If your installing an egress window yourself, odds are you will also need to dig and install an egress window well. The exact size of the needed well will depend on a large number of factors including the size of the window and the local building code. For your sake, we recommend gathering all necessary information and planning your well dig before beginning. A half an hour of planning can save a half day of digging. If you think you’re ready, let’s get started with the 9 steps outlined below.
1 Check with local authorities.
Contact your utility companies before you start digging to check for any power, gas, or water lines where you plan on putting the window well.
2 Mark the center.
Mark where the center of the new egress window will be on the foundation. This will give you a reference point to consider when digging out the well. If you have an existing window, this may serve as a good enough reference point.
3 Determine size of the well needed.
Some egress codes have specific requirements for the size of the well that is needed to pass. Consider this as well as how far down the window will extend, you will want to dig approximately 19” deeper that the bottom of the window. We also recommend digging 2’ wider on each side and 1’ longer than the needed projection.
4 Dig the well.
Grab a shovel and get digging. We recommend shoveling the dirt out into a wheelbarrow or onto a tarp to make it easier to transport later. Note that some of this dirt will be used later to back fill around the well.
5 Dig drain hole.
Use an auger to bore through the ground to the gravel under your foundation. Position the end of the auger in the center of the well hole you just dug to dig a drain. Turn the auger on and push it slowly into the ground so it bores down about 1’. Pull the auger out from the ground to clean off any dirt on the blades. Continue digging out 1’ at a time until you reach a layer of gravel under your home.
6 Install drain tube.
Measure the depth of the drain hole and cut a perforated drain tube that is 4-5” in diameter to this length. Place the tube in the center of the drain hole and secure the top with a cap to prevent dirt and gravel from getting inside and clogging the drain. Once the tube is in place, backfill around it with gravel to provide better drainage for the well and to hold the tube in place.
7 Build or install the well walls.
There are many different types of well walls that can be installed. Some people choose to build their own out of brick, stone, or wood. Others purchase prefabricated wells or sections of corrugated metal. The decision here ultimately comes down to your personal preference. No matter which approach you take, you will want to ensure that the well is pressed firmly against the foundation of the house. Consider adding a line of caulk around the foundation wall and the well to provide additional protection.
8 Fill bottom of well with gravel.
Pour gravel around the inside and outside of the window well, and pack it down with the bottom of a shovel. Spread the gravel evenly over the area so there is a 2-3” layer at the bottom of the hole. Make sure the layer of gravel is lower than the windowsill or else it could leak into your home. This gravel will help improve the well’s drainage and prevent water from flooding the basement.
9 Backfill the hole around the well.
Use the dirt originally dug up to fill in the remaining hole around the well. Pour about 1’ of dirt along the outside of the well and press it down with your foot or a tool like a hoe or a tamp to pack it tightly. Continue alternating between adding 1’ of dirt and tamping it down so the soil around the well is tightly packed. Leave the top 2-3” of the window well exposed so water and dirt do not leak in.
There you have it, 9 steps and you have an opening for your egress window to open into. When you're done make sure to give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself with a nice cold beverage. You've earned it after all that hard work installing an egress window well.