It is very common for properties in Denver and Colorado Springs, CO, with basements to have ground-level windows. These small basement windows are designed to let some natural light into an otherwise dark space, making it more comfortable in the long run. Unfortunately, when they start leaking, they can have the exact opposite effect, causing dampness and many other issues to take root in your basement. The most common issue with basement windows is a leaking window well.
Basement window wells are incredibly useful features that allow natural light into a property and can even act as emergency exits from the basement if they are part of an egress window system. However, they can also be a source of trouble if they have been improperly installed or they are damaged. This is because they are vulnerable to water and debris build-up.
Leaking Window Wells: Common Causes
If you notice leaking window wells in your home, it is only natural to be concerned. However, these are generally straightforward issues that, at their root, are caused by damage to the window or a waterlogged well. This can come about in a number of ways, of course, but there are some issues that are more common than others.
Worn or Damaged Sealant
All windows, whether they are in your basement or the main body of your home, are sealed to ensure they are waterproof. However, the harsh winters in Colorado may cause these seals to crack and deteriorate fairly quickly. When the sealant around a window starts to wear away, it becomes far more likely that water will start to seep into your home. This can happen in fairly small amounts at first, but over time, it could form a steady drip whenever it rains.
Improper Drainage Facilities
All window wells should have built-in drainage facilities to ensure that any water they collect is directed away from the window and the well. This prevents water from building up in your wells and allows you to use the window as intended. However, many older basement window wells either lack drainage options or have improper drainage that cannot cope with consistent water flow.
If this is the case, water may start to make its way into your window seals, or cause damage to your window and window well as it stagnates. As such, you should investigate the drainage facilities in your basement window wells as soon as you move into a new home. It pays to be prepared, after all.
Debris and Clogs
Even window wells with excellent drainage capacity can become home to standing water if their drains are clogged. A buildup of mud and garden debris like cut grass or leaves will slow drainage considerably. If this debris breaks down into sludge and enters the drains, it could eventually stop water from draining altogether, especially in cold weather.
This will lead to water seeping into your window seals or even damaging your window frame over time. If you can, you should invest in durable window well covers to keep large pieces of debris from falling into the well. This will protect your home from avoidable leaks.
Sometimes there is simply too much water gathering in your window well for it to be removed quickly. Excessively heavy rainstorms, or a heavy spring thaw with lots of runoff water, can take a toll on your basement windows and window wells. Likewise, if your entire yard has become saturated and all of your drainage options are working at capacity, you may find that water backs up into your window wells before it drains away.
This can cause leaks to spring in even the sturdiest of window wells. You may be tempted to think that rainstorms would be the most damaging kind of weather for your basement windows, but it is actually heavy snowfall you need to be wary of. This, of course, is fairly likely in Colorado during the winter, so it pays to be vigilant.
Poorly Placed Sprinklers
Melting snow and sprinkler spray can cause somewhat unique forms of water damage that you should be aware of. The slow and steady trickle of water that these occurrences produce is more likely to seep into your window seals and cause damage from within. As such, you should try to minimize the amount of sprinkler spray that hits your basement windows and window wells where possible.
Consult a professional to find out if your sprinklers are ideally placed to protect both your lawn and your property’s ground-level windows. If you have a subterranean sprinkler system, it may seem like a hassle to move things around, but we guarantee that dealing with a damaged window well is more inconvenient.
As well as these issues, there are the more obvious things like accidental damage to your basement window or window well. It is also important to remember that more than one of these issues can be present. Very often, there are multiple contributing factors when you have a serious or persistent leak in your basement via a window well. If you catch these leaks early, however, you should be able to minimize the damage done with relative ease.
Spotting Leaks Early Will Save You Money
It’s very important that you are aware of potential issues within your home, especially your basement, so you can address them quickly. This will not only save you money but will protect your property and family from more serious issues. When it comes to recognizing damage to your basement windows and window wells, there are a few simple red flags you can keep an eye out for.
High Relative Humidity
If the level of relative humidity in your home has started to rise suddenly, it is likely that you have a source of moisture-causing dampness. If this issue is localized in your basement, you are likely to notice things like condensation on the walls (if they are bare) and a generally musty odor. You may also notice a spike in your energy bills as your HVAC system struggles to process humid air.
Stains and Discoloration
A stain or area of discoloration underneath your basement window is a strong sign that water is or has previously been leaking through into your basement. If you see this, it is important that you contact a professional, especially if the stain is large or very bold.
A pool of standing water underneath your basement window is pretty much a smoking gun when it comes to diagnosing a leaky window well. Of course, there are other potential causes, like seepage, so you should look for other signs of damage nonetheless.
If you notice a couple of these warning signs in tandem with each other, you should call a professional as soon as possible. Window well leaks may seem minor in the grand scheme of things, but they can cause a lot of damage and they are only likely to get worse over time. If you ignore a leaking window well, you could end up facing a lot of problems that include, but are not limited to:
Mold and Mildew
If mold and mildew are forming in your basement, this is a strong sign that you are experiencing issues with dampness and humidity. Whether this is caused by your leaky window well or another source of dampness, it could have serious repercussions for your health. Some kinds of mold can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, persistent headaches, and dizziness. They can also damage your personal belongings and property.
If you have any exposed wood in your basement, a persistent leak could well cause wood rot to take hold in your property. This will not only create an unhealthy environment but lead to a general weakness in the structure itself. This could contribute to sagging or uneven floors and other issues.
Water can be incredibly destructive to materials like drywall. If you have drywall in your basement and it is exposed to dampness and humidity on a regular basis, this could easily lead to it being irreparably damaged. Saturated drywall is not just a perfect home for mold; it is likely to attract pests and will eventually crumble altogether.
So, as you can see, it pays to deal with a leaking window well early on. Not only will you minimize the damage to your home, but you will also keep your repair bill low. This is best for you, your home, and your wallet!
Leaking Window Well
If you have noticed a musty odor in your basement, or even throughout your home, it is very likely that you have issues with dampness and humidity to address. These issues can be caused by a number of problems and are likely to cause other issues.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are almost guaranteed to form in a damp or humid basement. In most cases, a persistent, sweet, musty smell in a property is the result of mold formation. The exact nature of the smell can change depending on the species of mold in question, as can the other side effects; some mold can cause respiratory problems and headaches, for example.
Nonetheless, if you have mold in your basement causing a strong musty smell, it is time to look for the source of the moisture that has allowed it to flourish. There are many potential causes of moisture in a basement, from structural damage to leaking appliances, but in a basement with windows, a leaking window well is the most likely cause.
Leaking Window Wells
Leaking window wells in a basement are fairly common. This is because they are easily the most vulnerable part of a basement. If you have a leak in your basement window well, you will notice discoloration on the wall underneath. In fact, you may also see a visible trickle, drip, or pool of standing water under the window.
Other more subtle signs include consistent condensation inside the window and on the walls close to it, and, of course, a musty smell in your basement. Thankfully, a leaking window well is one of the easiest issues to fix in a damp basement, especially when compared to other potential sources of moisture like bowing walls or foundation damage.
Leaks in your basement window well can come from a number of sources, but it all really boils down to damage. This damage may be to the window frame and well itself, or to the sealant around the window. Issues with these spots will inevitably let water into your home.
Poor or Absent Drainage
If your basement window well does not have enough capacity for water drainage, it is likely that your window well will flood regularly. If this happens, water will have far more time to work its way into your window seals or cause damage to the frame of the window itself. If the window is older, for example, and has a wooden frame, it may begin to rot.
Likewise, if your window well drains become damaged, clogged, or frozen, they will no longer function as they should and water will back up into the window well. In extreme cases, this could cause damage to the windowpane, but it is far more likely that you will see damage to your window sill, frame, or well in these cases.
Extreme Weather and Accidents
Extreme weather conditions are likely to cause damage to your basement windows and wells for obvious reasons. Heavy rainfall and flooding are just two examples of extreme weather conditions that can cause damage to your window wells (usually by overwhelming their drainage capacity). Heavy snowfall too can be dangerous, especially in spring when it starts to thaw.
Finally, there is a chance that your window well has been damaged through some accidental occurrence. If you have had work done around the window, either externally or internally, for example, this could lead to accidental damage. Even small cracks in a basement window or window well can let water into your home. What’s worse, the water will make these small cracks bigger over time, letting more and more water in. This creates somewhat of a vicious cycle, especially in winter.
A leaking, damaged window well is not easy to address alone. As such, we do not recommend that you attempt to address this problem alone. Instead, let a professional do what they do best and provide you with a high-quality result.
DIY Work Can Go Wrong
Even the most skilled DIY enthusiast can get things wrong from time to time. When this happens, the results can be disastrous. For example, if you try to fix a leaking window well alone, there is a real possibility that you could damage the window or the window well. If this happens, the leak will get much worse and you could have to replace the window.
Likewise, if you identify the damage incorrectly, you could allow the issue to escalate. For example, if you identify broken sealant as the issue and simply reseal the window, you may fail to notice damage to the window frame or well. Then the unaddressed issue will simply grow until the leak reoccurs. At this point, the damage will be much worse and you could end up with a much higher repair bill.
Professional Help Has its Benefits
As well as having the skills and experience to tackle even complex damage, a professional will have all the tools they need, even specialist ones, on hand. This means you can expect a higher quality result at a quicker pace. They will also provide support should something go wrong after the repairs have been completed.
Of course, when you get a skilled expert to repair your leaking window wells, it is unlikely that there will be issues after a repair. This is the most pressing benefit of getting a professional to undertake this work for you: peace of mind. A professional solution is a permanent one that comes with guarantees of quality and durability.
Next Steps: How to Fix Your Leaking Window Wells
Once you have identified a leak in your basement, it is important that you assess the rest of the space for other kinds of damage. Looking for stains, mold and mildew, and wood rot, for example, can help you get an idea of how long the leak has been present for. You should also look out for signs of other kinds of damage. Spreading cracks, uneven flooring, and insect or rodent droppings are all signs of other issues at work in your home.
Once you have conducted your own preliminary investigation, it is important that you call a professional. By doing so, you will guarantee yourself far better results than if you try to implement a DIY solution. Simply pass along the information you have gathered to an expert and they will be able to build a picture of what is going on in your home with relative ease. This will help them to hit the ground running, so to speak, when they attend your home. As a result, the process of inspection and repair will be far more streamlined.
Call Complete Basement Systems for Waterproofing Solutions
It can be tempting to try a DIY fix, we know, but here at Complete Basement Systems, we recommend that you leave specialist tasks like this up to the professionals. We have more than 20 years of experience in basement and foundation repair, and our team is widely recognized as one of the best in Colorado. We have decades of collective experience and the right tools for the job.
If you have noticed any of the warning signs above and want to check your basement window wells for leaks, you can contact us directly to schedule a free inspection with our expert team. These appointments are completely free, without obligation, and come with a same-day estimate for the cost of all of our suggested repairs. We provide this so you can shop around in peace and make the right choice for yourself. Our team will never pressure you into making a choice. Of course, if the leak under your basement window suddenly becomes worse, you are welcome to contact us for emergency assistance. We are always happy to help.