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A Brighter Basement: Window Wells Are Worth It

Mar 19, 2008
Window wells have had somewhat of a mixed reaction from home owners. They are quite functional and allow a great deal of light into the basement. However some aren't always aesthetically pleasing to the eye and take some proper safeguard maintenance before they are installed. This article will bounce off some alternatives to what some may think a typical window well is and also provide some checklist material before embarking on the well dig.

Watch Out When Installing Your Window Well

Installing a window well has its pros and cons. Most of the cons can be accounted for, which will be touched on later such as the occurrence of possible water leakage. I'll back up a bit and go over what is involved in a window well.

Window wells are dug out recesses along the sides a house that allow for a window to be installed below ground. They are traditionally horseshoe shaped and can be either shallow (a foot or two below the surface) to quite deep (the size of a punji-spiked tiger trap), depending on how much light is desired. The well allows space for a window to be set into the side of the house that was once below ground. Its design is to make a musty basement less dingy and to ventilate the space if you install windows that open.

The big problem with this is that it's just that -- a well. It's a hole next to your house so to speak. So this well is simply going to invite precipitation, lawn clippings and even animals to fall into it. If the water filter and screening process is not part of the deal, you can face a flooded basement or a warped window sill among other problems.

Ground grade is the first line of attack you will want to talk to your contractor or builder with. Make sure that the ground grade in the yard is not angled towards the well. This goes for all ground around the house, you just want to have the gravity directed away in general. Also, the ground grade at the bottom of the well should use the same concept. Make sure it is a grade facing away from the window.

There are systems of drainage too that you can install in your well (usually in the base of the well) that can create passage for ground water to flow through. This coupled with a sump pump can redirect the water outside the well into safe draining areas.

As far as rascals and kids falling into the well, there are plenty of options to buy screens and grates to keep that from happening. Screens are sold that won't hamper the sunlight too much.

Options to Solve Your Ugly Window Well Predicament

For the most part, construction crews will use a basic sheet metal that sort of look like the sheen off of a metal grain silo in the summer. It's not a turn-on for most so there are options that are more attractive. If you got some cash on hand that is ready to burn you can actually construct a well that has brick or stonework. But as an alternate there are faux stonework well walls that are already formed together, which are light and durable, and cheaper in price, similar to home siding.

Note that the building code called Egress should be implemented into the construction of the well. This basically goes over how the well should be shaped and fitted and, even more importantly, how someone can get out (usually by having a ladder or step system) if they were to fall in.
About the Author
Rockwell Window Wells (http://www.rockwellinc.com) designs and sells window wells that make the basement open, relaxed and well lit with their composite well designs, which look and feel like stone work. Their window well grates are also popular. The author, Art Gib, is a freelance writer.
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