The Great “Out” Doors: What You Need to Know About Egress Doors 

STANLEY Access Technologies 5 Min Read | September 15, 2023

Understanding code requirements for egress doors is important, but doesn't have to be complicated. Our blog shows you the basics of what you need to know.

The Great “Out” Doors: What You Need to Know About Egress Doors

Virtually any room door can be considered an egress door. After all, if the door lets you out of the room, you’ve just egressed. But the term “egress door” comes with specific requirements and compliance codes that require not-always-intuitive knowledge. So, let's dive right in. Or dive right out, depending on your perspective. 


What are egress doors officially? 

Officially, the “door” part of the “egress” is one component of a “means of egress” that includes the exit access, the exit and the exit discharge. That means that egress doors are not exclusively exterior facing. Interior doors can also be egress doors as well. 

What are the basic requirements of an egress door? 

The need for basic code requirements for egress doors, especially fire exit doors and other emergency exits is self-evident. Going beyond that, egress doors must meet code requirements based on such factors as the number of people the door is capable of serving and the purpose of the room e.g., rooms for larger crowds will need more egress doors. Additionally, egress door requirements determine that these doors must be visible and distinguishable from adjacent construction and recognizable as doors. They cannot be concealed with mirrors, curtains, or decorations. 

Size Requirements 

The size of the egress door is determined by the number of people the room can legally hold which is based on a calculation using the area of the space and an occupant load factor. The minimum width of the clear door opening (CDO) is 32” measured when the door is open to the 90° position from the face of the door to the stop on the strike jamb for a single door.  Pairs of doors are measured from the face of the open door to the edge of the other leaf in the closed position or to the mullion. At least one leaf in a set of double doors must have a CDO of 32” (some exceptions are listed in the model codes). 


The minimum required CDO height is 80” with a minimum height of 78” when measured to door closers and stops. The 2021 edition of the IBC also allows automatic operators and electromagnetic locks to project into the clear opening height, although not all of the codes and standards currently reference these products. The codes do not allow any projections into the CDO width below 34” above the finished floor or ground. Additionally, projections above 34” can protrude no more than 4” into the CDO width. Swinging doors designated as a means of egress are not always required to swing out, especially for smaller rooms. However, if the room serves more than 50 people or is a high hazard occupancy room, the doors must swing out. 

What’s the recipe for sliders? 

Most often, egress doors are swinging doors and codes tend to focus on requirements for those door types, but sliding doors are often included as egress doors in commercial door specifications. While complying with some of the same standards as swinging doors, automatic sliding doors must also: 

  1. When automatic, be power operated yet capable of being operated in manual mode in the event of a power failure 

  2. Be able to be opened by a simple method without special knowledge or skill 

  3. Be openable with a force not to exceed 50 lbs. to set in motion  

  4. Be openable to full width from the side of egress 

  5. Be in compliance with BHMA A156.10 or BHMA A156.19 depending on door type 

Forcing the issue 

Going back to swinging egress doors, we need to talk about the force it takes to actually exit. Manually-operated interior non-fire-rated doors must require no more than 5 lbs. of force to be opened. Manually-operated exterior doors and fire doors are limited to 30 lbs. to set the door in motion and 15 lbs. to swing the door fully open. Low energy automatic doors are limited to the same opening force standards as exterior doors and fire doors and must also meet the ANSI/BHMA 156.19 standard.  Automatic pedestrian doors must comply with ANSI/BHMA A156.10, which allows a maximum of 50 pounds to actuate the break out mode but limits the manual opening force for automatic doors to 30 pounds to set the door in motion and 15 pounds to open the door fully. 

Carrying all of this across the threshold 

We’ve discussed heights and widths of egress doors. We also need to discuss thresholds. As you can imagine, non-standard heights and specifications of thresholds could make all of the other code requirements irrelevant during an emergency. That is why thresholds are held to the standards of ½" above the finished floor and a rise of ¼" may be vertical. If the rise is ¼" to ½", there must be a slope not greater than 1:2. If the rise is greater than ½", a ramp with a slope not greater than 1:12 must be used. 

The final pieces 

Lastly, hardware installed on egress doors must be readily operable without a key, special knowledge, or effort from the egress side. Most egress doors are required to be openable without tight grasping, pinching or twisting of the wrist. The hardware must be mounted between 34”-48” off the finished floor unless the lock is only for security purposes and not normal operation. Usually, hardware must offer free egress at all times, but there are some exceptions. Panic hardware is required for some egress doors, typically doors for assembly spaces and educational facilities with an occupancy of 50+ to 100+ persons depending on which code applies. 


Ironically, egress doors can sometimes be the first doors visitors to your facility may see, so the purpose of these code requirements is not simply to limit what kind of doors can be placed where or what they must look like. These codes are simply there to ensure that methods of egress are clear and useable in all situations by all patrons of your building. 

Get started

We would be happy to help you select the right doors for your facility. Contact us today!