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Why Is Water Filling Up In My Window Wells?

And More Importantly, How to Fix It

With today’s technology and waterproofing systems, there’s really no limit to what you can do with your basement. Whether you envision a game room with a fancy built-in bar or a fully furnished home office, your basement is like a blank canvas in this sense.

But homeowners didn’t always need basement waterproofing solutions in Springfield, NJ, and throughout the state. Why? Because back in the day, basements were used for storing food. And since light makes food deteriorate faster, windows were a no-no at the time.

Today, we’re all about window wells and letting the light shine into our basements. In fact, walking through a dark and windowless basement in this day and age might just give you the heebie-jeebies!

Not All Window Well Systems Are Created Equal

With the right window well system, you create a dry open space in what would otherwise be soil. Because really, who wants to gaze out the basement window and see a bunch of dirt? Talk about a mood killer!

But the key word here is “right.” The right window well allows natural light to flood into your basement. It also provides a point of egress in case you need to leave your basement in an emergency. But for all the benefits you stand to gain with the right window well, you can have just as many problems with the wrong one. What do we mean by this?

window well installation nj

But the key word here is “right.” The right window well allows natural light to flood into your basement. It also provides a point of egress in case you need to leave your basement in an emergency. But for all the benefits you stand to gain with the right window well, you can have just as many problems with the wrong one. What do we mean by this?

The wrong window well system is one that:

  • Wasn’t installed properly
  • Wasn’t properly sized or fitted
  • Has deteriorated over time
  • Doesn’t have a cover (or one that fits properly)
  • Lacks a sound drainage strategy

It’s your contractor’s responsibility to prevent these problems from occurring. Ultimately, it comes down to correctly installing a quality product with the proper accessories and drainage strategy. What we want to focus on in this post—and what some contractors cut corners on—is the drainage strategy. Because without one, you’ll have more than just sunlight flooding your basement…you’ll have water, too!

window well product nj
Example of a modular window well we can install for your NJ home. Photo courtesy of Mar-Flex Waterproofing & Building Products.

There Needs to Be a Drainage System In Place

Let’s say your contractor correctly installed window wells for your home. The company didn’t cheap out and use flimsy products. The wells were properly leveled and installed slightly above the grade line as they should be. Everything appears to be just fine—until water starts pooling outside the window.

You’re left scratching your head. The well is installed and secured to the foundation, so how is water still getting through?

This is why proper drainage is essential. Sure, you have the right product in place. But your window well needs to be more than just a product. It needs to become part of a system. By this, we mean a window well drainage system.

Drains That Lead Nowhere Get You Nowhere

When we inspect existing window wells, it’s amazing what we sometimes find. In some situations, there’s no drainage pipe at all. Other times, the pipe doesn’t lead to a feasible discharge point. It’s left below ground halfway completed, and the water will simply return right back to the soil and push against your foundation.

What We Do Differently

Whenever we install new window wells or inspect existing ones, we evaluate the drainage strategy. This means ensuring that the water drains downward and will be properly discharged far from your home. Here’s how we do it:

We run PVC piping down through the basement wall and connect it to your interior French drain system. This way, the water will properly drain instead of seeping through the windowsill and the walls. We lay down gravel to ensure the water can efficiently drain and to help reduce hydrostatic pressure against your home. Once the water drains down into your French drain system, it will reach the sump pump where it will be properly dispersed away from your home.

You may be wondering: What if I don’t have an already existing French drain system? Well, if water is filling up in your window wells, this indicates a seepage problem for your home. Most often, we examine the windows only after a customer has already called us to inspect a larger, more obvious problem in his or her basement. So if your window wells are filling with water and you haven’t already noticed a problem inside your basement, you likely will in the future.

More About Having a French Drain System

On top of that, if you’re missing an interior waterproofing system (also known as a French drain system), we can help! Our basement waterproofing services offer drainage channels, sump pumps (with a monitoring system), and whole-house dehumidifiers. If you don’t have a French drain system or are missing one of these components, be sure to ask our team!

What About Insulating My Basement Windows?

Spray foam, silicone or latex caulk, draft stoppers, tape – there are a variety of ways that homeowners try to insulate their basement windows against moisture seeping in. 

But as the saying goes: “You get what you pay for.” While these methods can assist in keeping moisture from creeping in, they won’t do much to hold back a buildup of water. If your window well has a poor drainage strategy, pooling water in your window well will eventually find a way through. You need waterproofing.

So There’s Water There. What’s the Big Deal?

If you see water in your window well, it isn’t contained to that area. Water is incredibly powerful and will enter through any nook and cranny it can find. And if there’s nowhere for the water to go, it will create a new path through hydrostatic pressure.

The water will push against your window and your basement walls and start seeping into your living space. It can even shatter your windows completely. So don’t think that the water is harmless as long as it’s outside your window. It won’t stay that way forever and, if overlooked, can do real damage to your home.  

My Window Well Has a Cover. Isn’t That Enough?

It’s easy to think that your window well will be waterproof as long as there’s a cover on it. But this just isn’t the case.

While window well covers protect the space from debris and animals, they don’t prevent water seepage. Water can still enter through the soil and flood your window well whether there’s a cover or not.

I Have a Plastic Bubble Window Well Cover. Is That Good?

Honestly, plastic bubble window well covers are not the best choice. They are not very durable and require frequent replacement. If you have a plastic bubble window well cover, we recommend switching it out for a cover that’s made of a more durable and rustproof material. Consider a window well cover made of:

  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Polycarbonate

The size of your window well can also help determine what material you’ll want. Steel is great for smaller window wells because its weight will hold it down. Aluminum is ideal for larger window wells.

Whatever the material, always make sure that your window well cover is also egress-code compliant.

modular window well cover
A modular window well product that we can install for you. Photo courtesy of Mar-Flex Waterproofing & Building Products.

We’ll Get to the Bottom Of Your Water Problem

When it comes to window wells and your basement walls, there’s a lot happening underground that you can’t see. So it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the problem. That’s what the team at Blue Umbrella is here to help you with. Whether your window wells recently started flooding or you need new ones installed, count on us to:

  • Inspect your basement for signs of seepage and recommend the right waterproofing strategy.
  • Install window wells using quality materials and custom-fit covers (not standard bubble covers from the hardware store. They won’t do the job!).
  • Replace your existing window wells and correct any installation errors performed by another contractor.
  • Evaluate the drainage strategy and ensure your window wells will properly drain.
  • Install an interior waterproofing system (otherwise known as a French drain system) that includes a sump pump.
  • Maintain your window wells by re-securing the well to your home, removing clogs in the drainage pipe, etc.
  • …And more!

Window wells are supposed to make your basement more enjoyable—not problematic. During a free in-home estimate, we’ll evaluate your basement drain system in Chatham, NJ, or wherever you call home to get your basement nice and dry, just as it should be!

To correct a problem with your existing window wells or to resolve any type of water seepage problem in your New Jersey home, call Blue Umbrella Waterproofing at 908-432-8858 or contact us online today. And be sure to ask about our Umbrella Maintenance Plan for your interior waterproofing system!

Steve Karlik
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