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Wet Basement in Chicago? Check your Window Wells!

Jun 24, 2013 • By Matthew Stock.


Sometimes, finding the source of basement seepage can be like a detective story.  The crime scene is the puddle on the floor and the homeowner, in the role of Sherlock Holmes or Sgt. Friday, starts following the leads.  After finding no cracks in the walls or floor, no evidence of water coming in through the cove joint or over the top of the foundation or any of the other “usual suspects,” it may be time to sit and ponder the facts of the case.  Or maybe just sit and gaze out the window, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Wait!  The window!

Yep.  One source of seepage that even the most skilled detective might overlook is a leaking basement window.  Of course, basement windows are surrounded by window wells that are supposed to help manage water and prevent it from entering the basement so it’s wise to look at the entire package when solving the basement seepage mystery.

How Bad Window Wells Cause Wet Basements in Chicago

Basements have windows to let in light and air to brighten and refresh what would otherwise be a dark, stuffy place.  Additionally, basements that contain living space, such as bedrooms, must have emergency egress windows, large enough to allow escape in case of fire or other disaster.  Because the windows are located at least partly below grade, window wells are necessary and must be lined, typically with a corrugated steel liner, to hold back the surrounding soil. 

Of course, an open window well can catch and retain water pretty easily and can turn a basement window into an unwanted aquarium if it is not properly drained.  All that water will exert enough pressure on the window to find even the smallest openings and may even cause the window to collapse.  A window well without a drain is an invitation to a wet basement.

Even if the window well does have a drain, it will still flood if the drain is not properly maintained.  An open window well will catch leaves, grass clippings and blowing trash and can grow weeds or harbor small animals.  Any of these along, along with washed-in soil, can clog the window well drain and cause it to flood.

Window well liners, which should be attached securely to the foundation, often aren’t and can pull away from the foundation, creating a gap for water to enter.  Recent drought that caused desiccation and shrinkage of soil made this problem worse and many window well liners in Chicago are in need of repair or replacement.

4 Ways to Stop Window Well Problems from Causing Wet Basements

Clean or Install a Drain – A clogged window well drain can be cleaned of surface debris from inside the window well to allow it to flow but, if the clog is from washed-in soil or other materials below the surface, the drain should be replaced.  Window wells can be drained into exterior or interior drain tile systems.

Install a CoverWindow well covers do not stop water from entering the window well but will prevent leaves, lawn and landscape debris and animals from getting in there and clogging the drain.  Flimsy plastic “bubble” covers from the big box store don’t fit well and don’t last; a better solution is a steel-reinforced polycarbonate cover that is custom fitted to the window well.  

Reattach or Replace Damaged Liners – If a window well liner has pulled away from the foundation wall but is in otherwise good condition, it can be reattached.  If it is rusted or damaged, replace it to hold back soil and keep out water.

Replace Leaky Windows – Even if the window wells are in place and covered a window that doesn’t fit the opening properly will allow water to enter the basement and should be replaced.

There’s no need for a Chicago homeowner with a wet basement to play detective; a professional basement waterproofing company knows how to find the sources of basement seepage.  At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve found and fixed those problems for more than 300,000 satisfied customers since we were founded in 1957 and we’re adding to that list every day.  Why not ask for our free advice?

Tags: window well covers

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