01:32PM | 07/04/04
Member Since: 07/03/04
4 lifetime posts
I have a very dry basement, but recently two window wells began filling up and leaking water into the basement through the windows. I was told that I need to dig out the window wells and unclog the drains. Well, I began digging out one of the wells, and 2 days later have a pile of pea gravel and no drain. Hmmm. So now what? Could it have been enough to just loosen the gravel that had been sitting for 30 years? Should I fill back up with bigger rocks? Or should I just install a drain now that I have the well dug out?

Any help appreciated.


10:24PM | 07/05/04
Member Since: 03/05/04
301 lifetime posts
do you have "block" wells? Or is it the metal ilk ? Sounds to me the problem are the "Windows"....that are allowing the water into your basement, NOT the well(s). I think you were misinformed...happens often! Get glass block windows.


09:20AM | 07/06/04
If you haven't found a drain pipe, stop looking, there isn't one. If you did, that might present even more problems as it would indicate a clogged drain or a non-functioning drywell.

The problems occurred during a rainstorm, right? On the 2 ocassions you noted when water came into the basement, was there a torrential downpour beyond what you normally see, or was it normal rain?

How old is the house? How long have the window wells sat unattended (like anyone really cleans them out, right?). If the house is 30 years or more old, chances are the wells haven't been cleaned. Most often, when the wells have problems draining, it's because there isn't free draining material under them, or the voids in the pea or crushed stone fill have been filled with silt and dirt and other debris. Cleaning that can be darned near impossible except by...digging it out (sound familiar?), cleaning the stone and replacing it, or installing new stone. You can probably put the material back if it's at least washed down so it's just stone you're putting back, and not sand and clay, too.

But before you do any of that, at the bottom of your well (or excavation), dig a hole about 12" in diameter and maybe a little deeper. Then fill that hole with water and watch. When it drains, if it drains, fill it again. If the second fill disappears rapidly, try one more time. That will show you that the soil beneath what you're about to put back drains freely and quickly. If the water just sits, it doesn't matter what you put back in there, the water won't drain through the material below, and you'll have to install a drain. But first things first, try the simple stuff first.

As to the windows themselves, they may be old, yes. But they're not designed to be dams, and if the window well floods, water will come in, no matter what window you install. And remember that those windows are meant to open and ventilate, so closing them up solid wouldn't necessarily be a good solution.


10:21AM | 07/06/04
Member Since: 07/03/04
4 lifetime posts
Thanks for the reply. I'm not sure I know what you mean by "block" wells. The wells have a metal encasement with gravel filling them up. I actually considered glass block, but would rather not so that I can have the option of opening the windows to provide ventilation. Do I need to even fill the well back up with the gravel or can I keep it empty?


10:49AM | 07/06/04
Member Since: 01/14/03
265 lifetime posts
It would be best to fill the well back up to a point where you’ve at least buried the bottom inch or so of the metal retainer.

If you’ve removed all the stone, and maybe then some, before you put anything back, do a couple of things.

First, take a look at how permeable the soil is at the bottom of your hole now. Dig a small hole in the soil, about 12” in diameter and maybe a little deeper than that. Then fill the hole with water and watch. If the water disappears rapidly, then fill it again and watch, and then a third time. If the water continues to disappear quickly, then you know the soil under the stone will drain well. If that soil doesn’t drain well, the even putting new stone back won’t help, and leaving the hole deep will only make bigger tub to fill before it spills over. A drain may be necessary then.

If the soil drains well and the water in the hole disappears quickly, then you can probably put the ‘stone’ back in the hole, at least enough to bury the bottom inch or so of the metal window well wall, but leave the surface about 4-6 inches below the window itself.

As to replacing the window with glass block, you’re right to remember that ventilation is one of the primary purposes of basement windows. I’d stay with the windows. But remember that the windows weren’t meant to become dams, and if water simply won’t drain from the wells anymore, you may be faced with installing drains to take the water somewhere else.


06:14PM | 07/06/04
Member Since: 07/03/04
4 lifetime posts
That makes sense! I'll give it a whirl. Thanks for the help!



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