Behind the Scenes—Terraced Window Wells in Jamestown
Learn about a clever solution for letting in more light
At the Jamestown, RI, project house, a small 1920s bungalow that is being renovated and enlarged, homeowner and architect Don Powers is making the most of every square foot.
One example is the basement, where the layout includes four large windows to create usable and functional work and play spaces. To maximize the amount of natural light in those below-grade spaces, Powers and contractor Jeff Sweenor collaborated on a solution: terraced window wells. "Jeff and I just noodled out an easily built on-site solution that would angle back to let in more light but also feel more appropriate to the cedar-clad house than either the steel or plastic prefab window wells on the market," says Powers. Sweenor's team went into action, led by project foreman Garrett Kirwin: "We used 6-by-6 pressure-treated lumber and we installed it with shiplap joints, to create a stacked timber window well," says Kirwin. The 3-foot-deep well is lined with gravel at the bottom to promote drainage.
From the basement rooms, the window well will appear as a timber wall; a window box could even be added to the top "step" of the terraced well at some point in the future to enhance the look. When viewed from the yard, only the upper 3 inches of the top piece of timber making up the window well will appear above grade level in most places.