Why does it matter if the bedroom windows are small or high?

Younger home with large bedroom window, low to the ground

Younger home with large bedroom window, low to the ground

If you are buying or selling an older ranch style house or historic home in Silicon Valley, there’s a good chance that original bedroom windows may be smaller or higher than your home inspector might like.  What is the big deal with the height or size of the windows?  The inspection report may mention ingress and egress.

On this site and others of ours, we bring up health and safety topics from time to time. For example, we shared info on unsafe electrical panels here. In the case of fire or other emergency, children and adults may need to get out and rescue personnel may need to get in. If bedroom windows are poorly configurated, the room could end up being a death trap.

For fire safety, it’s important that:

  • bedroom windows be an escape route for persons in the home (egress) – for this, they must be low enough to the ground and big enough so that children and adults can both get out in case of an emergency
  • emergency responders such as fire fighters, with their large backpacks on their backs, can get in through the same openings (ingress)

When windows are too high, kids, and perhaps adults, cannot get out through them.  And no matter how low or high, if the windows are too small, emergency personnel cannot enter through them.

Bedroom windows and safety: how big and how low do the windows need to be?

There are varied requirements, and exceptions, depending on whether the home is new construction or a remodel. Additionally, there are different rules for basements and 2nd story bedroom windows. Cities and towns each have their own codes, too.  Your best bet is to check with your particular town or city to see what you must do if remodeling or replacing your windows.

In Los Gatos, ground floor windows must be

  • no more than 44″ off the ground
  • at least 20″ wide
  • at least 24″ tall
  • There are additional requirements, though – please see the link at the bottom of this article to view the details.

San Jose’s requirements are similar.

City of San Jose: Window Replacement Requirements

All sleeping rooms and basements – Must meet these specifications:
– Minimum 5.7 square feet opening*
– Minimum height of 24 inches
– Minimum width of 20 inches
– Maximum height to bottom of clear opening of 44 inches
* In order to meet the required 5.7 square-foot opening, either the width or height or both must
exceed the minimum dimensions shown. If bottom of clear opening is le

When remodeling your home and switching from single pane to dual pane windows, many people will be tempted to use the same sized windows with the new replacement set in order to save money, and in many areas, skip the need for permits and finals by not disturbing the stucco.  But rather than target the least expensive way to upgrade your windows, I’d like to suggest making safety a priority.  Upgrade not just your home’s energy efficiency, but its safety too.


Ranch style house with original casement windows

Ranch style house with original casement windows – impossible for ingress by emergency personnel.



Lighten up your dark home and sell for more!

Hand holding lightbulb against pink and blue sky with the words Homebuyers love light - help for home sellers with a dark homeDark homes, or those which feel dark to potential homebuyers, are much more difficult to sell, and virtually always sell for less money than those which are perceived as “light, bright and airy”.

While a property’s owner might love the cozy feeling of dark paneling, deep overhangs and low lighting, it’s not what most buyers want today.  To maximize the amount a house, condo or townhouse in Silicon Valley will sell for, it’s imperative to make it as attractive to the widest audience of buyers as possible.

In many cases, that means the dark home needs to be transformed into a light one.

How to make a dark home a little more light: start with the windows

How can a home owner make a house or home be – or seem – more bright?  One of the biggest “offenders” in this area involves windows! Here are a few window-related problems that can make a home feel significantly darker than necessary, together with some potential solutions:

  • Tinted windows, such as yellow or other colored glass at the front door or entry way:  replace with clear or translucent, colorless glass. If there’s a darkening film (for instance, for privacy), remove it and replace with a clear or translucent but uncolored film instead.
  • Curtains/blinds which obstruct part of the window: get tie backs to pull them further back and let more light in (goal is to not obscure windows at all). Easiest of all are those which use magnetic clasps and do not require any hardware be attached to the wall.
  • Furniture blocking windows should be moved or swapped out for lower items that do not cover up any of the windows. I see tall headboards often situated right in front of the glass panes – they are counter productive. Perhaps remove the headboard, or place the bed in another location?
  • Shrubs and trees covering some of the window: trim back so the window’s glass panes are 100% visible, if at all possible, to let maximum light in.
  • And of course, do make sure your windows and tracks are sparkling clean!


Why is that window wet or foggy looking?

When house-hunting in Silicon Valley, it’s good to take note of how clear the windows are. Sometimes when a dual pane window appears wet or foggy, it’s not just a matter of the sprinklers hitting it, but instead could be a failure of the vacuum seal. If that’s the case, the window will not be as attractive as intended.

There are some window repair professionals who claim that they can de-fog windows with condensation (the common belief is that foggy windows must always be replaced).  What many consumers do not know when purchasing dual pane windows is that many of them will fail, unlike the single pane windows they are replacing. (The Old House Authority site says 30% of the time, a replacement window will be replaced within 10 years. It also advises that “More heat is typically lost though your roof and un-insulated walls than through your windows. Adding just 3 and 1/2 inches of insulation in your attic can save more energy than replacing your windows.”)


Seal failure of dual pane window

Seal failure of dual pane window


Many of my home buyer clients for Los Gatos, Almaden, Cambrian and San Jose insist upon having dual pane windows in their future house or townhouse.  Before assuming that any brand is OK, though, do some research to learn about the windows’ failure rate and how long the warranty on them will be.  Dual pane windows look great and do save a little energy, but if you have to replace one third of them within ten years, it won’t be a bargain at all.

Further reading on insulation and windows

What Can You Learn from a Silicon Valley Roof on a Frosty Morning?

Closed curtains or blinds in an open house? What is the seller trying to hide?

Why does it matter if the bedroom windows are small or high?

Creating pleasant window views




Closed curtains or blinds in an open house? What is the seller trying to hide?

Window with plantation shuttersRecently I showed a Silicon Valley home during a regular weekend open house.  Almost every single one of the plantation shutter blinds were closed tightly.  That made the house appear dark on a bright, sunny, summer day.  What was the point?

It was a “red flag” that there was something to hide.  In fact, there were several somethings to hide.

  • Walking outside, I noticed that while there were a few newer, dual pane windows, many more appeared to be decades old.
  • Next I noticed that some of the older windows appeared unclear or foggy.  Many seemed to have seal failure.
  • Finally, from inside the house, my client and I opened several of the blinds and discovered that the view from a number of windows was pretty unattractive.

Something seem wrong?  That’s a clue that you might want to investigate further.

One of the reasons that home buyers in the San Jose area will want to hire a buyer’s agent (and not simply work with the listing agent of a property they like) is to help you to identify any red flags, any potential issues, problems or risks.  Because we full time Realtors are in and out of homes, attend inspections, office meetings (where we share information) and do classes to keep up our knowledge and skills, we’re in a better position to help both sellers and buyers avoid risky problems.

Related reading:
Creating pleasant window views

Creating pleasant window views

Even if your home isn’t a “view property”, things can be done to enhance the attractiveness of windows and their views. Recently I was showing a San Jose home for sale to my buyers.  I was struck by the window in one of the bedrooms.  Have a look – what do you think?  Would you want to look out at this wall every day? It is not a cheerful and welcoming environment.

There are places in San Francisco, and probably other cities around the country, where homes are crammed in so tightly together that windows function only for light and air – not aesthetics.  But in Silicon Valley, that’s not usually the case.  What was the builder of this home thinking, to have a bedroom window look out only onto a wall?

This next photo is of a window which is very close to a fence. But please notice how different the whole look and feel is.

Window with a better viewAlthough a fence is close by, plantings on both sides of it provide some pleasant scenery.  Additionally, the window itself is given two treatments: both shades and curtains.  The color in the drapes helps to improve the scene too.

Admittedly, it’s a bigger challenge if the window’s view is of a wall which is 6 or 8 feet away and more so if it’s a 2nd story window. But what could be done to make this more attractive?

Here are some thoughts:

(1) If possible, plant something that will provide color – ideally a flowering vine or tree.  Some are not too wide and would provide a pleasant vista.

(2) Consider hanging a bird feeder, planter box or yard ornament outside of the window

(3) Stained glass window hangings could cheer up this gloomy space tremendously

(4) Instead of bland drapes, provide something with color

(5) Translucent blinds, in the closed position, would be more attractive but still let light in

Many homes don’t have challenges as big as this example, above, but could be better staged in terms of the window view.  If you want to put your home on the market and get top dollar, walk through your property and take in what a visitor sees from each window.  Ideally, you’d like to have the shades or blinds open and provide something pleasant to see.  Sometimes that’s not possible.  See what can be done to mitigate an unpleasant view while keeping the curtains open.

A few landscaping changes in your own yard (if you have a house or townhouse) can make a huge difference, often for a small cost.  Consider adding color.  Yards that are all green are not bad, but they don’t tend to warm hearts the way that a splash of color can.

Sometimes the 2 way blinds – the ones that can go down from the top or up from the bottom – can solve a lot of visual problems, such as ugly RVs, old cars, or messy yards on the lower part of the window or power lines or tall buildings on the higher end.

Still not sure what to do? Hire a great home stager to help you to make your home attractive, and make sure that you’re considering not just what’s inside of the home, but what visitors see when they look out through your windows and doors too.




Silly Stuff You See In Homes: One Example

I see a lot of “silly stuff” in homes.  I have seen kitchens with mirrored glass cabinets, pools that were not removed at all but simply filled in with dirt and grass (so it still LOOKS like a pool), strange colored interior décor, impractical ideas and oddities all around.

Today I chuckled to again see something that looked useful but simply wasn’t.  I was showing  a San Jose house  and appreciated the abundance of windows there.

When we got upstairs, I had a look at the clerestory windows at the top.  They were in no way easily accessible from below but instead would require the use of a very, very tall ladder. Incredulously,  I saw that the windows had blinds which are manually operated.

Who’s going to go all the way up there to open and close those things? What were they thinking?