Having windows in the basement is great. They admit natural light, can be opened to let in some often badly needed fresh air and, properly configured, can serve as an emergency escape.
Of course, when there are windows in the basement, there have to be window wells outside unless, of course, the homeowner enjoys a close-up view of dirt. A window well provides space for all that light and air and forms a rigid barrier to hold back soil.
On the downside, a basement window does create another opening in a foundation wall that can admit water into the basement. A properly fitted and maintained window will keep out minor seepage and is an essential part of keeping the basement dry.
The window well also plays a significant role. For all its virtues, a window well is nothing but a big opening in the ground next to a foundation and, like any big opening in the ground has the potential to fill with water during a heavy or sustained rain or snow melt.
When a window well does fill with water, it puts the basement window to the test by creating pressure on the window and by holding water that seeks any small opening to alleviate that pressure by entering the basement space.
So, what’s the best way to fix a window well that’s filling with water?
Fixing a Window Well That’s Filling with Water
Fixing (or preventing) a window well filling with water is all about two components of the window well system – the drain and the cover.
Window Well Drain – Every window well should have a drain to allow water to exit the window well and not build to a level that creates a basement seepage problem. Drains can be connected to interior or exterior drain tile or can be run to daylight where a proper slope exists. With a well-constructed and properly maintained drain, a window well should never fill with water.
Of course, some home builders will take short cuts with window wells and install them without drains. More commonly, though, the drains are there but, because of lack of maintenance, they clog up.
So, one way to fix a window well that is filling with water is to find and unclog the drain. Cleaning debris from the opening to the drain is usually a fairly easy task but, if the drain has become clogged below the surface it can be difficult to unclog. The best way, of course to deal with a clogged window well drain is to prevent it from clogging in the first place by installing a proper window well cover.
Window Well Covers – The most important function of a window well cover is not keeping out water but keeping out the kind of debris – leaves, grass clippings, trash – that will clog the drain. Many homeowners make the understandable mistake of installing flimsy plastic “bubble” covers from the hardware store thinking that they will keep out water. While still intact these covers create a surprisingly efficient greenhouse for weeds but are easily cracked and broken, rendering them useless.
A steel grid cover is better but can still admit a lot of debris.
The best window well cover will be constructed of reinforced polycarbonate and will be custom-fitted to the window well to ensure that it covers it completely. This type of cover, while incidentally preventing most water from entering, will do an excellent job of keeping out debris (and small animals) and keeping the window well drain open and working.
Of course, these window well covers aren’t available from the big box store; the homeowner will need the assistance of a basement waterproofing contractor with experience in fabricating and installing polycarbonate covers. At U.S. Waterproofing, we have installed custom-fitted polycarbonate window well covers for thousands of the 300,000 happy homeowners we have served since our founding in 1957. Why not ask for our free advice on keeping your window wells from filling with water?
If you’d like to know more about window wells, please post your questions in the Comments box below.