How to Dig a Window Well

A window well is a dug-out opening on the outside of a basement window that's below ground level.
It takes some physical labor to dig out this well. However, the hard work is worth it as this opening lets sunlight in to make the basement brighter. It also provides an escape exit in case of fire or another emergency. A window well can be dug out during new construction or after the building is completed. The main problem to avoid, when you dig a window well, is to make sure you include a drain that will keep water from leaking into the basement.

Step 1

Set the fabricated well against the wall so it sticks out past the window evenly on both sides. Make an outline of the well. The well should be a minimum of 8 inches from the house wall and at least 6 inches wider than the basement window. Stick the blade of the shovel into the dirt all the way around the window well then move the window well aside. Dig out along the shovel lines you made.

Step 2

Dig the dirt out of the outlined area and haul it off with a wheelbarrow. The hole will need to be wide enough to accommodate the fabricated well. It also needs to be deep enough so the top of the fabricated window well is 6 inches above the ground when it's installed. This will prevent ground water from running into the well.

Step 3

Dry-fit the well into the hole when you think it's large enough. Dig out more dirt, if needed, until it fits properly. Remove the prefabricated window well and set it aside. Dig the bottom of the hole an additional 4 to 5 inches deeper. This will allow room for a thick layer of crushed stone to help provide water drainage.

Step 4

Dig a trench in the bottom of the window well that's deep and wide enough to accommodate a 6-inch diameter drainpipe. The trench will need to be extended outside of the well so it can be connected to the drain system that runs around the perimeter of the basement. Cover the drainpipe with crushed stone. The pipe should be completely covered, and the stone should be level to the bottom of the well.

Step 5

Put on safety goggles, work gloves and an air mask. Position the fabricated window well against the house wall. Mark the positions of the holes with chalk. Drill holes into the wall to mount the window well then set the window well aside.

Step 6

Paint the inside edges of the window well, where it comes into contact with the wall, with asphalt mastic to seal the edges. Position the well in place and make sure the fastener holes line up properly. Secure the window well to the wall with the masonry fasteners.

Step 7

Finish the window well installation by filling the perimeter between the dirt and the window well with crushed stone. Then fill the bottom of the window well with 4 inches of crushed stone. Level it out with a rake.

Things You Will Need

  • Fabricated window well
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Drainpipe
  • Crushed stone
  • Rake
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Air mask
  • Chalk
  • Hammer drill
  • Masonry bit
  • Asphalt mastic
  • Paintbrush
  • Masonry fasteners

About the Author

Kayar Sprang has been a professional freelance writer and researcher since 1999. She has had articles published by clients like Kraft Foods, "Woman's Day" magazine and Mom Junction. Sprang specializes in subjects she has expertise in, including gardening and home improvement. She lives on and maintains a multi-acre farm.