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Community and Q&A

Do I need window well covers?

user-4053553 | Posted in General Questions on

I have a century old house with brick basement walls. It seems at some point someone made some pressure treated plywood window well covers that are now falling apart. I am wondering if they are needed at all, if they are then they need replacing soon.
As far as i can tell the brick foundation has not been waterproofed on the exterior, and while i don’t have any bulk water issues i do have a fair amount of efflorescence. I have two windows with these window well covers, which have dirt inside them (no gravel or rocks) and i’m reasonably sure there is no gravel or drainage going down to the footings (if there are any footings at all) just regular dirt.

So i’m looking for suggestions on what to do, if i remove the covers it will dry out the areas they are covering which seem to stay very damp, the exposed mudsill is rather wet which i’m sure is not good for it. But weeds will probably start growing which is a concern.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    If you have an unfinished basement -- that is, a basement that is used for heating and cooling equipment, without any finished rooms -- the best approach is to remove the windows and fill the openings with bricks and mortar.

    If you have any finished rooms down there, you may have to comply with code requirements for emergency egress. So the first step is to tell us more about your basement.

  2. Yupster | | #2

    If you live in an area with snow, they might be there to prevent the window wells from filling with snow and then melting and creating a nice little pool that drips into your house.

  3. user-4053553 | | #3

    @Martin It is unfinished and used for equipment, laundry and some storage (as well as 1/3 of it being a crawlspace i wish i could dig out and install a slab). None of the windows go into the crawlspace.
    I would like to keep the windows ideally, but i'm willing to consider all options.

    @Yupster I live in Ontario, Canada. Interestingly they do fill up with snow in the winter when there is blowing snow (maybe once a week) probably because they are not very tight. That said if the solution comes down to removing them but installing new ones temporarily over the winter that is acceptable

  4. Yupster | | #4

    I'm a fellow Canuck, Belleville area. That's probably what they were there for then. It's quite common. Digging the window wells down 12" below your windows and adding 6" of clear stone is probably a good idea. Even without footing drains it helps to keep water away from the windows, provide some space for drifting snow, and help keep the weeds down.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    If you want to keep the windows, and you don't want window well covers, remove the old covers and see what happens.

    Clean up the wells. Pull out the dirt and replace it with a layer of crushed stone. Make sure the grade (everywhere except the wells, of course) slopes away from the house.

    After a year, you'll have a pretty good idea whether window well covers help keep your basement dry. It's hard to predict.

  6. user-4053553 | | #6

    @Yupster I'm on the other side of Toronto :)
    I have some pics from winter of the window wells full of snow during drifts and no leakage but i assume the volume was reduced by the covers
    That is a good idea on the digging it out and stones, and weeds are the bane of my existence so hopefully it will help with those.

    @Martin I will try this. Currently the dirt starts a few inches below the window so it will be tricky but i will try to get some more out of it (they are fairly deep) and add stones.

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