If you’ve ever dealt with water damage in your home, then you know just how devastating it can be. Water damage can lead to mildew and mold growth along with a host of health issues. It can even compromises the structural integrity of your house.
Since the basement is one of the most susceptible parts of your home, can you waterproof basement window wells?
Basement window wells can be waterproofed. By ensuring proper drainage, replacing your gravel, adding covers, and caulking you’ll be well on your way to keeping water out of your basement.
Mold often begins in the basement and works its way upward, taking over other parts of your house. Be sure to take a proactive approach to prevent water from damaging your home. This should start with your basement window wells.
Taking the precautions I’m about to discuss can save you a ton of hassle later on down the line. If done right, you’ll be able to prevent water and moisture from infiltrating your home and destroying your personal belongings.
Before I jump straight into how to waterproof your basement window wells, let’s first take a look at what window wells are and why waterproofing them is mission critical to keeping your basement safe and dry.
Window Wells at a Glance
If you have a basement in your home, then chances are you probably have at least one window well. It’s often shaped like a U and allows light and air to filter into your basement. They’re typically made of ribbed sheet metal or plastic and work as an emergency exit, allowing access to the outdoors.
If you don’t have any window wells and your basement is finished, it’s important to install at least one since they’re a protective measure against basement flooding. In order to install a window well, you’ll need to excavate the earth around your basement window.
As a rule of thumb, the hole you excavate should be twice the size of the window well. This provides you with ample space to install the metal or plastic that supports the well from collapsing.
It’s also important to dig a drainage trench so the water has somewhere to go and does not accumulate.
Ensure your prefabricated well is tightly installed and held in place with masonry anchors. For an extra layer of waterproof protection, caulk around your prefabricated well to further reinforce it. Then, backfill the hole with pea gravel ensuring a 2-3 inch layer is at the bottom of the hole.
Window wells are often made of ribbed metal or plastic. That’s what keeps the ground from collapsing back in on itself. They should fit snugly in order to ensure a proper fit. It’s best to partially reinforce your window well with gravel and to install a drain that connects to your perimeter drain.
How to Waterproof Your Basement Window Wells
Now that you we know what a window well is, what it does, and how to install one, it’s time to waterproof it!
1 – Ensure Proper Drainage
First and foremost, you need proper drainage features inside the window well.
It’s important to understand two types of drains available for your property. Doing so will allow you to make the best choice when waterproofing your window wells.
You’re two options are exterior drains and interior drains.
Exterior drains extend from the gravel in your window well to the base of your foundation. They then connect to your perimeter drain. On the other hand, interior drains work hand in hand with your sump pump, located inside your home.
Interior drains draw the water towards your sump pump before flushing it from your property through a system of pipes. In order to connect a window well to your sump pump, you would need to cut a hole in the wall of your foundation.
Remember, after you have installed your drain, replace the metal or plastic well to keep the soil from collapsing in on itself. It’s crucial to compact the ground within the well and to grade it so water drains away from your window.
2 – Foundation Grading
Another way to keep water out of your basement is to regularly grade the soil around your home. As the soil around your home settles, make sure to maintain foundation grading.
Construction, rain, and landscaping all affect the rate in which the soil around your home settles. Redo your home’s foundation grading as an additional protective measure to help keep your basement dry.
Add soil to assist with foundation grading, reestablishing a slope away from your home. It’s important to remove mulch before doing so and add some clay. Clay can shed water far better than topsoil alone and is a better choice when grading your foundation.
Be mindful if you move drainage pipes and downspouts for any reason. Don’t forget to replace them so water can be properly carried away from your foundation and window wells.
Proper window well maintenance like this will help keep water out of your basement.
3 – Replace Your Gravel
In addition to ensuring proper drainage, there are several ways you can waterproof your window wells and protect against rain and snow accumulation.
It might seem obvious, but every so often replace your gravel. Believe it or not, you can add an extra layer of waterproof protection by doing so.
How? Dirt eventually clogs the gravel in your window wells. This can lead to leaks because water eventually gets trapped and can’t properly drain away from your house. However, by replacing the gravel inside your window well, you ensure that your drainage is working effectively and water is not accumulating.
Be on the lookout: excess water in your window well could mean that you need to replace your gravel. It’s an incredibly easy fix, and it can save you a ton of money down the line and prevent a big disaster. Don’t be lazy on this one, trust me.
4 – Use Window Well Covers
Window wells are traditionally left uncovered so light and air can filter into your basement. However, you may not want or need this.
If that’s the case, consider investing in a window well cover.
They cover the entire window well and are set at an angle that drains water away from your home. They come in different styles and colors. Some are clear and let in light while others don’t. Some are standard grates while others are custom grates. They also come in wrought iron for a bit of a decorative feel.
Other types of covers include flat covers, bubble-shaped covers, and dome covers. One that I really like is made by Maccourt, and you can purchase it here on Amazon for a great price.
If you have small children and are afraid of them falling on the window well cover, consider purchasing one that can withstand their weight. Window well covers also keep pets safe when out in the yard and prevent them – along with unwanted pests – from falling in.
An added bonus to having the right window well cover is that it can protect from leaves falling inside especially during autumn. Leaves, dirt, and other debris often accumulates inside window wells, preventing your drainage system from properly functioning. However, window well covers serve as the perfect solution since they keep your drainage system free from possible clogs.
Word to the wise: when installing your window well cover, be mindful of any alterations you make to the structure. Make sure they draw water away from your home and should not lie flat.
Types of Window Wells
There are different types of window wells, made from a variety of materials. These window wells match the exterior of your home and come in many different styles.
Window wells come in faux rock, giving your home an added decorative touch. Bilco window wells are a fantastic option if you are looking to update your basement windows to emergency egress code. They never rust or rot and can last indefinitely.
Galvanized steel metal window wells can comply with egress code. Another color choice is white, brightening up the exterior of your home.
Egress code is the ability for a person to easily fit through a window or door. If you’re concerned and want to ensure your home has adequate exits in the event of an emergency, then window wells that comply with egress codes are a fantastic solution.
You’ll not only help to waterproof your basement, but you’ll also have window wells that allow for easy access should an emergency ever present itself.
5 – Perform Routine Window Well Maintenance
Make sure your gutters and downspouts are regularly maintained and cleaned. When clogged, they can cause water damage to your home. Gutters and downspouts carry water away from your home so make sure they’re functioning properly and that water is not flowing toward your window wells or foundation.
Also, caulk your windows. This takes very little time, and is one of the best ways to prevent water seepage in your basement. Many homeowners are unaware of just how many small gaps and holes there are in there windows that let in water. Caulking gets rid of them and can save you a bundle in the long run.
It’s worth noting though that if water has been seeping in for a substantial amount of time, your windows could be beyond repair. If you’ve replaced the gravel inside your window wells, added covers, installed a drainage system, and graded the property around your home, then you may need to replace your basement windows.
Of course, this is as a last resort after trying all the other methods that I’ve mentioned here.
6 – Apply Concrete Sealers
Don’t forget to apply concrete sealers to your basement walls and floors to offer additional waterproofing protection. If your basement has already sustained water damage, you can apply these sealers to a damp surface after removing the water.
In addition to installing a concrete sealer, it is important to know the signs that water is seeping into your basement.
Identifying Water Damage From a Leaking Window Well
Check for a musty smell. This can often indicate the presence of water, mildew, and mold. Address this immediately since it can pose a health threat. Spores can travel across your basement, making matters far worse.
If you’ve recently purchased a home, previous owners may have removed evidence of mildew and mold. However, spores tend to love corners, so it’s best to investigate them. Other places to check are where the floor and wall meet and under boxes, totes, and other appliances where water is less likely to evaporate quickly.
Look for yellow, purple, green, or black spots, as mildew and mold come in a variety of colors and sizes.
Be on the lookout for paint flaking off of concrete, stone, or brick walls. Since moisture builds up from inside, the paint will be unable to adhere and eventually bubble and peel.
Importance of Having a Waterproof Basement Window Well
It’s essential that the edges of your window well sit flush against your basement walls. This prevents leaks and damage to your basement. If your window sills are at or below ground level, then window wells are essential to keep water from leaking into your basement.
Water collects from snow or large amounts of rain. The window wells store this water, which is why proper drainage is essential for a dry basement. Leaks may present themselves if the well is the wrong size, installed improperly, or if there is debris or contamination within the layer of gravel inside the well.
Keep in mind, your basement is often where you store important items. If your basement suffers flooding or mold damage, you run the risk of losing your cherished possessions.
Make sure to identify the source of any basement water you may be seeing. If you’ve identified the problem as your window well, be sure to do everything I mentioned in this article. Even better though, do it before you even see the water! Trust me – it’s well worth the time and effort.
If you’re serious about remodeling your home, check out my post: Must-Have Tools of the Trade for Home Improvement DIYers.