Window Well Guide
Window wells are an important feature of egress window installations. The function of window wells is to permit safe exit from the window by retaining the earth around the window. A properly designed well can also help control the flow of precipitation and protect the window from flooding.
EGRESS WINDOW WELL REQUIREMENTS
Egress window wells must provide a minimum clearance of 30 inches from the face of the window to the window well. If the window is positioned under a cantilever, the window well must provide a minimum clearance of 30 inches from the face of the cantilever to the window well. If the window well is more than three feet deep, a step or ladder is recommended. Covers or grates are allowed, but they must be removable from the inside of the home in case of an emergency.
PROTECTING WINDOWS FROM PRECIPITATION
Egress window wells must be designed to control the flow of precipitation into them or the windows will be at risk of flooding. This is a very common issue with window wells, as the bottom of the well is often the lowest point on the property. There is however a number of precautions that can be made to reduce the risk.
Weeping tile tie-ins are the best preventative measure that can be utilized to reduce the collection of water in window wells. A drainage pipe is connected from the bottom of the window well, to the homes weep system. It should be noted that not all homes have weep systems, particularly some of the homes that were built before the 1980s.
Controlling surface water is another important preventative control to reduce the risk of flooding. Eavestrough downspouts should never drain near or uphill of a window well, as the water will very likely find its way into the well. The lip of the well needs to extend 4 inches above the grade. The grade around the wells and home should always slope away at a minimum of a 5 percent slope (ideally 1 inch drop per foot of distance). Gravel is placed in the bottom of the well and will help melt the snow that accumulates in the well during the winter months.
WINDOW WELL OPTIONS
Corrugated Galvanized Steel Window Wells
Steel window wells are the most cost effective choice for window wells. One of the more obvious benefits is that they are very long lasting, so long as they are installed properly. They are also impermeable to water (vertically), reflect a greater proportion of light and do not rust. Steel wells are leveled and anchored to the foundation wall to prevent settling and warping.
Pressure Treated Wood Window Wells
Wood window wells are a more visually appealing solution for window wells, however they cost significantly more. Wood wells are better suited for areas that are more visible or require a nicer view from the interior side of the window. Wood wells can be constructed in many different designs, as long as they satisfy the minimum clearance of 30 inches.
They can be built as simple boxes (see photo on right) or can feature two or more tiers in a stepped back design. Tiered wood window wells create a better view, allow more light in the window and can also function as steps out.