Basement windows are great. They let light into what would otherwise be a pretty dark space. They can be opened to bring some fresh air into the basement, refreshing even when the space doesn’t have a musty, “basement-y” smell.
Some basement windows are above grade and they're fine as they are but every basement window that is at or below grade needs a window well – most homeowners don’t really care for a view of dirt. The window well opens an outside space to let all that light and air in and, in the case of basement egress windows, allow a means of escape from a basement used as living space. A properly constructed and maintained window well will serve a home well but a lack of maintenance can create annoying, persistent and soggy problems in the basement.
A window well, for all its virtues, is still a large open hole in the ground next to home’s foundation. Like any hole, it can quickly fill up with water when it rains – fine for those who always wanted built-in aquariums in the basement but not so good for most homeowners because even the best-fitted windows will eventually allow that water into the basement. A properly designed and built window well will be equipped with a drain in the bottom that may connect to exterior drain tile or even interior drain tile or drain out to daylight on a sloping yard.
Just as rain can fill the open hole of a window well with water, Mother Nature can fill it with outdoors debris -- leaves, grass cuttings, pine needles and cones. Trash can blow in from careless neighbors or passersby. Small animals such as squirrels, rabbits and raccoons can hang out there or even become trapped. All of these deposits and activities can easily clog a window well drain so the first approach to fixing a flooded window well should be to clear the drain. The flood, of course, can be avoided by periodic maintenance of the drain to keep it free of clogs.
Another great step to take in avoiding future clogged window well drains is to install a window well cover. Window well covers are not intended to keep out rain but will do a great job at preventing debris and animals from getting into the window well and covering the drain. Of course, there are window well covers of all types and materials and some do a much better job than others.
Many homeowners will follow the path of least resistance and buy the plastic bubble style window well covers from the big box home improvement store. These covers are better than nothing – but just barely. If the bubble fits the window well shape properly, kiss ventilation goodbye because the fresh air is now sealed out. Of course, that may not be a problem for long because the lightweight bubbles are prone to cracking and breaking. Lastly, the clear plastic domes make a perfect “hothouse” for weeds and other plant growth inside the window well.
The best window well cover? A fitted, heavy-duty steel reinforced polycarboante cover will permit air to flow freely while still keeping all but the smallest debris out of the window well. Drains will stay free of clogs and water will never enter the basement. A fitted, heavy-duty polycarbonate cover is not the least expensive option and it must be built and designed by a professional but it is the best performing and longest lasting – a great investment in a home’s future.
Any homeowner that wants to eliminate messy window wells and a source of water in the basement should consult a professional basement waterproofing contractor that understands the value of a quality window well cover and is experienced in designing and installing them. At U.S. Waterproofing, we have installed thousands of window well covers and their users are well represented on our list of more than 300,000 satisfied customers. Why not ask for a free consultation?
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