What Are the Common Problems with Window Wells?

If your home has a basement, you’re almost guaranteed to have a window well. Window wells are designed to let natural light into the basement. While a quick day-time load of laundry is made easier by window-well lighting, there may be times you wish you didn’t have window wells at all.

window well problems

That’s because window wells are almost always poorly designed, resulting in frazzling frustrations. Even well designed ones cause unavoidable problems.

Hard to Clean

We’ve all had to clean gutters. We’ve all had to clean out the back ridges and crevices of our fridge. We’ve all to kneel and reach in and scrub a dirty oven with an increasingly cramped arm. But when all those things are compared to cleaning window wells, they seem like a treat.

Almost nothing is more frustrating than cleaning a window well. Cold mud seeps into your jeans. Your arms hurt after a few minutes of reaching down to clear debris. And, if you’re getting on in years, the strain on your back is a misery.

If you have a beautiful basement–chic lighting, nice sofas, a pool table–your window wells almost certainly make you cringe. Compared to your beautifully arranged basement haven, the window wells are an eyesore. They seem to watch you while you try to enjoy yourself downstairs, like a nag in the back of your mind or an itch you can’t scratch.

Branches. Twigs. Ugly, soggy, rust colored leaves. They all pile up and stick to your window. Not only that, but last week’s rainstorm splattered huge globs of mud all over the windows. To get the outside shining, you’d have to kneel out there again, and properly clean your windows. By the time your fingers thaw, it could have rained all over again. There’s just no keeping them clean.

Fills with Debris

Dead leaves and twigs are only part of the problem. While all the debris in your yard easily blows into the window well, leaving fresh mowed grass clinging stubbornly to your window glass, another concern is snow.

An open window well collects an entire winter’s snow. Besides defeating the purpose of a window well and blocking all the light, this snow can turn into a fresh, dirty puddle come spring. And window well puddles, without fail, find their way into your basement.

That means before every winter, you need to make sure to cover your window well. If you don’t/can’t, then you’ll need to make cleaning your window well part of your weekly (or whenever it snows) winter maintenance.

Small Animals

Chipmunks, sparrows, mice and other small animals can find themselves trapped in a window well, unable to get out. You’ll have the inconvenience of getting them out which can be very dangerous or expensive.

If you don’t see the animal in time, however, it could die inside your window well, creating a nasty surprise next time you go to clean. The smell of an unfortunate rodent could even penetrate into your basement.


If you have children or grandchildren, the window wells can even become a danger. A toddler left unattended for two minutes at your annual Easter Egg hunt could fall into the window well.

Bruises, bumps, and a frightening experience would ruin the day for your little one.


By far the biggest and most frequent window well complication is flooding. Windows by nature don’t stop water. Drops of rain, sure, but not three inches of a window well’s new pond. When water dribbles (or gushes) down into your basement, it can ruin your furniture, carpet, basement TV and boxes full of precious storage. Even your furnace could be snuffed out by a flood.

The cost of damage could be catastrophic. It’s important to prevent any kind of home disaster, and your window wells are an accident waiting to happen.

A number of things can contribute to window well flooding. Many window wells are poorly installed. Whether it’s from incorrect window well sizing, gravel layer contamination, or lack of adequate drainage, your window well is probably not flood proof.

How to Deal with Window Wells

While this list of inconveniences and hazards could have some of us biting our nails, there’s no need to fear. The window well problem is easily solved, and it isn’t by pouring concrete into your window well to block the hole (and all your natural light.)

A window well cover is the way to save your home from frustrations. Animals won’t get past it. A toddler won’t fall in. Leaves will stick to your cover, and, after a quick rake, disappear. No more window well leaf piles. Snow is stopped; rain water drums on the cover and rolls off to the sides. Even drainage problems are solved by the cover, keeping water from collecting in the wrong places.

A couple of options present themselves as a window well cover. Metal can be a sturdy, reliable cover. Nothing gets past it, and it won’t crack, shrink, or warp. It does, however, defeat the purpose of a window well. After all, if you’ve got them, you may as well take advantage of them. If you want to keep that natural light streaming in, you’ll want a window well cover that isn’t opaque.

Another option is tempered glass. But while glass is transparent, it’s inflexible and hard to position right. A sheet of glass is easy to find, but in order to properly protect your window, you’ll want something with a slight dome.

Durable plastic is one of the best do-it-yourself options, being transparent and having a little flexibility. Plastic, however, won’t withstand all kinds of weather: a bad hailstorm could crack the plastic cover and send hail down into your window glass. It also isn’t sturdy: if a toddler stumbles on it, or you accidentally put a foot down in the snow, plastic can buckle and snap.

Your best option is to purchase a real window well cover, specially made and designed to alleviate window well problems. Sturdy, domed, and transparent, it covers all your bases. Not only is it a worry free solution, it’s also easy to install.

You won’t have to cut a sheet of plastic down to size and guess on how much ground to cover. When it comes to home comfort, it’s always better to go for the long term option and save yourself some stress.

Steer Clear of Window Well Problems

No matter what you decide to do to save yourself from window well stress, a solution is out there. You don’t have to battle critters, dead leaves, or flooding anymore! Best of luck finding your long-term window well solution.

If you’ve decided the time has come for replacing your old windows, look no further than Feldco. We’re America’s #1 window replacement company and would love to help you with your project. Start today with a free quote online and join the over 400,000 homeowners who’ve trusted us with their projects.

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