How to Tips… Window Well Installation

Since we’re in the middle of winter up here in NW Wisconsin, buried under feet of snow and ice, I thought it’d be a perfect time to show an outside garden project… I’m craving a little green so much right now, even a window well project sounds fun! Spring will come and lawn and outside house maintenance will be at the top of the list for many of us…

The basement renovation included this window well installation. How to tips Window Well Installation

I was able to DIY this project easily myself.

Although I should have listened to my contractor a little better when ordering the window well…

This is the basement apartment window in the kitchen area. It is an awning type window, which means it opens out, with hinges at the top, the bottom swings out.

The way it was before, as you can see in the picture below, the dirt level outside was so high, it was up against the bottom of the window.

That’s not a good thing! DIY Window Well Installation

That picture shows the dirt stain on the concrete block wall after I removed most of it in preparation for the window well to go in. It was so close to the awning window that when I was in the basement and opened the window trying to allow fresh air in, the bottom of the window scraped in the dirt and barely would open.

To just remove the dirt wouldn’t work either… even at the prior level, the dirt wasn’t high enough. The yard was sloping towards the foundation. If I removed even more dirt to clear the bottom of the window, I’d be creating a hole for the water to sit in and seep down into the basement.

So, we needed to contradicting things…

  1.  Lower the dirt by the window.
  2.  Raise the level of the landscape so that the slope went away from the house.

Therefore, I had to have something that the dirt could sit against after more was added,  but yet be able to keep the area around the window open. A window well was the easy answer.

There wasn’t a window well the correct size on the shelf, so I had to special order one.

I thought having a sturdy grate on it would be smart to prevent small children from falling into it. (this is where my contractor warned me that it would prevent the window from opening, but I thought it still would open at least part way, so I stubbornly went ahead and ordered the grate with the window well) DIY Window Well Installation

See how sturdy that grate is? Nice, huh?!

Yeah, it doesn’t work. Imagine that, my contractor knew what he was talking about! To have the grate on the top of the window well completely blocks the window from opening… at all. DIY Window Well Installation

I tried it out in this ‘dry fit’ of the window well. I set it there, went down to the apartment and I couldn’t even get the window open a half inch before it hit the grate and stopped.

Darnnit! I should have listened to my contractor! (I will try to use it on the front basement window this spring when we do work over there. I don’t think that window will need to open like this one…. lesson learned.)

Fortunately, I did listen in regards the size of the actual window well though, it fits great. It is a few inches wider than the window on each side. The window well comes with flanges that have predrilled holes in them. You can more permanently mount it to the side of the house with these flanges either with screws &/or glue, but I didn’t do either.

This one sits nicely against the house because there is soil all around it on the outside of the well, which is holding it back against the house.

Next, before the window well actually goes in the hole I dug, it needed a layer of rock. This not only finishes off the inside look of the will, it also will prevent dirt splattering against the window, and a layer of rock will help with drainage.

The local rock quarry is where I went to get that. (you can get it at Home Depot in bags, but I guarantee it’ll be a lot less $$ if you just take a little venture to the quarry.) DIY Window Well Installation

I just needed a few buckets… No need for them to get their big front end loader, I could shovel it myself.

Guess what? A bucket of rock is really heavy! After the first attempt to fill it in the pile of rock and move it, I smartened up and filled the buckets already in the van. (I had men back at the house that could lift these out for me. 🙂 )

Warning… (mostly to my husband)

This next picture is very controversial!!

He hates it when, as he calls it, I use my van as a truck. But honestly, I always have and always will… that’s why I have a van and not a sedan. I love the versatility of being able to haul grandkids one minute and the next fold all the seats down and have room for a piece of furniture, or lumber, or in this case…

Rock! DIY Window Well Installation

Once I got help getting the rock out of the van, I was able to use the 2-wheel dolly and easily roll them over to the window well hole and dump them in. Once the rock was all in, (it takes more than you might think) I raked it level and set the window well on the base of rock.

To finish it, I shoveled the dirt back against the outside of the window well walls, holding it firmly in place and allowing that gentle slope away from the building we needed.

I forgot to take a picture of the window well with the rock in it, but I’m pretty sure you can imagine how that looks. 😉 There’s snow covering everything now so I can’t even run out there and snap a quick pic for you.

This is the view from the inside of the apartment. (This was the day we had to cut down 13 trees.) DIY Window Well Installation

One way the grate top would have worked with the window well is if I got the window well tall enough to totally clear the window top. DIY Window Well Installation

I purposely didn’t do that though because this window faces south and the wonderful light that comes in the apartment is great, not to mention having a view out is nice too. It’ll be totally fine without the grate, and so nice to be able to open the awning window now… well it will be when it warms up outside.

Here you can read more gardening and landscaping projects:

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