Does my basement need window wells?
What are window wells?
Basements tend to be gathering places, a spot to kick back and watch the game or let the kids run around. It’s important to have a source of natural light and fresh air in a downstairs room, but windows at ground level are prone to springing leaks. Window wells and well covers are a no-brainer solution to keeping your basement comfortable and dry.
You’d probably recognize a window well even if it doesn’t sound familiar. It’s a U-shaped frame that’s usually made of galvanized steel and it fits into the ground at the base of a grade-level (or lower) window. The frame is basically a retaining wall that prevents the surrounding earth from caving in, while also keeping unwanted elements out of your basement. From the outside, they might look a little unusual, but having them can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
The best window wells have a one-piece design to minimize leaks. They can also be made of brick, lumber, or stacked stone, but these materials are prone to water seepage and require more maintenance over time. A metal or polycarbonate well is a much better bet for overall efficiency and stress-free homeownership.
Window well covers are an additional solution for keeping rain, snow and critters out of your home. Clear, polycarbonate covers act as a kind of bubble shield, letting the light filter in while reducing leaks and mildew. In the winter months, they seal precious heat inside, keeping the chilly air outside where it belongs. Grated metal covers are also available for more durable protection. They aren’t waterproof but they do lie flush with the ground if you’re not into the bubble look.
Why you need them
There are many benefits to having a basement window with a professionally installed well. Air circulation brings life back into a stale, stuffy environment. A view and some sunshine can turn a subterranean room into a warm living area, so it’s important to keep that space water-tight. Having an expert on-site will guarantee efficient drainage and a sealed window, while a DIY approach can be risky and cause problems that wind up costing more money in the end. All it takes is a sudden downpour to fill a poorly built well like a bathtub, risking major structural damage to your home, not to mention your bank account. A window can also be an unlikely but crucial exit. Basements with bedrooms not only legally require that a window is installed in case of emergency, but also that a well be large enough for a fully equipped firefighter to fit through if you need to be rescued from a fire. It never hurts to know that you and your family can get out of the house safely and quickly if you need to.
Windows with a base at or below ground level require wells, which is why they’re typically associated with the basement. Then again, “daylight” basements have floors that are flush with the earth and don’t require wells. These often have doored entryways or windows that sit high enough off the ground to be safe from groundwater or contact with dirt.
Of course, upper floor windows don’t require the same kind of upkeep as the parts of the house that battle Mother Nature more directly. The earth can rot the wood frame of a window that sits in the ground, so it’s not just melting snow or April showers you have to consider when it comes to maintaining your basement windows. But it does mean you can drink your morning coffee in a shaft of sunlight instead of in a dark cave.
Having a window well comes with challenges, as it can fill with anything from snow and leaves to frisbees and tennis balls. A simple step in keeping unwanted things out is to get a cover, but you can do so much more to minimize overall labour.
Drainage is everything. Don’t let spring melt or a rainy day crash movie night in your home theatre! Water needs a place to flow and it should always be directed away from your home, especially if you have basement windows. It’s important to clear all drainage paths out regularly to avoid overflow or flooding. This is also why it’s crucial for a well to be the correct size for your needs. If it’s too small, loose earth surrounding it can get washed inside by rain or melting snow, creating a muddy blockage that’s no fun to clean up.
Professional well and drain installation make life easier. If you’re experiencing water damage, rust, or increased maintenance due to window issues, contact F.M. Foundations. We provide expert window well installation to keep your basement leak-free and comfortable. Contact us and we’d be happy to discuss an option that fits your needs.