Window Well Backing Up During Heavy Rain

heldmacmAugust 18, 2014


I'm not sure if this is the proper category to post this issue, so if not, please move accordingly.

We have lived in our home for a little over a year, and within the past month or so, we have noticed the lone window well on the backside of the house backing up with water during periods of heavy rainfall. When this happens, the water slowly seeps into the basement. There are two window wells around the corner from this one on another side of the house, and to this point, we fortunately have not had the same problem with those two.

After removing the window well cover and some of the debris at the top of the window well and digging a bit into the bottom of the well, I decided to call a plumber. He dug far enough to get to where the drain should be, but alas, there is no drain for this window well. I do not know if that is typical for a home the age as mine (build in 1957). His only option was to install a drain that empties into the basement laundry room tub. This would have cost ~$1,000, so rather than do that, he suggested we first try adjusting the grading of the soil around the window well to try to get water to drain away from the well (please refer to the attached picture). Before we do that, does anyone have any other suggestions or experience in dealing with a window well without a drain that is backing up with water?

Thank you in advance for your advice,


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Grading and properly working gutters are you best the drain is used as a fallback.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 9:25PM
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Thanks for the reply, and I'm glad you mentioned the gutters because I meant to mention that in my original post. I previously checked the gutters above the window well, and there is a mesh wire guard installed that appears to be keeping out most debris and leaves. Based on that, I assume the gutters are not to blame.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 9:55PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

That downspout looks questionable and between that and poor grading, there isn't anything that is going to keep that water out of that well.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 11:19PM
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The clay drain tile,that is just at grade below the downspout, is that operable?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 6:49PM
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No, I didn't even realize that drain tile was there until the plumber dug up some of the dirt around the well and it appeared. It's filled with soil.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:23PM
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It could possibly be part of your problem. If you said it was full of concrete, you could probably rule it out.

Very possible that the tile itself could be cracked below grade, water is collecting within the tile and finding its way between the well and foundation. Remember - the role of the well wall is only to keep the dirt back - not the water out.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:15PM
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The grading in the well should be properly sloped as well as the exterior grading. If your gutters are working properly and house is graded properly you should not even need the well cover you have on there now.I would ensure your gutters are working and not plugged, overflowing, not flashed, or restricted. If in doubt check it out during your next rain storm.As bp said I would perhaps put some concrete over the old drain tile before regrading.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:41AM
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I had this very problem and it was due to clogged gutters, I'd start there and make sure everything is 100% functioning.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 1:27PM
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Thanks again for everyone's help. It's rained pretty steadily, and with the changes we've made, so far, so good. We removed quite a bit of dirt, and did to regrade away from the window well. However, we can only lower the grading away from the window well so far, as eventually you reach the grass, and at that point, there's now a dip from the grass to the soil. Short of regrading the entire lawn, I can't think of a way around this, as if we build the soil up higher than the grass, the soil would be above the rim of the window well.

Additionally, we dug up debris from the bottom of the window well added four inches of pea gravel to the window well. We've also placed some pea gravel in the area around the window well in hopes that slows down any incoming water. However, it's definitely going to take some time to determine if what we did was sufficient. I did confirm that water is not accumulating in the area around the clay drain tile (at least not today), as the roof overhangs that area.

One question: If the window well indeed does not have a drain, where does (or should) any accumulated water end up?

This post was edited by heldmacm on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 13:45

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 1:43PM
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Well, that didn't last for very long. We had heavy rain on Saturday night, and the window well again backed up with water, and this time, some of the soil we recently moved around mixed with the water to seep muddy water into the basement. I have since checked the gutters, and there were a few areas that were missing gutter guards, so those had quite a bit of debris, which I've cleared. I'll replace the gutter guards today, and while I hope that was THE problem, I'm not sure that was the only issue. I'll post a picture of the situation later, but if you have any suggestions in the meantime, I'm all ears. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 6:38AM
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I thought I had taken a picture of what we did in terms of the soil, but here's a (limited) photo of what happened when we discovered this the other night. The water was a bit higher than this when it happened about a week ago (right before I started this thread).

This post was edited by heldmacm on Mon, Aug 25, 14 at 19:34

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 7:33PM
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Windows on Washington Ltd

You need to run those downspouts buried and further away from the home.

Even if the moisture isn't draining right at the well, it is getting into the soil formation and you need it routed away.

You also need better grading away from the home.

If those don't solve the issue (never seen a case where they didn't), you will need to put a sump and ejector pump in that well. That will require digging it out and excavating that location.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 7:12AM
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