The Ins and Outs of Window Well Maintenance

egress window well cover surrounded by fallen leaves

Basement egress window wells let a lot of good things in — fresh air, natural light, and (if necessary) lifesaving emergency personnel. However, if improperly installed or maintained, a window well could let in things you’d rather keep out.

The most undesirable of these guests? H2O. While water damage represents a threat to any basement, it can be especially detrimental to finished basements. Without proper basement window well drainage, water can pool up and seep into the home, ruining property and weakening your foundation.

However, even if a window well drainage system is set up correctly, debris can create blockages and inhibit its ability to perform. The wet weather conditions of winter and spring place additional responsibility on homeowners to keep up with window well maintenance, ensuring their basements stay warm and dry.

About basement window well drainage

A well-installed window well is an asset, not a liability. But its proper function is contingent on both the installer (set-up) and the homeowner (maintenance).

Waterproofing window wells begins with ensuring a proper drainage system is in place. There are two basic configurations to make note of.

Exterior drains

Exterior basement window well drains connect to an existing weeping tile system (aka French drains or drain tiles). Despite the name, modern weeping tile systems are not actually composed of tiles at all — but rather plastic piping (the term is based on the terracotta that was originally used).

A trench is dug underground around the perimeter of the home, angled away from the foundation. In this trench sits the weeping “tile” — plastic piping dotted with tiny perforations to allow groundwater to “weep” into it from above. That water is whisked away through the pipe to the nearest storm sewer (or another community-approved drainage point).

Interior drains

Interior basement window well drains similarly — except that they connect to weeping tile installed along the inside perimeter of the home, in a trench under the basement floor. Excess water is directed to a sump pump, a device that discharges it away from the property to a predetermined drainage area.

Don’t forget the gravel

It is also important to mention gravel’s vital role in basement window well drainage. It is customary to lay several inches of gravel or crushed stone at the bottom of a window well to better regulate the flow of water into the drain below. As water trickles through the coarse aggregate, it is gradually absorbed and filtered by the rock, adding another layer of waterproofing protection.

And definitely don’t forget the window well cover!

A sturdy polycarbonate egress window well cover will deflect most moisture and debris away from the well, and makes the work of window well maintenance so much easier. For optimum results, pair with a quality window well grate, which allows for ventilation while the cover is open without sacrificing safety and security.

How to clean window wells

Shovel away snow and ice

If your climate makes a habit of snow and ice, you should make clearance part of your winter window well maintenance routine. Heavy accumulations can overwhelm and clog window well drains, and may even inhibit your ability to escape your basement in the event of an emergency.

Even if you do have a window well cover (and you absolutely should), it’s a good idea to clear away snow and ice — not only for ease of exit but to allow that surely needed natural light through.

Remove leaves and debris

If enough leaves or debris do make it into your window well, they can form clogs and compromise proper egress window drainage. Depending on how significant the buildup is, you can remove it by hand or with a shop vacuum.

Clean or replace gravel

Over time, gravel can get gummed up as well. Usually, it is enough to shovel the gravel out of the well and rinse it off before reusing it. However, it can be replaced entirely.

Consider roof drainage

Inadequate roof drainage can absolutely impact basement window well drainage. Overflowing gutters and downspouts can quickly saturate the surrounding soil and overwhelm the system.

Recaulk liners

Window well liners will naturally start to separate from a home’s foundation over time, creating a gap where moisture can breach. If you’re up for some DIY window well maintenance, wipe away any dirt or mud from the area, and once dry, apply caulk to seal the window well anew.

Window well covers from Egress Solutions

Window well maintenance is important — but if you’ve been paying attention, there is a simple remedy to most egress window drainage and waterproofing headaches. Egress Solutions offers dependable egress window well covers from Boman Kemp and Rockwell to contractors and homeowners in New Jersey, Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Eastern New York. Get in touch with us and save your energy for a different rainy-day activity.


Don’t take the risk of an unsafe basement.

Call us today or click here to request your quote. We can help increase both the safety and value of your home.