Basement Window Leaks & The #1 Most Important Test You Can Do Right Now
If you find water on the floor beneath the basement window here are a few simple steps you can do yourself to see if your window well is working properly.
Perform a simple water test: Go grab your hose and pull it over to your window well. Perform a quick scan of the window well area and remove any loose debris such as leaves, papers, etc. If there is nothing but gravel great you are ready to start the test!
Put the hose into the well area, turn on the tap and let the water flow into the window well area. What do you see? Is the water draining away or is it filling the well up like a bathtub?
Realistically the water should be draining away via a 4” drain that leads down to your weeping tile system. If this drain is slightly blocked the water level may rise a little but it should not come anywhere near the bottom of the window. If this is the case simply dig down into the gravel layer and make sure the drain does not have any mud/dirt etc. blocking the drain entry.
If the water is not flowing away and starts creeping up to the base of the window, shut off the water and you’re done. You have found that the well is not draining and you should take action to get it fixed.
Window Well Repair 101
If you have a home with window wells, it’s likely you understand the importance of keeping them clean so they don’t clog up and cause a flood type situation in your basement. If you find yourself here because you have a wet basement or your basement has flooded because of a faulty window well, you’ve come to the right place.
Chances are your window well area has one of or a few of the following issues: no proper drainage has been built into the well, usually in the form of a deep layer of gravel or drain pipe that leads down into the weeping system OR there is a blockage in the well that does not permit the water to drain properly.
When water leaks into basements through a window, people often have their windows replaced unnecessarily, assuming that a poorly fitting window is the problem. Windows are designed to shed water, but they are not waterproof. So if water is backing up in the well, it will naturally find a way into your house through the window, no matter how tightly it is sealed.
How is a window well supposed to work?
A window well is designed to do two things;
- Hold back soil from coming into contact with a basement window
- Allow outside light into the basement.
Once installed you have created an area where water can collect and pose some problems. So from a functionality standpoint the well really should have an actual drain pipe installed to allow water to flow downwards into the weeping tile system. In some instances just having a fairly deep layer of gravel is sufficient enough to absorb the water that enters the area as it can be absorbed into the soil beneath.
If you don’t have a drain in your window well, and want to install one, you should seriously consider calling a professional. It can be a fairly major undertaking and if not done properly, could cause even bigger problems.
How to properly install a new window well
- Excavation is performed in front of the window right down to the weeping tile.
- While there, it is recommended that a weeping tile test be performed to ensure that it is draining as it wouldn’t make sense to connect a window well drain pipe down to a weeping tile drain that does not work.
- A 4″ drain pipe is installed to approximately 4″ below the height of the window sill.
- Window well is fastened to the wall with concrete fasteners
- Excavation is backfilled with native soil
- Gravel is poured inside the window well to facilitate drainage into the newly installed drain pipe. Option: backfill the entire excavation with 3/4″ clear gravel – this will guarantee that any water that enters the window well area will drain quickly to the weeping tile system.