Window Wells – What You Need To Know

Drainage - Window Wells

Window Wells

People tend to overlook window well installation done by non-professionals or even try to install them themselves. This is a mistake because a poorly installed window well won’t stop water from leaking into your home.

You probably have window wells if you have windows at or below ground level in your basement. They are cut-out spaces around the windows that let light in and require professional installation and maintenance just like any other system in your home.

What’s worse than leaks is that a lot of homeowners mix well problems with window problems and get their windows replaced, which is not only unnecessary, but also costly and ineffective.

Is My Window Well Properly Fitted?

A properly fitted well will withstand soil pressure. It’s securely fixed to the wall to resist frost pressure. It stops surface water from seeping in because it’s sealed to the wall. Ideally, it should be filled with about 7 inches of drainage rock below the window to stop water from pooling outside and flowing in. Properly fitted wells are also equipped with a drain line, which runs to the drainage system to drain water away.

When getting a window well installed, professional contractors start by excavating around the window. They dig to about a foot beneath the bottom of the sill. It’s best to think about drainage before actually installing the window well. This should be obvious. It’s no good leaving a hole in the wall of the building.

How a Window Well is Fitted

Sometimes contractors fill part of the well with gravel. They might also install a drain connecting to the perimeter one. This makes sure water won’t collect in the well and put pressure on the windows, resulting in leaking or cracking. It’s important to reach out to a professional every step of the way, but especially if the existing window wells aren’t equipped with a drainage system. In some cases, your foundation will have to be altered. A professional will also consult you on the most suitable kind of drainage system for your property.

Types of Drains

There are two types of drains: interior and exterior ones. The former redirect rainwater to the sump pump. Then, the pipe network moves it away from the premises. If you want to have interior drains installed, a contractor will have to make a hole in the foundation wall to connect the window well to the sump pump because pumps are located inside.

Exterior drains are connected to the weeping tile or perimeter drain and extend to the base of the foundation. They are placed at the bottom of the window well. Window wells are made of steel, masonry, wood, or plastic. After drainage has been completed, they are fitted into the hole to stop matter from seeping back in. Your contractor will fill the remaining space around the window well with graded and compacted dirt to prevent water from draining toward the window.

Staying on top of Window Well Problems

You need to stay on top of potential issues to prevent damage because window wells are usually below ground level. Here are some common ones to watch out for.

Soil Plugging the Drain

If your well isn’t the right size, soil can seep in and cause problems. Water will wash over the sides if the well is too short, bringing dirt and soil with it. Soil will push in laterally if the well is not wide enough. In both cases, the drain will eventually be plugged. Talk to an expert to make sure you’re getting the right well shape and size.

Debris Pileup Around The Window Well

Snow, ice, leaves, and debris in general need to be removed from the well. Ice and snow can block the drainage in winter. It’s important to check for debris at regular intervals.

Gravel Hardening

Dirt and wet sand can clog the gravel up with time, stopping water from draining properly. You might need to spread or shovel the gravel out and replace it with new gravel, then remove sand, dirt, or other debris. Finally, the well is filled with clean gravel.

Drainage Issues

If you see water beneath your window, that doesn’t always mean you’re having a problem with drainage. To check what the issue is, get a hose and run water into the window well. The water level should not get near the bottom of the window although some rising is normal. If drainage is normal, the well isn’t the problem. There might be a crack in the foundation.

Insecure fastening

The foundation and the wells can become misaligned as the building settles, letting debris in. Then, the debris clogs the drainage system. In this case, you might need a new well. This means digging the well out again.

Preventing Long-term Window Well Damage

Maintenance is key to your window wells’ health. You should check and maintain them all year round. With every inspection, look out for things like holes, scrapes, rust, and spots on the wells. These are signs of old age. Think about getting the wells replaced if you notice these signs to prevent further damage.

Sudden Flooding

You might need to replace the wells if your basement is suddenly and inexplicably flooded. Even if something less extreme occurs – you see moisture near the window, for instance – replacement should be considered. Moisture or leaking in this area can be due to a broken or loose window, a clogging or faulty drain, or some damage to the well lining.

Loose Window

A warping or loose window merits immediate attention no matter when you notice it – during a regular check or randomly. Freezing and thawing in cold seasons can cause the well to become detached from the foundation. Damage from rust can also cause this to occur. Get your window well replaced if you see it shift. If you delay this, soil will end up clogging the drain and you’ll have to deal with leaks.

Proper Window Well Maintenance

Failure to clear out debris around the wells can have a number of adverse effects, such as interior damage, broken windows, or water leaking in through the concrete, filling the walls with moisture. The most effective and easiest measure is to remove the debris from this area of your property twice a year; in the spring and in the fall. After that, make sure your pipes aren’t clogged. The gravel in the well shouldn’t be hard and fixed. Loose gravel lets water drain to the perimeter effectively. Gravel is less effective if it’s installed with sand the wrong way or if it becomes compacted.

Consider a cover for your wells to prevent damage. Window well covers come in all shapes, sizes, and materials – grill-type, plastic, mesh, and more. They create a barrier between the elements and the well, stopping dirt and debris from entering it. Many covers will let light in, so you don’t have to worry about the basement becoming too dark and gloomy.

Free Window Well Consultation

Foundations First can install window wells regardless of the type of foundation. Bigger windows can make bedrooms in the basement safer, improve ventilation, illuminate the space, or let the homeowner install a secondary suite.


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