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Residential Regulations for Windows: Amount and Placement

Last modified: 2022-07-04 | Approximate reading time 6 mins

Cynthia Pigeon

Whether you are looking to enhance your home’s energy efficiency, overall exterior appeal, or simply planning a DIY project, windows and skylights are elements that must be considered. 

Beyond the desire for it to be eye-catching, flowing in natural light, or environmentally friendly, there are still obvious guidelines to follow. 

Even though the provincial Construction Code has, at times, somewhat lenient regulations, such as the right to design a windowless room, it is still highly important that one conforms to the regulations established in regard to natural lighting and ventilation; it is primordial for the safety of the occupants. 

Replacing Your Windows: Quebec Guidelines

Whether you are wanting to spruce up or wear and tear is making you do so, installing new windows is not an easy endeavour. As a matter of fact, there are numerous factors to consider when drawing up the plans and purchasing items for such a project.

First and foremost, know that every municipality or borough, should you reside in Montréal, has its own set of specific guidelines and regulations when it comes to residential projects on buildings having 9 or fewer apartments. Thus, you will have to inquire with your municipality and provide the appropriate paperwork (framing plan, land register, quotes from contractors, manufacturing details, etc.) in order to obtain the necessary permits to jumpstart your renovations. Allow for your budget to account for the cost of these permits. 

window renovation_residential regulations for windows: amount and placement

Photo: Flickr

In Canada, there are general guidelines to follow regarding window and door installations according to Standard CAN/CSA-A440.4

Basic Standards 

Changing or remodelling your home should in no way affect the structural system of the property. On top of that, make sure that the devices ensuring that the façade is watertight have been adequately installed, such as flashing, as well as installing the windows with the help of a level and a carpenter’s square to avoid, amongst other things, water infiltration issues and excessive moisture. 

The overall glass surface must not exceed a specific percentage to limit the risk of fires spreading. Also, their disposition should adhere to the following: 

  • In a home, 10% of the wall space in every room must be occupied by windows, except for bedrooms, in which only 5%.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms can benefit from an exemption to this rule should a ventilation apparatus, such as a range hood, be installed. 
  • A skylight or roof lantern can be used instead of one window in a home of 2 or more rooms (you can install more than one, without lessening the number of windows). 
  • If your house is directly facing a private property, the windows must be 1.5 m away from it. 
  • Should you want to add or make existing openings larger, if it is a wall facing a street or alley, you will most likely not meet any obstacles. 

Regarding the structure: 

  • A window must be over 91cm² (3 feet²) unless it is located in a bathroom, then that measurement can be divided by 3. 
  • Have a gap between the window, wall, and frame to account for natural movements in the structure over time as a result of temperature variations. 
  • This gap will account for a wedge (most often a little piece of wood) to keep the structure level during the window installation process. 
  • Avoid adding wedges in the upper section of the window.
  • The gap must be at least ⅜ inches and t most  ¾ inches. 
  • The more floors in your home, the greater wedge you will need at the top of your window. 

*Should you be installing or replacing your patio doors and windows, hiring a certified contractor is the best option, as the regulations are complex and will vary based on numerous factors. 

bay window_residential regulation for windows: amount and placement

Photo: Flickr

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Basement Windows

If your home has a finished basement, you will be subjected to rules and regulations in regard to security standards to allow for evacuation in case of an emergency. Needless to say, windows must be able to withstand break-ins and water infiltration, but security and waterproofing measures must meet the requirements established by the Building Code. Furthermore, choosing a model that has been adapted to residents’ needs, i.e. considering that children and people with disabilities will need to evacuate safely, too. 

So, unless the bedrooms have an exit leading directly outside or if the basement is equipped with a sprinkler system, here is an overview of what should be considered when remodelling: 

  • Install a smoke detector in the staircase.
  • Bedrooms must have windows big enough for an adult to crawl through (nothing under 15 inches) and, the opening has to hold on its own, nothing wedged in to hold it open. 
  • Window bars or grills must open from the inside.
  • Fix a dresser drawer or something else you could climb right under the window should the ledge be higher than 1.5 metres (59 inches) from the floor. 
  • Ensure that the exit is clear of any obstacles: clear the snow around the windows.
  • Should the window open up on a skylight or window well, inquire with a professional as particularities may apply. 

Heritage Buildings 

heritage_residential regulations for windows: amount and placement

Photo: Flickr

A lot of Quebec cities have preserved their heritage by showcasing the remnants of the past by way of architecture: stained glass windows, wood-carved mouldings, ornaments, etc. If your home is getting older, there are chances that it may be among the protected heritage, even though it may seem completely futile information.

You will have to preserve the integrity by honouring the time period’s style, whether you are restoring certain features, installing new materials, repainting in similar shades, and ensuring that the window model is as close as it gets to the original one. These guidelines are in order to respect the overall harmony of the façade. 

Should prior renovations have damaged or destroyed these important aspects, inquire with the neighbouring buildings before making your final decision. Some municipalities offer a referential guide that details which model can replace a certain original to avoid discrepancies. For example, it is forbidden to conceal historic architecture with awnings and avoid installing hung windows if the original layout is for casement windows.

Restoring Your Windows 

If too many elements are hindering the process, or if you decide to wait a few years before financing such a large project by changing all the windows in your home, in the meantime, there are a few tricks to prolong their durability to enhance your comfort. 

First off, make sure that all moving parts and hardware are functioning properly. Then, check that all sections connected to water evacuation and preventing air infiltration are working adequately. Lastly, consider the aesthetic aspect of the structure: paint, stain… By noting such components, whatever broken or damaged element will be replaced, others will be spruced, and some will be simply maintained as they are still in good condition. 

Whether you are the type to revere caves or, their complete opposites, glass castles, you may be able to use designing tricks to transform a room to the height of your expectations without having to circle around established rules and regulations. Light paint, mirrors, and removing window screens during the winter are all things you can do to enhance natural light flow. However, thick curtains or huge furniture will give off a more enclosed vibe to any room in case you are not able to get rid of the huge bay window that displeases you so. 

In any case, there is a solution to your needs. All you have to do is inquire as to the rules and regulations, and remodel accordingly. 

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