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Question about deep exterior egress wells


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I'm going to be a little bit lazy and ask the brethren a question this morning without exhausting my search first. The question is - is there a rule requiring a protective balustrade of some type around the perimeter of a deep exterior egress-type window well?

I had one yesterday that was about 6ft. wide by 5ft. deep built from those stackable segmented concrete blocks. No balustrade around it; just some evergreen shrubs planted relatively close together. Obviously, when those grow larger they're going to form an almost impenetrable barrier around the well, but......is there a rule that says we have to have something more substantial.

Waddaya say?



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Since I live in the land of slab foundations with no basements, I am woefully ignorant of basement window well requirements but would IRC section 312 not be applicable here?

R312.1 Guards Required. Porches, balconies or raised floor surfaces located more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall have guards not less than 36 inches in height.

I know it does not mention it in specific but it does obviously have the intent to put guards around anything where the grade changes. If it was a paved patio surface that abutted the well, it would be a no brainer and be required. Since the well is required to provide light and access, it is part of the house, not landscaping out in the yard. It might be too much of a stretch if you were a AHJ, but I would not have a problem calling it out using the section above to support myself as a HI.

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Egress wells are designed for emrgency escape and any guards, covers or barriers are going to be subject to the egress requirements first before any other safety requirement. I would be very hesitant to advise modifying egress to prevent accidental ingress, in fact from your description of the shrubs I would probably advise that they be removed.

Sorry no code cite, but that's how I'd play it.


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Several local (chicago) municipalities require guards with a latched gate to satisfy both guardrail and safety egress requirements.

Sorry, no cite here either.....R312 doesn't spec anything about window wells, only porches, balconies, ramps, and raised floor surfaces.

You can stretch from the definition in R202 to include the area around the well as "elevated walking surfaces", no? That would then get you under R312, which would then get you the railing requirement.

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