Window Wells

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;

  1. Hold back soil from coming into contact with a basement window
  2. 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.  However 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.   

If you have any other basement waterproofing or foundation crack questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.


What should you do if water comes in?

Because window wells are below ground level, there are a number of things that can cause water entry through your window. Some of the most common problems are:

A – Papers, leaves, snow or other debris pile up:

Check your window wells on a regular basis to make sure they are clean. If the well becomes packed with things like paper, leaves, snow and other things of that nature it will be difficult at best for water to drain away from the window.

B – Dirt gets into the well and plugs the drain:

Soil can enter the well and cause problems if the window well is the wrong size.  The biggest problem we see all too often is that the window well originally installed by the builder is not tall enough.  They install the bottom of the window well at the same level as the bottom of the window and over time the soil at the bottom of the steel well undermines it and starts to clog up the gravel layer.

C – Gravel layer becomes plugged:

For wells that do not have a drain wet soil can clog up the gravel, and will prevent water from draining. When this happens it’s time to shovel out the clogged up gravel, and replace it with new gravel. 

D – Window well not fastened to foundation:

As the soil around your house settles, or simply due to the ground freezing and thawing over time, the window well has the potential to move and come away from the house. If this happens you will find that dirt will start coming in and clogging up the drainage system. If this happens, the window well will need to be dug out and either reinstalled or a new well will need to be properly attached to the foundation.

If you find water on the floor beneath the basement window here is a quick test to see if your window well is working properly.

Perform a simple water test: Get your hose and run water into the well to see how quickly it drains away. The water level may rise a little but it should not come anywhere near the bottom of the window. 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 properly and should take action to get it fixed.  If the water is draining away properly and you are still getting water inside your basement you likely have a completely different issue going on there. It would be a good idea to check for a foundation crack at this point.

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.

To book a window well procedure call 289-880-7988 or click here to submit your request via email.

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