How To Properly Maintain Your Window Wells (and Why You Should)


A window well is a great addition to any home with a basement. Designed to provide some much needed fresh air and light into subterranean rooms so you can enjoy them as fully functional parts of your home, basement egress windows can also be used as an emergency exit if someone was stuck in the space and had to get out quickly.

Those are great functions, but the most important one may be that they also help divert water away from your foundation. A properly designed, sized, and installed basement window covering will help avoid water building up against the glass and frame of your windows.

They are generally set to a depth of about a foot below the bottom sill of your basement window. Local codes and requirements may affect that measurement. A drain should be placed into the bottom of the well area and connected to either a perimeter drainage system or an interior sump pump.

These drains require maintenance to function properly. If allowed to clog, water can quickly accumulate inside the well. The result could be anything from seepage around a window frame causing moisture on your basement walls to cracked glass and flooding inside your home. Following a few basic maintenance tips can help you keep your windows drains free of problems and your basement clean and dry. 

Keep Debris From Around Drains

This is the number one key thing to keeping a window well drain system operating correctly. When you think of the design of basement windows, it is only natural that debris will settle inside these spaces. For starters, they are below ground, so gravity will pull things toward that low space. On top of that, your foundation acts as a natural barrier, stopping blowing or drifting items. Once trapped inside the well, these items have nowhere to go and get pulled toward the drain opening. 

Make sure that your drain has a screen or cover that keeps debris from entering it and causing a clog inside the underground pipes. But don't stop there. Inspect the well base regularly to ensure that leaves, dirt, and branches aren't building up inside. Clear out any that do get in. 

This will help your drains divert water from your windows as well as make it a more attractive space when viewed from inside. 

Change or Clean Gravel Regularly 

The base of your well area will be covered with a layer of gravel. This is to promote drainage. However, gravel can become packed down. It can also get caked with dirt and mud. You will want to refresh the material periodically to ensure it can still do its job.

Start by taking the gravel out completely. If you are planning to reuse it, lay it on a tarp or clean surface. If not, go ahead and dispose of it properly. 

To prepare the gravel for reuse, you will need to clear out any larger debris particles. Then spread it out and rinse it with clean water. Let the gravel dry fully before you return it to the bottom of your window area. 

Make Sure Steps Are Accessible

Some newer window wells have steps integrated into them. This makes cleaning and maintaining them easier. it also helps if you do need to use the window for an emergency exit. If your window well housing has stairs built in, make sure they are clear of debris and accessible. Any mold or mildew that might make steps slippery if you were trying to get up them quickly in an emergency should be removed. 

Consider Installing a Cover

If you struggle with keeping the interior of your window well clean and free from debris, a cover might be a good idea for you. Ask your contractor about the various options that could meet your needs. 

Newer window well models are attractive and can add to the beauty of your home both inside and out. And, with proper maintenance, you can expect them to function for many years.

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