Waterproofing Window Wells to Protect Your Basement

By:    |   Published March 20, 2018
Waterproofing a window with rubber strip.

Keeping water out of your house is a priority for every homeowner. Unlike foundation cracks or other damage, most homeowners aren’t surprised to learn their basement windows are a major risk factor for water intrusion. Waterproofing window wells and the windows inside of them is an important step toward keeping your basement safe from the weather.

Signs of Leaking in Window Wells

If your window wells aren’t protecting your home from water appropriately, it’s typically very easy to tell. There are several signs you can look for to identify a problem window well. Here are some of the most common examples:

Water Trickling Down Walls

During or shortly after rainfall, a clear sign of a leaking window well is trickling water. In most cases, you can see this water coming down the walls underneath a window well. The water itself or the streaks left behind can be all it takes to identify a damaged or non-functional water well.

Even light rains can build up in poorly drained window wells, which allows enough pressure for moisture to force its way through your windows. Once this breach happens, it will continue to leak until the problem is solved.

Staining or Water Damage on Walls

You don’t need to see water actively leaking through your window wells to notice the signs of moisture intrusion. In most cases, water will clear evidence, such as stains, discoloration or pockets of damaged paint.

This makes it easier to track down potential problems, even if you can’t be home during a rain storm. However, depending on the types of walls you have, it may be more difficult to see water damage like this. If you suspect window well leakage, don’t assume no damage is good news. Try to make a note to head to your basement during the next heavy rain to see if you can catch leaks as they’re happening.

Puddles Underneath Basement Windows

Another obvious sign of leaking window wells is a collection of water on the ground near a basement window. After you’ve noticed water on the ground, do a quick search for other potential causes, such as a leaking cove joint. Once you’ve ruled out foundation cracks or leaking pipes, the likely source will be your windows.

Mold Near Windows

Leaky basements are an ideal location for the growth of mold. In addition to be cold and dark, the moisture from leaks is a constant source of nourishment – both due to the high moisture coming from groundwater with the high likelihood that homeowners won’t notice it right away.

Mold growing inside a home’s window.

Mold cannot grow without moisture, and once the source is cut off, it will quickly recede. That means a lively mold growth is a guarantee that water is finding its way into your basement.

Fortunately, the mold is always close to its water source. As you clean the mold, keep an eye for where it leads. If the trail runs to the edges of your basement windows, your wells aren’t draining properly!

Solutions for Waterproofing Window Wells

Install a Drain

When a window well is collecting more water than it can drain, you likely need to check the gravel layer and install a window well drain. This drain will help manage an abundance of water entering your window well, allowing it to properly drain out of the well and away from your foundation.

If your window well doesn’t already have a drain, or if the drain has become damaged, it’s strongly recommended to contact a professional. Exterior window well drains are not a DIY project, and improperly installing one can lead to flooding or foundation damage.

Replace the Gravel

Over time, the gravel in your window wells can become clogged with dirt, sand and debris. Eventually, the clog will prevent most or all of the water inside to become trapped. When this happens, and the water cannot drain properly, it will cause pressure to the well and the window on all sides. Inevitably, your window’s seal will allow a small amount of water inside, growing more severe every time it rains.

Replacing the gravel is an easier fix for most homeowners and in many cases helps restore the effectiveness of the drain. If you notice a build-up of water in your window well, take a look at the gravel!

Cover the Window Well

Not everyone needs an open window well. When you want to minimize the water that can get in, and don’t mind a potential loss of sunlight or airflow, a window well cover maybe a good option. These covers go on over the entire rim of the window well, blocking and angling water away from your home.

Models range from clear to opaque, giving you a range of choices. For families with young children, you can look for special covers that are designed to hold weight, in case a child falls onto them.

Your new window well covers don’t just keep out rain, either. During the fall, leaves can quickly fill your window wells and disrupt their ability to drain. Trash, dirt and other debris can otherwise find its way into your wells at any time of year too.

Be conservative with any cuts you need to make to fit your cover. The overall shape of the plastic helps keep it from bending and also directs water off the cover. If you end up with a flat cover, it won’t work as well and could allow water to seep towards your foundation.

Replacing Basement Windows

Windows are designed to handle the elements, but they’re not impenetrable. Over the years, wear-and-tear can cause damage to them that leaves your home vulnerable. Constant water damage can rot away the frame or the seal, allowing a leak to grow worse every time it rains. Shifting foundation can also damage the frame, leading to similar issues.

If you’ve tried everything but water is still entering your home, you may need to replace your windows. In older basements, this may be a good chance for you to consider installing egress windows. These specialized windows make it easier for you to escape in the event of a disaster in your home. In many states, they’re even required, so check your building codes if you’re planning to replace a window!

Additional Tips for Waterproofing Window Wells

Inspect the Grading Near Window Wells

If the grading around your home is sloping towards the window wells, it will reduce their ability to defend your home against water. In the worst cases, prolonged rain and saturated ground will direct too much water towards your foundation, flooding your basement.

Check the grading around your home, specially near vulnerable places like window wells. If the grading isn’t directing water away from your house, contact a professional to correct the problem.

Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts

Poorly-maintained gutters and downspouts are one of the most common causes of foundation damage or leaks. Homeowners that don’t realize the importance of gutters often find themselves with flood basements or cracks in their foundation.

Overflowing gutters or downspouts that don’t direct water far enough from your foundation can permit a staggering amount of water to seep down along your home. This pressure, over time, can cause significant damage.

Re-Caulk Your Window Linings

Sometimes a simple solution is all that’s needed to stop water from entering through your window wells. Caulking your windows can help seal small gaps that may have opened or prevent gaps from forming where the seals were beginning to fray.

Keep in mind that if your leak has been happening for some time, the water may have done more damage to the frame than caulk can fix.

Schedule Your FREE 20-Point Inspection

A sump pump is just one part of keeping your basement dry – professional waterproofing is the best step you can take to protect your home. EverDry Toledo can help with a FREE 20-point basement inspection! We’ll help you find out if your home is at risk for water damage and which solutions will best serve you.

Contact us online to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (419) 469-5833 and schedule your inspection today!

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