Residential Finished Basements & Major Remodeling
The City of Festus is currently following the 2009 International Residential Code and the 2008 National Electrical Code. This guideline is intended to provide the homeowner / contractor with the basic information needed to finish
or partially finish most existing residential basements and major remodeling projects.
General Plan Preparation Information
On renovation projects it is very important within the building construction plans to identify either graphically or by notation both existing and new construction. Show basement area room layout and identify use of each room/space by name and indicate both new and existing walls/partitions, as well as, furred and insulated concrete foundation walls. Rooms shown with clothes closets, etc. that resemble a bedroom or that could easily be converted to a bedroom in the future will be reviewed for bedroom requirements regardless of the room name presented on the drawing.
Emergency Escape & Rescue Opening
The most important thing to consider when planning your project is safety. For a project to be safe, there must be
adequate windows to meet the egress codes.
Any habitable basement rooms and each sleeping room shall have emergency egress and rescue openings. This
opening shall meet or exceed the following criteria:
Minimum Opening Area
All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet or 821 square inches. Exception: Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet or 720 square inches.
- Minimum Opening Height. The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches.
- Minimum Opening Width. The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches.
- Maximum Sill Height. The maximum sill height shall be 44 inches from the floor.
- Operational Constraints. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys or tools.
Note: “net clear opening” means the actual airspace through which a person could exit when the window is open.
Note: using the minimum width and height of an opening will not equal the minimum required opening area for escape.
- A window well serving an emergency escape and rescue opening shall be constructed in accordance with the following criteria:
- Window wells serving a basement emergency escape and rescue shall be a minimum of 9 square feet in horizontal area with a minimum horizontal projection width of 36 inches. The well shall also be large enough to allow the window to be fully opened.
- Window wells with a vertical depth greater than 44 inches shall have a permanent ladder or steps. The ladder, if applicable, shall be at least 12 inches wide, project a minimum of 3 inches from the wall and have rungs spaced not more than 18 inches on center vertically for the full vertical depth of the window well.
- Stairways shall not be less than 36 inches in clear width above the handrail.
- Open risers without a toe board are prohibited.
- The minimum headroom in all parts of the stairway shall not be less than 6 feet, 8 inches.
- Enclosed accessible space under stairs shall have the walls and under the stairs enclosed with 1/2-inch gypsum
- Handrails shall have a minimum height of 34 inches and a maximum height of 38 inches (this is measured from the nosing of the treads).
- Handrails shall have a minimum size of 1 1/4 inches in diameter to a maximum of 2 5/8 inches.
- Handrails shall have a space of not less than 1 1/2 inches between the wall and the handrail.
Habitable Room Sizes & Ceiling Heights
- Habitable rooms shall have an area of not less than 70 square feet and shall not be less than 7 feet in any
- Habitable rooms, bathrooms, hallways, and laundry rooms shall have a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet.
- Finished box-outs for structural or decorative beams, duct-work, plumbing and electrical systems shall have a
minimum clearance of 6 feet, 6 inches with a spacing of not less than 4 feet on center.
Firestopping consisting of nominal 2-inch lumber, minimum 3/4-inch nominal structural panel or approved noncombustible materials, such as unfaced insulation, shall be provided at the ceiling line in concealed spaces on stud walls / partitions, including furred or studded-off spaces of concrete foundation walls and at soffits, dropped ceilings and similar spaces.
AC powered, U.L. listed smoke detectors with battery backup shall be placed in each bedroom and in the vicinity of
the bedrooms. All detectors within the project shall be interconnected and hard wired so that the activation of any
alarm will sound all alarms throughout the project.
Exception: Detector locations in existing areas shall not be required to be interconnected and hard wired where the alterations or repairs do not result in the removal of interior wall or ceiling finishes exposing the structure, unless there is an attic, crawl space, or basement available which could provide access for hard wiring and interconnection without the removal of interior finishes.
The proper amount of combustion, air and clearances, must be provided for gas furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, and clothes dryers.
- 15-amp general-purpose circuit will be needed for each 600 square feet or 20-amp general-purpose circuit
for each 800 square feet.
- The number of wires placed in junction or switch boxes must not exceed the box stamped requirements.
- No double lugging of breaker swill be permitted.
- Circuit breaker panels shall not be concealed and are not permitted in clothes closets or bathrooms.
- Laundry receptacles (must be within 6 feet of the appliance).
- Bathroom areas.
- Kitchen countertop receptacle must be supplied by 2 20-amp circuits.
- Kitchen waste disposer or compactor.
Required Receptacle Locations
- All wall areas 2-feet wide or greater.
- In all habitable rooms so that no space along a wall is more than 6 feet from a receptacle.
- In hallways of 10 feet or more in length.
- In bathrooms (at least one must be adjacent to the basin).
- In the laundry area within 6 feet of the appliance.
- One in each unfinished basement area.
Required Kitchen Receptacles
- At each wall counter space 12 inches and wider (a countertop broken by a range, refrigerator, or sink creates
a new wall space).
- Receptacle shall be installed so that no point along the counter wall is farther than 24 inches from another
- Islands and peninsular countertops shall have at least one receptacle.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)
GFCI protected outlets or circuits must be installed in the following locations:
- Unfinished basement spaces (except for dedicated spaces).
- Wet bar receptacle within 6 feet of the sink.
- All receptacles in all kitchen countertop surfaces.
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)
Bedroom receptacles will be protected by an AFCI circuit breaker.
Required Lighting Outlets
- At least one wall switched lighting outlet shall be installed in every habitable room.
Exception: In other than kitchens or bathrooms, a switch-controlled outlet will meet the above
- On interior stairways with more than five steps, there shall be a switch at each floor level.
- Each unfinished basement space or utility room shall have one switched lighting outlet.
- Lighting in clothes closets shall not have incandescent fixtures with open or only partially enclosed lamps
and the use of pendant fixtures are prohibited. Surface incandescent fixtures must be a minimum of 12
inches from storage spaces and surface mounted fluorescent and recessed fixtures a minimum of 6 inches.
- Lighting is required in the vicinity of the electrical panel.
- Bathtubs, laundry tubs, and kitchen sinks shall have 1 1/2-inch diameter waste outlets.
- Lavatories shall have 1 1/4-inch diameter waste outlets.
- Toilets shall be installed so that the center of the toilet to a wall shall be a minimum of 15 inches.
- Toilets shall have no less than 21 inches of clearance from the front of the toilet to any obstacle.
- A 4-inch clearance from the toilet tank’s edge to any obstacle is required.
- Residential bathrooms without windows for natural ventilation shall exhaust 50 CFM minimum to the
- There shall be a dedicated circuit for the laundry outlet located within 6 feet of the appliance.
- There shall be a switched lighting outlet for the laundry area.
- Minimum room size applies to the laundry room.
- Clothes dryers will discharge to the exterior of the home. The duct shall not exceed 25 feet. The maximum
length shall be reduced 2 1/2 feet for each 45-degree bend and 5 feet for each 90-degree bend.
Note: The preceding requirements apply to most simple residential basement finishing projects. However, the Plan
Reviewer may determine that unusual circumstances dictate the need for additional information on any particular
project. It should also be emphasized that especially on interior renovation projects many Code requirements are
verified through the inspection process and are not necessarily reflected within the approved plan documents.