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Why Window Restrictors Are Important And When To Use Them

Window Geeks

Recently on our LinkedIn initiative #TwoCentsTuesday, we shared the following scenario…

“Say you’re renovating a 1970’s building in Burnaby. The building is subject to part 3 requirements of the building code, does not have a sprinkler system, and the window sill heights are 36” from the floor. When it comes to a bedroom window on the third floor, would you include a 4” restrictor or not? Would you opt for a removable one?”

The results were mixed.

25% for a 4” restrictor, 25% to not include one, and 50% to include a removable restrictor. 

We are your Window Experts so we take these scenarios very seriously as they impact the overall life and safety of the occupants. In the past two years, 22 children aged 16 and younger were treated at BC Children's Emergency Department for falls from high elevations, such as windows and balconies. Unfortunately, this scenario is far too common.

The BC Building code is meant to provide a guideline for safety, though it doesn’t provide perfect solutions for every scenario. These are the challenges we face in our industry every day.

Let’s walk through the challenges in this scenario together…

The purpose of a restrictor is to prevent windows above ground level from fully opening so someone doesn’t accidentally fall from them.

First, In accordance with 9.9.10 of the building code, windows should be “…openable from the inside without the use of keys, tolls, or special knowledge and without the removal of sashes or hardware.”

According to the BC Building Code, this removes the option to use a removable restrictor because it would make the windows non-complaint with code. This means it is not legal.

So do you use a restrictor or not?

There are a couple of integral items in this scenario that will significantly impact the decision on whether or not to include a restrictor.


Most buildings built in the 70’s don’t have fire suppression systems. This is important for many reasons.

  • Part 3 of the building code states that if the building had a sprinkler system, you could use as many restrictors as you’d like to prevent people from accidentally falling out of windows.
  • However, older buildings don’t have a sprinkler system. So in order to meet egress (have a wide enough opening in a bedroom window to escape in case of a fire), you wouldn’t want restrictors on those windows.


In a scenario where there are no restrictors and the sill height remains 36” to the ground, there is a significant fall hazard for the occupants.

Now you have a conundrum…

If the building was compliant with part 3 of today’s BC Building Code, it would have a sprinkler system and as a result, we wouldn’t be facing these challenges.

Window Geeks to the rescue! Here’s the Solution…

You are not obligated to bring all items up to code, as per the BC Building code. This is assuming the building was code compliant when first built.

Our interpretation is that in this scenario, egress would trump fall protection and restrictors wouldn’t be used. However, our trusted expert recommendation is to hire a design professional who’s qualified to make this decision. The scenario impacts the life and safety of occupants and, as a result, there are major liabilities and consequences if this is handled the wrong way.

We Are Your Certified Window Geeks

We love to talk windows! The demand for glass is at its all-time highest, but we are working with our customers to ensure you get the products you need. Contact us as early in the process as possible so we can help secure your order and keep your project on schedule. We will guide you early on so that your supply requirements are met.

For more information on this topic (and many more!) contact our local Employee Owners at 1-888-534-3333 or drop us an email at Join the club and become a Window Geek yourself by signing up for our biweekly newsletter, which provides news, advice, and tips about the window industry and upcoming events, and test your window knowledge by following us on LinkedIn.

Written by: Les Ferris , November 19, 2022
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