Window Well Leaking Water Into Basement – Window well drainage is a topic few homeowners think about until their basement floods after a heavy rain. When window wells are poorly drained or improperly installed, standing water often runs directly down basement windows, causing the basement to flood in no time.
Window wells are usually made of galvanized steel and must be installed so long that the basement shelf is at or below ground level (ground level next to the window). The task of window wells is to prevent rainwater and surface runoff from flowing directly into the basement through basement windows.
Window Well Leaking Water Into Basement
When rain and/or snowmelt bring large amounts of water near basement windows, window wells retain the water and prevent water from running up to the windows. It also provides drainage for water so that it does not collect on basement windows.
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For water entering the window well, there are generally two drainage methods for dealing with standing water: gravel layer and window well drainage.
The gravel layer in newly installed window wells is usually 6 inches deep. In a typical 36″ wide window well, the window well can hold about 15 gallons/54 liters of water, which will then rise to a level that could flood the basement. When improved drainage is needed, a window well drain is installed, the top of which is usually below the top of the gravel layer.
Matching window well drains are 4 inches in diameter and drain water from the window wells to a system of sagging tiles installed in the floor along the foundation. Window drains in new buildings consist of sagging tiles; in retrofitting, PVC drains are often used.
Poorly installed window wells are one of the main causes of insufficient drainage of window wells and associated water seepage into the basement.
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Generally, a poorly installed window well will not be installed flush with the foundation wall; as a result, water and sediment enter the window well between the foundation and the edge of the window well.
Surprisingly, many window well problems stem from improperly sized wells. In most cases, built-in window wells are not deep enough and occasionally not wide enough. We suspect this is due to the use of standard well sizes where a custom well depth and/or width is required. The solution to this problem is simple: replace the existing deeper window well and install it correctly.
To date, most poorly drained window wells are the result of soil and debris contamination from the gravel bed in the window well. When a gravel bed is contaminated with sediment, the excellent drainage of the gravel bed is lost, and leaves, newspapers and plastic bags often prevent water from reaching the gravel bed where it is supposed to drain.
Although galvanized window wells are designed to prevent water from entering the window well, water must not pool as it enters, so the water must drain.
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Water entering a clean gravel layer will flow to the bottom of the layer, which is usually clayey and poorly draining. A gravel layer will provide adequate drainage if a small amount of water enters the window well. If a lot of water gets into the window well, stronger drainage is needed. This is accomplished by installing a window well drain as shown in the photo above. Window drains are a very effective way to drain large amounts of water into a sloping brickwork system.
Problem: The window well is not deep enough and water and sediment are entering the window well cavity from under the galvanized window well.
Problem: The window well and foundation are not firmly attached, and sediment is entering the window well cavity between the wall and the galvanized window well.
Problem: Window wells fill with debris and clog drains or prevent drainage through layers of gravel.
Why Do Window Wells Flood?
Solution: Check the condition of the gravel bed and install window well drains to improve drainage efficiency. During heavy rains, water collects in the window wells and eventually ends up in the basement. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about window drainage problems and how to fix them.
Window well drainage problems can cause water to leak into the basement if the window well is not installed, is the wrong size, or the window well drain is blocked. If the gravel in your window well drains poorly, water will collect in the window well as if you had an aquarium outside. This standing water, when high enough, can pour directly into the basement between the window frame and the top of the wall, or it can leak from the window itself!
Inadequate window well drainage can cause large amounts of water to flow into the basement very quickly, requiring improved window well drainage and/or window well replacement.
Water leaking into your basement through a window does not mean you need to replace the window. Your basement windows are not designed to be underwater; the problem is the windows – not the windows.
Prevent Basement Window Wells From Flooding
Today’s building practices require window shafts to be installed when basement windows are at or below grade. New window well installations often include drains to the downspouts to prevent water from pooling in the window well. Window well drains direct water collected in the window wells to a system of inclined tiles installed along the foundation and then to a sump pump installed in the basement or storm water pipes below the street.
In the next photo, an old clay drain can be seen in front of the person’s feet, which no longer provides enough drainage because the drain has been clogged with silt.
When the foundation wall is visible from the inside, you will usually notice soil stains under the window frame, evidence of water entering the basement through the window or from under the window frame. This condition is caused by poor or insufficient drainage of the window well. Note that the window well drainage was not the only problem found in this case, there was also a crack in the right corner of the window that was leaking.
Note: Symptoms of insufficient drainage in window wells are often attributed to the windows themselves, and many homeowners replace basement windows unnecessarily. Leaky windows are rarely the culprit of major basement leaks; in fact, a window only leaks if the seal around the window frame is missing or damaged to the point that water can penetrate the building envelope between the window frame and the foundation.
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The image above the text clearly shows that what appears to be a single leak actually involved two separate leaks – a window with poor drainage and a crack in the foundation in the right corner of the window. This picture is a great example of the importance of inspecting exposed foundation walls from the inside to confirm any causes of basement moisture.
To fix window well drainage problems, it is common to install a new, properly drained drain in the window well. You can install these drains in the traditional way (by digging into the foundation and connecting with drop tiles) or by drilling new drains using our state-of-the-art method. Both methods involve installing drains that lead water from the window shafts to the tile drainage system, which then drains the water away.
If you already have a window well, it may be clogged with sediment. If you move the sediment to a depth of 1′, the drain should work again. Make sure to pour the water well after the window sill. If this happens, repair the eaves or consider installing custom window coverings.
A window well drain is very similar to a kitchen sink drain and if it gets clogged with food the water will not drain. For a window well to drain well, water must be able to penetrate through the gravel layer and through the drain into the slats. If debris such as leaves accumulate in the window well so that rainwater cannot drain through the gravel, water will accumulate in the window well and drainage of the window well will be of little value. If you let the water collect, it will eventually rise until it pours out the window and into your basement! Keeping your window gravel free of debris is an absolute must. Window well covers are an effective way to keep window well gravel layers free of debris at all times.
Window Well Covers
Thinking of buying a window well cover to solve your window well drainage problem? Read our blog:
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