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Community and Q&A

Basement window wells in a foam-sheathed house

User avatar
Nathan Kipnis, FAIA | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

We typically design houses with continuous insulation on the exterior side of the wood sheathing, install vertical furring strips and then siding or other finished material, creating a rain screen behind the siding. We also align our rigid insulation so that it continues into the ground for our foundation rigid insulation. The question is how could we address areas of the exterior where we would have basement window wells? Would the rigid foam go into the window well, and be clad as the above grade walls are? See attached photo. We also cover the rigid insulation that is exposed at grade with an fiberglass reinforced plastic, not shown in photo.

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  1. User avatar GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    This is an aesthetic issue, not a building science issue.

    If you want aesthetic feedback, I can provide it. But you may not like what I say.

  2. User avatar
    Nathan Kipnis, FAIA | | #2

    Perhaps. We were just wondering if it was unusual or not to run the rigid insulation into the window well, keeping the integrity of the continuous insulation uninterrupted. We have been scratching our heads on how to make this look good.

  3. User avatar GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Yes, you can run the rigid insulation into the window well. You can protect it with whatever you want. Then you can install the galvanized U-shaped retaining wall on the exterior of your foam + protection layers.

    You wrote, "We have been scratching our heads on how to make this look good." To me, the main reason that this "doesn't look good" is that stone walls (for thousands of years) have needed to continue below grade, because stone walls have to sit on something. They can't float in mid-air.

    So when you glue fake stone to a wood-framed wall, and you stop the fake stone with a horizontal line that is 18 inches above grade, the mind rebels. "Woah!" thinks the observer. "What's holding up that stone wall?"

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