windows within 18" of the floor, others required 24" minimum. I remember reading something, probably in the late '90s, that WDMA was protesting any minimum height from the floor. What's the requirement now?

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Hi Bill,

I don't think that it's prohibited, or even that it must have safety glazing, unless it can be considered a walk-through hazard. To be considered a walk-thru hazard, and thus require safety glazing, all of the following criteria must be met (IRC 308.4):

  • Exposed area of glazing greater than 9 square feet

plus

Bottom edge of the window is less than 18 inches above the floor or ground

plus

Top edge is greater than 36 inches above the floor or ground

plus

Within 36 inches horizontally of walking surfacesThere is an exception to the requirement for safety glass when it meets all of this criteria and that's to install a protective guard 34 - 38 inches above the floor.

I think that most double-hung sashes would extend at least 36 inches above the floor and be able to meet all of this criteria. But for the purposes of this application, does "Window" mean just one of the sashes? If so, unless the bottom half met all of that criteria, I don't think the walk-thru requirement would apply.

Doesn't pass the common sense test, but there's a lot of stuff that doesn't.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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"7.2. Bottom edge less than 18 inches (457 mm) above the floor." of 308.4 is on the "hazardous location list". Am I missing something here? I read this to mean that any glazing within 18" of the floor has to be safety glazing. As a builder, I know that whenever I had window installation that had fixed units over awning units that were at floor level, those awning units had to be safety glass.

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http://www.awc.org/pdf/wcd4.pdf

Hi Charlie,

Yeah, you did miss something. The word all. Go back to 308.4 and read the sentence that precedes those 4 bullet points. To qualify as a hazardous it location, and therefore have mandatory safety glazing, it must meet all four conditions that I bulleted in my post. If it were, say, a small window with the top of the window less than 36 inches above the floor and less than 9 square feet, it would not, technically, need to have safety glazing, because it would technically, not be considered hazardous.

Like I said, from a common sense point of view it's silly, but that's the way it's written.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks Mike,

That clears up what I thought were some inconsistencies in my interpretation. Amazing how much effect one little word can have. I think in the scenario where I had a big picture window over a little awning window at floor level, they would just put safety glazing in the whole unit rather than leave it out of the lower glass. And like you said it is a little "silly" and points to the code being a "minimum standard". Plus the window manufacturer most likely isn't going to try and guess where in the wall the window is going to get installed.

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I have the '00 and '03 IRC, so I'm aware of the safety glazing requirements and exclusions.

I guess I should re-phrase the question. Am I nuts, or wasn't there a requirement at one time that operable windows, above the first level, could not be installed within 24" of the floor?

I clearly remember discussions with local building officials on this topic in the very early '80s and reading something about the WDMA protesting any minimum height for windows.

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When I see a window sill/stool being very close to the floor,(12" for example),especially for a hung-style window, I put a safety note in the report about kids rough-housing next to such an open window possibly falling out. Anyone else care about this? I always thought code should address this, but far as I know, it doesn't.

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Originally posted by Jesse

Code shmode. If you think it's a problem, say it. That's what your clients hired you for. If it's a bad building practice, and you see it as a hazard, present it as such to your client.

Well, golly, Jesse, if you read my post, I said I put it in my report. Geez, just wondering if I missed a code reference somewhere.

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Hi Bill,

I didn't miss what you were asking. I just don't recall that being the case so I passed on the only thing I was aware of relative to installations close to the floor. Of course, I've only been at this a little under 11 years. I suppose it might have been that way back when. Then again, it might have been a local thing that you're remembering, rather than a nationwide thing.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Hi Bill,

I'll chime in to confirm that I also thought there was a reference to windows on the second floor (or above) being closer than 24" to the floor requiring bars or safety glass. I've looked and can't seem to find proof of that theory.

Or, maybe we're victims of the same misinformation. I've noticed lately (not here at TIJ) that there are lot of people blowing smoke out their ass, in writing, on the internet. Most are so contentious that nobody bothers to correct them and the posts stand uncontested to be misconstrued as fact.

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Originally posted by inspecthistoric

I have the '00 and '03 IRC, so I'm aware of the safety glazing requirements and exclusions.

I guess I should re-phrase the question. Am I nuts, or wasn't there a requirement at one time that operable windows, above the first level, could not be installed within 24" of the floor?

I clearly remember discussions with local building officials on this topic in the very early '80s and reading something about the WDMA protesting any minimum height for windows.

Bill,

I also have some vague memories of something of that nature though nothing to substantiate it with... It may have been one of those proposals that went far & got a lot of discussion but never crossed the finish line or was just a regional modification to the code. To my knowledge if it is as outlined above it is ok. (at least code compliance wise) Or possibly we're both nuts...

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Chad wrote:

"Or, maybe we're victims of the same misinformation. I've noticed lately (not here at TIJ) that there are lot of people blowing smoke out their ass, in writing, on the internet".

Are you trying to tell us that there's stuff that aint true on the internet? What a crock. I suppose you'll even try to tell us there's pictures of naked people somewhere on the web.

Kyle wrote:

I also have some vague memories of something of that nature... Or possibly we're both nuts.

I appreciate the company.

Thanks to everyone for the replies. I did actually find something that WDMA was fighting a proposed 24" minimum height from the floor. The document indicated a study done in 1999.

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Originally posted by inspecthistoric

I have the '00 and '03 IRC, so I'm aware of the safety glazing requirements and exclusions.

I guess I should re-phrase the question. Am I nuts, or wasn't there a requirement at one time that operable windows, above the first level, could not be installed within 24" of the floor?

I clearly remember discussions with local building officials on this topic in the very early '80s and reading something about the WDMA protesting any minimum height for windows.

I don't know about the early '80s, but the 2006 IRC has a new section, aka The Clapton's Kid Rule:

R613.2 Window Sills. In dwelling units, where the opening of an operable window is located more than 72 inches above the finished grade or surface below, the lowest part of the clear opening of the window shall be a minimum of 24 inches above the finished floor of the room in which the window is located. Glazing between the floor and 24 inches shall be fixed or have openings through which a 4-inch-diameter sphere cannot pass.

(There are exceptions for windows that don't open more than 4" and windows with window guards in front of them.)

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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