I am interested in buying a ranch house built in 1955. I have been told that the bedroom windows won't meet the fire code. Will this prevent me from buying the house, and what can I do about it?
The bedroom windows probably do not meet modern “egress” requirements. Living space rooms require an adequate direct means of escape to the exterior in the case of fire. A fire that occurs outside a bedroom could prevent escape unless a direct exit from the room exists. Any room with a door that exits directly to the exterior would of course be acceptable. If the direct means of escape is a window, there are minimum requirements to ensure that a person really could get out in an emergency. Some older ranch style homes have bedroom windows that are too small and too high off the floor to satisfy modern codes. Basically, the opening must be no more than 44 inches off the floor, the minimum opening size must be no less than five square feet, the minimum height of the opening must be 24 inches, and the minimum width must be 20 inches.
Codes apply and are generally enforced when a house is being built, or if major remodeling is being done. It is unlikely that anyone is going to require that an older house meet modern “egress” requirements as a part of the sale. However, it is important that an adequate means of escape is available if you are going to live safely in the house. It is relatively easy to replace a window with one of the same width but taller. Window manufacturers have windows designed to meet “egress” requirements that might fit in the existing opening if the sill height is lowered. Ensuring adequate escape routes is important in every home.
And this unrelated discussion of ranch architecture in Roanoakehttp://www.roanokeva.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1474