To install or not to install a window well?

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Posted by: from Calgary
6/27/2012 at 8:24:28 PM

I recently bought a home that is approximately 12 years old and while performing the pre-purchase home inspection, the inspector identified that the basement windows needed window wells.

I have been researching on various forums how to do this but am not sure if this translates to my particular situation as my basement windows are above ground with clearance between the bottom of the window and the ground being approximately 0.5 to 1 inch.

If it is in fact the case that this should be done, how would I go about completing the task and for a "not-so-handy" person, would I be best to hire someone to do this for me?

Thanks for the help.

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Spencer from All Home Repair in St Thomas
Date/Time6/27/2012 at 9:52:48 PM

This is really not a job for the not so handy person. Have a chat with a pro.

Good luck


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Date/Time6/27/2012 at 9:55:20 PM

A couple of questions would be in order..

1.) Do you plan on using this basement for bedrooms or in the future as a possible suite

to rent out?

2.) Would any of these windows be accessible for easy access in case of fire, smoke, CO2, Home invasion or other emergency.

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Date/Time6/27/2012 at 10:03:39 PM

Hi Carmen

As you said you have a very small gap between your window and the ground. You need at least 3 inch so when the snow defrost it will not get into the wall and into the house.

You need to dig a hole and reach the whipping tiles install a pipe with holes in it so it will transfer the rain water and the melting snow water deep into the whipping tiles then cover the gap with stones and the last foot with grovel and install a well wall so it will not collapse and will not allow extra water from surrounding area to get in there while you do that make sure not to damage the wall waterproofing.

I believe there are companies in there that will do it. try basement water proofing or window companies.

I am in Toronto so I can not do it for you.


Harry C

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Date/Time6/27/2012 at 11:21:14 PM

As the one in toronto mentioned it is a job for a pro.

I in that business but am in fort mcmurray and can not help you but if you check with local contractors they should be able to help you locate a good company that will do this.

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Carmen in Calgary
Date/Time6/28/2012 at 12:27:09 AM

Thanks everyone for the replies. Very helpful information indeed. In response to Norman, the basement is finished. There are 3 windows total, one in a bedroom and two in the great room, all of which would be accessible in case of fire, smoke, etc.

The housing inspector made it sound like this would be as simple as digging a hole and placing the prefabricated aluminum well inside.

Does anyone have any idea what it may cost to hire someone to do this for three windows?

Thanks again.

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Date/Time6/28/2012 at 7:06:49 AM

To have this done properly, it's not going to be cheap. The area around the window will have to be dug down to the concrete sill plate, about 8 feet down , If its an 8 foot basement, Then you need to install a weeping tile from this area, and connect it to your sump pit. Meaning that the concrete floor inside the house will need to be busted up.

Each window well weeping tile runs derectly to the sump pit, and not attached to the weeping tile that runs around the house. a foundation contractor can get this work done for you but I'm sure the costs won't be anything less then 20 g

However a 12 year home should already have a system in place, if the windows are original. Could just be a case of someone just adding alot more fill around the house, and just covering up the existing window wells. If you want to make sure just dig down around the bottom of the window for a foot or two and see if find a black 6"pipe. If so then just install a window well, because your tile is in.

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Date/Time6/28/2012 at 8:24:39 AM

Hi Carmen,

The house should have weeping tiles already. See if the ground around the house is sloping up maybe you can just reduce the area around the windows by 2 more inches and you will be done with it.

If you need some one t do it around here its $1000 to $1500 each for just the well dug and done.


Harry C.

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Date/Time6/28/2012 at 9:18:47 AM

Your inspector is correct. you need at least 6 inches between the bottom of your window and the exterior grade.

I would dig out 18 inches of soil and discard it. place 12 inches of clear crushed stone in the hole for good drainage. Install 6x6 timbers to form a clear space wider than your window and 18 inches from the wall. Bolt the timbers together with lag bolts.Backfill around the exterior of the timbers. You will now have at least 6 inches from the bottom of your window to the top of your 12 inch drainage layer.

Paul Justice

Justice Construction

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Babs in Edmonton
Date/Time5/18/2013 at 1:45:41 PM

I did a similar project myself. Your housing inspector is right - It wasn't very difficult and I haven't had any problems yet. I dugout around the windows and ordered in a custom window well from Conquest Steel through my local Rona, installed and backfilled around the well. Took me a weekend to do the whole house and the custom window wells were pretty reasonably priced and really sped things up because they already had holes on the side for mounting to wall.

I found the installation instructions on the manufacturer website:

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John in Brantford
Date/Time8/10/2013 at 11:45:06 AM

I realize this is an older post, but I must say $1000 to $1500?? No even close.

I recently had the exact same issue with 3 windows at the back of my house and installed 3 window wells in about 3-4 hours at the cost of $120.

The well should be 8 inches below the base of the window and 6 inches above ground level. So in this case you need a steel well that measures at least 14inches can buy these at lowes or home depot for about $15 each (I needed 30inch wells, they were $30 each).

Dig around the window to about 10 inches deep, your going to fill the extra two inches with stone/pea gravel for drainage. Your home is newer, so the weeping tile should already be in place. If it isn't, the much cheaper method than digging down to the foundation weeper, is to install plastic well covers after the fact, to keep the snow and water from even getting into the well at all.

Once you have the holes dug, you will need a masonry bit and some tapcons. The tapcons should be 1 1/4 inch and it will tell you on the box the size you need for the bit.

Place the well into the hole and mark on the wall were the holes will go. If you well doesn't have holes you will need to drill some, put 2 hole near the top of the well, 1 on each side, and 2 holes near the middle, 1 on each side. Mark you holes on the wall and start drilling. Be sure the holes are at least 1/4 inch deeper than the tapcons. Put the well in place and secure it to the wall using the tapcons. Place 2 inches of gravel or pea stone in the bottom and backfill the outside.

All Done and done cheaply.

Like I said, this took me 4 hours for 3 wells and cost $100 for the wells and $20 for tapcons a nice bosch masonry bit.

Good Luck!

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Des in Toronto
Date/Time5/23/2014 at 5:48:57 PM

For the guy in brantford who doesn't value his time.

Great. 4 hrs at $30 for labor--and your employer is paying much more than that because of cpp, ei, etc...Plus needs to have your labor make him/her money towards the business (if you want to keep having work coming down the pipe) so, let's say that's actually $60/hr. That's now $240 + 120 = $360. You didn't mention your costs of the pea gravel, nor fabric. What about pick up and delivery of the materials? Any responsible contractor guarantees their work and that needs to be figured into the cost too.

Sounds like your job went smooth but most anyone knows, when you're in the business, it doesn't always go so smooth. That $360 price tag is easily going to be per well.

When I have work done on my home, I get as many quotes as necessary and almost always dismiss the lowest quotes straight away unless they can give detailed notes about the how and the why...I actually expect that in every quote. I'm also going to make sure that all their workers are covered by wsib and that the contractor carries liability insurance.

I don't need a contractor defaulting because they have run out of money and I don't need cheap work to be painfully apparent five years later.

Sometimes that adage is true. "you get what you pay for."

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