Preventing Leaking Basement Window Wells in Chicago


Preventing Leaking Basement Window Wells in Chicago

Sometimes, it seems that there is no end to the things that need to be done around the house.

Of course, there’s the regular cooking, cleaning and shopping – the things that keep daily life going.

Then there’s the minor maintenance – mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning out the garage.

Eventually, the big stuff comes around – repainting the house, putting on a new roof or installing replacement windows.

Given everything that homeowners have to deal with, let alone the demands of job and family, it’s no wonder that some things fall through the cracks.  For example, who changes the furnace filter before somebody in the household starts complaining about the cold?  Or, how many homeowners remember to drain the water heater once in a while to avoid the build-up of crud?

Or, more to the point, who gives a thought to their window wells?  Almost every home in Chicago that has a basement (or a crawl space) has windows, which wouldn’t be much good without window wells – except for that rare homeowner who enjoys the view of dirt.  The combination of the window and window well bring sunlight and fresh air into the basement and can be constructed to allow emergency egress for below-ground living space.  However, window wells need maintenance to prevent them from leaking and becoming a source of water in the basement.

How to Prevent Leaking Basement Window Wells in Chicago

A window well is a barrier that holds back soil from a space around the window, allowing air and light to enter the basement.  Window wells may be built of brick or stone or even poured concrete but the most common style in Chicago is a semi-circle of corrugated steel that is bolted to the foundation wall on either side of the window.  Properly designed and built window wells will have a drain that carries rainwater to interior or exterior drain tile or out to daylight to prevent the window well from flooding.

When window wells are left uncovered, several things can result, none of them good.  Animals like squirrels, raccoons and skunks and even domestic pets seem to find their way into window wells, either accidentally or on purpose and some get trapped with predictable results.  Wind blows trash, leaves and other debris into window wells, not only complicating spring and fall clean-up but clogging the drain as well.

Clogged drains are the main cause of leaking window wells.  When the drain clogs, water begins to accumulate in the window well.  When enough builds up, it can seep into the basement around a poorly fitted window or exert enough pressure on a good window to create leaks on its own.  Left unrepaired long enough, excess water may damage the window well itself, causing it to separate from the structure.

Obviously, if the window does not have a drain, one should be installed.

Leaking window wells can be prevented by installing a good window well cover, one intended not to keep water out of the window well but to keep the drain clear by ensuring that leaves, trash and animals stay out where they belong.  The clear plastic bubble from the big box store does not fit the definition of “good window well cover.”  They seldom fit properly, break easily, don’t hold up well to cold temperatures and create unintentional “greenhouses” to foster the growth of weeds.

A good window well cover will be custom-fitted to the shape and size of the window well and secured tightly.  A cover made of strong polycarbonate can be easily fitted to any window well and, with its steel reinforcements will hold up to anything Mother Nature can throw at it while still allowing light and air to flow freely.  Polycarbonate covers are designed and installed by professionals.

At U.S. Waterproofing, we consider the window well an important part of any basement waterproofing system and take great care in sizing and installing window well drains and durable polycarbonate window well covers as one more way to keep our customers’ basements dry and their homes healthy.  Please ask for our free advice on Chicago window wells.


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