When any portion of your home’s basement window is below grade — that is, below ground level — you need window wells. Window wells do two things:
- They keep the surrounding dirt in place.
- They drain rainwater away.
These are the two vital functions of window wells. When they fail to do either of the above properly, you can count on an eventual leak into your basement.
Common Window Well Problems
There are a couple of common window well issues we encounter too regularly at Groundhog Excavating.
Many homeowners damage their finished basement by enlarging an existing window well or installing a new window where one never existed. The sliding-style windows popular in modern basements aren’t watertight, so don’t assume they’ll keep your basement dry. It’s not just about installing a window. It’s also about excavating around it. Excavating needs to be done to ensure proper drainage to the weeping tile. Otherwise, pray that it never rains.
Without proper excavation, your window well could overflow, causing extensive damage to your finished basement. An aquarium is an attractive addition to your home, but when your window well becomes one, it’s bad news for your nicely finished investment.
Improper Fastening to the Wall
Window wells that were never properly fastened to the wall can also give you trouble. As the ground freezes and swells it may, over time, gradually push the window well up, eventually causing the earth to flow under the well and to the drain, causing the drainage system to fail in that area.
At Groundhog Excavating Ltd., we’ve seen the results of poorly-fastened window wells many times. If you have this problem, don’t worry, you’re not the first homeowner to experience this. (If that’s any consolation!)
Don’t Let the Problem Come Back to Haunt You!
To ensure that separation of the window well from a home’s foundation doesn’t happen again, we typically excavate the area to the weeping tiles, clean out the tiles, and then provide extra drainage tile from the weeping tile to the base of the window. We then back fill and compact the area to just under the window and install a new window well. Usually, we’ll install it deeper than the original one. To keep the window well in place, we secure it to the wall with concrete anchors and seal it.
After a window well replacement, it’s important to ensure that soil is compacted properly to maintain proper water flow and prevent leaks. Otherwise, the soil may eventually settle over time and rainwater will cause sinkholes around the well. These sinkholes funnel water and soil to the window well, possibly re-clogging the drain and creating an even more severe basement leak. Then, it’s “back to square one.”
When it comes to excavating and working with soil and gravel, it’s important to have experienced professionals to the job. This ensures the “remedy” doesn’t lead to even worse problems in the future. It’s our job at Groundhog Excavating Ltd. to make sure all the causes of water troubles are assessed and remedied professionally.