Are There Alternatives to Window Well Covers?
Q: "I have an old house with window wells in front of basement windows. I've tried window-well covers, but they keep blowing away or getting damaged by lawn mowers. Do you know of any solutions?"
I have an old house with window wells in front of basement windows that are below grade. When it rains, I sometimes get a lot of water in the basement. I've tried window-well covers, but they keep blowing away in the wind or getting damaged by lawn mowers. Do you know of any solutions to these problems?
—Betty Nissley, Indianapolis, IN
Tom Silva replies: The first thing to do is make sure your gutters and downspouts aren't part of the problem. Overflowing gutters can fill up a window well so water pours into the basement through the window.
Once the gutters are taken care of, you have a couple of choices.
If you want to eliminate the covers entirely, dig out the existing soil in the well down to about 2 feet below the level of the window, and fill it with ½-inch crushed stone. The stone should come no higher than about 3 inches from the windowsill. That will encourage water to drain quickly so it won't come in the window. Keep leaves and other debris from accumulating in the wells, and you should be fine.
Another, somewhat more expensive approach is to fit your window wells with a better cover. Dyne, for example, makes flat, translucent covers out of high-strength Lexan, a shatterproof plastic. The covers, available at many home centers, are secured to the top of the well by metal brackets and removable pins. But before you purchase such a unit, be sure to check with your local building-code official. A window well cover may not be allowed if it prevents someone from using the window to get out of the basement in an emergency.