This projects falls under the category of, ‘I never planned on doing this when we bought the house.’ Oh well. After we got water pouring in through our basement window, I decided it was a must-do project. We actually did it the weekend a hurricane was supposed to hit New Jersey. Hubby and I were still outside when it started to rain. But we finished with enough time to head inside, and luckily all the other precautions we took kept the water far from the windows.
Let me show you what was on the house when we moved in. Or should I say, next to the house, because, as it turns out, the damn things were never attached to the house. Nope, they were just leaning up against the concrete foundation, and were sinking lower and lower into the ground. WT?? You can’t even see the prefabricated steel window well anymore, it’s a few inches below the dirt. Just to be clear, the purpose of the metal well is to hold the dirt back, it is not meant to hold water back. Water shouldn’t be flowing toward the window, always grade away from the house.
Now, the first option would be to lower the earth to 6″ below the window and then slope down and away from there. This was not an option for us. We had already lowered the grade of our soil quit a bit and it needed to be that high against the foundation to keep the proper pitch. On the other hand, you don’t want the soil to be so high as to touch the siding, you must maintain at least a few inches of clearance, otherwise moisture will get stuck under the siding and that’s no good.
This is what it looked like when I removed the plastic cover. Can you see the metal semi-circle down there? The new one I bought from Lowe’s was a few inches taller, but could have been more so. But let me tell you, if you’re trying to buy window wells right before a hurricane, it’s going to be slim pickings. I had to wait for an emergency shipment to come just to get these. You could just forget it if you were looking for plastic covers, because there were none to be found! If they had these window wells at the time, I would have bought them instead. Ideally, you want one that is deep enough to extend at least 8 inches below the level of the windowsill and is at least 6 inches wider than the window opening.There is not a lot of technical know how in this project, but drilling into concrete can be a little intimidating. That and getting enough gravel. We have a pickup truck and bought 2 tons of pea gravel to split between 3 windows, which was overkill, but that’s how we roll. You could buy bags of pea gravel from Lowe’s or Home Depot, if you had to, but it would cost more. I guess digging a hole can be a challenge for some people too, but again, not technical.
What you’ll need:
- wheelbarrow or tarp
- prefabricated window well
- hammer drill with masonry bits
- masonry fasteners (I used Tapcon 3/16″ x 2-1/4″ concrete anchors with fender washers similar to these)
- landscape fabric
- pea gravel
- well cover
- Dig the hole – Make it deeper and wider than the previous hole. The well needs to be positioned so 6″ remain above grade, so put it place to get a better idea. Dig 4 or 5 inches below the bottom of the prefabricated well. Dig at least 6″ wider than the well. A wheelbarrow or tarp is handy to throw the dirt into/onto as you’re digging the hole. (These pictures are from two different windows, so don’t be alarmed when all the patio pavers disappear. Those are part of my lattice enclosure to hide my garbage cans and air conditioner. The 4x4s are part of my kayak stand, which thankfully I hadn’t complete yet.)
- Attach the prefabricated well – Carefully mark where you need to drill the holes by positioning the well and making sure it’s level. Drilling into your concrete foundation is not something you want to mess up, so mark the placement of the fasteners carefully. Use a Sharpie to mark the concrete by coloring through the pre-drilled hole on the well. Use a hammer drill to make the holes. Make sure you’re using a bit designed to drill through concrete (a masonry bit).
- Backfill the hole – Maybe it’s a chick thing, but I like to lay down landscape fabric anytime I’m putting rock on top of dirt. If you skip the fabric, the two will eventually mix together. A lot of guys skip this step, so you can if you want, but I didn’t. Now fill in that hole with pea gravel. Make sure at least the bottom inch or two of the well is covered. Put gravel in the hole and around the perimeter. When you’re done adding gravel, close up the top of the landscape fabric and fill the remaining couple of inches with dirt, making it level with the dirt around it. Try to leave 6″ of the well above ground.
- Add a well cover – You can see the steel well sticks up above the dirt, and the plastic cover goes around it. I never have any problems with debris or animals getting in there and they’re not even attached. The top part fits under the groove in the siding and it stays put. I used these covers.
Here’s another view. Be sure to check out the posts on the lattice storage area, retaining walls, arbor and gate and split-rail fence.
Think you’re going to give this a try? Go for it! This cute little guy is optional.