A guide on basement window wells

A guide on basement window wells


Window wells can be found on the outside of a home that has windows located below ground level. They are an often overlooked but important part of a well-maintained home. Installing windows with proper window wells allows your basement to function beyond storage. You can even use window wells as part of an egress point, which will allow you to turn your basement into a bedroom. 

This article will help if you’re thinking about installing or replacing window wells as your next home improvement project. We’ll take you through the benefits of window wells, the materials you can use, and how to install a DIY window well. We’ll also answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding window wells. 


What is a window well?

Window wells support a dug-out area around a basement window. The hole is there to allow light to get into a room under the ground level of your home. There is no standard depth for a window well, which lets you base it on the size of your window. Window wells are typically one piece and either circular or rectangular. 


What are the benefits of window wells?

Installing window wells for your home comes with some benefits. We will discuss the two biggest advantages in the sections below.

Window wells allow you to install windows partially below ground level

Window wells allow you to add light to an otherwise dark space. Most windowless basements are used for storage only. Adding a window, which requires a window well, can greatly expand the possible uses for those underground rooms. The natural light can transform your basement into a space where you want to spend time. 

If you plan to use your basement as a habitable space — for example, a room for someone to live in — you must install windows large enough to escape through in an emergency. Putting in large egress window wells allows enough crawl space for a person to escape.

Window wells prevent basement window leaks

Installing window wells around the dug-out area for your basement windows can improve basement waterproofing. Without one, the dirt wall can eventually collapse. Windows covered in dirt can weaken. Additionally, your basement windows feel the brunt of water that comes from the ground and drips off your roof. Unprotected windows can lead to a leaky basement.

Window wells are made to fit into that sensitive area and provide an extra layer of protection for your basement windows. Installing a window well will keep the dirt in place. It will also help block ground-level debris and moisture from finding your windows. If you want to prevent debris and moisture from above ground level, consider installing window well covers along with your window wells. We discuss window well covers below. 


What are window wells made of?

Because window wells are used to keep out everything from dirt and debris to moisture, window wells are typically a solid barrier. You will find window wells made of metal, plastic, pressure-treated wood and masonry materials like concrete. 

Window wells can meet any budget. Many hardware stores carry plastic window wells that you can install yourself, but they might not last very long. Corrugated steel is another option that will last longer. If you have the budget, consider getting specialized hardened plastic or fiberglass window wells. This type of well is built to last for a longer time and can be worth the investment. 

Another area to consider in your materials choice is the bottom of the window well. Gravel is a popular material because it provides excellent drainage. 


Window well cover options

Window well covers are a worthwhile investment. They are designed to fit securely over the window well, preventing debris, rain and snow from collecting and causing your basement to leak or flood. They are also helpful for keeping creatures out of the well. 

When choosing window well covers for your home, consider which material will work best. Additionally, the shape of the cover and the strength of the finished product are important. 

Make sure you know the window’s exact dimensions before purchasing a cover. An incorrect size won’t fit securely, allowing things to get in. 

Plastic is popular because it lets in as much light as possible. However, the type of plastic you use matters. Polycarbonate window well covers are more temperature-resistant and stronger than other plastic materials like polyethylene. Metal window well covers are usually more of a grate, which won’t always keep the elements out. 


How to install window wells

If you plan to install your own window well, follow these important steps. 

  1. Gather the necessary equipment. You will also need various supplies in addition to the window wells and covers (if you plan to use them), including a shovel, wheelbarrow and drainage gravel. You also need wall anchors, gaskets and a hammer drill.
  2. Check the window well position and the backfill. Backfill the dirt only to where the window well comes off the wall. Put the well down where you want to install it and make sure it fits the way you want.
  3. Measure accurately. Pick up the well and move it. Measure the exact dimensions  and mark them on the dirt. 
  4. Dig out the window well. Follow the dimensions you previously measured. Consider digging a few extra inches to make it easier to get the well in, then backfill later. 
  5. Install the window well. Put the well in place, then double-check to make sure its position is correct. You also want to ensure it is level. 
  6. Add a sealant or gasket. Using a concrete expansion joint as a gasket or a silicone sealant will ensure the spot where the well meets the basement wall is waterproof. 
  7. Secure the anchors. After double-checking that the well is in the correct location and waterproofing the sides, use the anchor screws to secure the window well to the wall. 
  8. Pour the drainage gravel.
  9. Backfill the dirt. Backfill the dirt outside the well to make it level with the rest of the area. 


FAQ on window wells

Let’s discuss some of the most common questions about window wells. 

Should basement windows have wells?

Installing basement windows lets you create a functional basement space beyond just storage. Window wells are an essential step in this process because they protect your windows and foundation. They also allow in more light. 

If you plan to use your basement as a living space, you’re likely required to have a point of emergency egress from the basement. Installing windows and egress wells large enough for a person to exit from will be necessary to meet the local building codes. 

How deep should a basement window well be?

Check local code requirements before deciding on the depth of your window well. Generally, a window well needs to be 8 inches deeper than the windowsill and about 6 inches wider than the window itself.

How do I keep water out of my basement window wells?

A properly installed window well can help keep water from leaking from the ground, but it won’t do much to stop water from falling in.

To stop leaks, you can do the following:

  • Install window well covers
  • Address drainage issues, like improper slope grading, clogged gutters, and downspouts that aren’t long enough

How much does it cost to replace or install a window well?

Many things impact the cost of replacing or installing a window well. According to HomeAdvisor, you can expect to pay $200 and up. Pre-manufactured wells begin at $200 and go up to as much as $1,500. If you plan to use the window well as part of a basement egress point, you may also need a well ladder that costs between $50 and $200. Well covers also range in price from $150 to $1,200.


Keep your home systems protected with Cinch

Installing and maintaining a solid window well can do a lot to protect your basement and foundation from damage. Cinch Home Services is here to help homeowners protect their homes with a straightforward, easy-to-understand home warranty. A home protection plan from Cinch can help cover the cost of repairing or replacing essential appliances and systems when they break down. 

Reach out for an instant quote today to find the right plan for your family. 


Learn about the importance of basement window wells, how to select the right materials and tips for installation.

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