Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What materials can we use for the window wells in our new custom home?

Q:

We are building a new home and we will need large deep window wells, what materials can we use?

A:

When planning out window wells you will need to consider several things before you choose the materials that they will be made out of;

Size and the depth of the openings of the window wells.

Type of backfill that will be installed around the window well.

Your budget will narrow the decisions that you will have to choose from.

Your personal preferences since you will see the window well when you look out the windows from the inside of the home.

Here are the different types of window well materials that you can use, they all come with different pro’s and con’s;

Metal corrugated window wells

These can be bought from any building supply store. They come in 16 inch to 2 ft high depths and come in 3 ft up to 6 ft wide widths. They bolt together one on top of the other so that they can work in a window well that is deeper than 2 ft.  They are made out of metal and are galvanized to stop them from rusting, that means that they are the colour of galvanized metal, the grey shinny colour.

The pros are that they are simple and quick to install, they can usually be bought without any pre-ordering or special equipment.

The cons are that they are not that appealing to the eye, depending on the size and depth of the window well the metal well might not be strong enough to hold back the ground around it. This can cause the metal window well to bow overtime; with wet ground or a heavy backfill material that is left over longer periods of time will cause the window well to fail.

Wood window wells

Wooden window wells are made from 4x4, 6x6 or 8x8 wood that is placed together one on top of the other. It can be made out of several different types of wood, cedar or pressure treated are the most common and most available at any building supply centre. They are usually bolted together with threaded rod from top to bottom. The size of the wood material will depend on the depth and type of backfill that are attempting to hold back.

The pros are that it looks nicer then metal and it is fairly inexpensive to buy. Depending on the type of wood that you use it can be fairly sterile to look at, you can also stagger them to create a stepped look so that they don’t end up being a shear drop which can be a safety concern with young children or pets.

The cons are that it can be a little labour intensive to install, the size and depth of the window wells can limit the use of the material. If a heavy backfill material or overly large window well is created the wood will have trouble staying straight. Wood will rot overtime even pressure treated and you will eventually be forced to replace the well once it has decayed.

Stone window wells

Stone window wells are made out of natural stone. The weight of the stone is what is used to hold back the backfill. They are stacked one on top of the other to create the well.

There are many different types of stone that can be used; it will depend on what type of stone you like, the stone you can afford and the depth and type of backfill material being used. The stone is usually sized for the weight so that once placed it can hold back the backfill without any mechanical fasteners needed.

The pros with using stone are that it is a forever product. Once it is placed it should never rot and if the size and weight of the rocks is correct then the window well should never move, shift or collapse.

The look is a very organic looking and it ages well overtime.

The cons are that stone is an expensive product to buy and it is labour intensive to install. If your budget allows it this is the preferable way to build window wells.

Whatever you decide to use make sure that when the window well is installed that no damage is done to the existing waterproofing, this will compromise your homes ability to repel water.

Rob Abbott
Village Builders Inc.

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