Who Should I Hire to Install a Window Well?

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated November 23, 2021
window well in basement
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Hire a general contractor to do the job well (get it?)

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If you have ever looked out of a basement window, you have almost certainly looked into a window well. With the exception of above-grade walk-in basements, most basements need window wells—square or semi-circular holes that create the space for natural light to reach your subterranean quarters. They are typically framed by steel, plastic, fiberglass, or concrete. 

Most building codes stipulate that finished basements require at least one egress window in case of emergency, making the window well that facilitates their construction and functioning a practical requirement throughout the U.S. as well. In addition to bringing natural light into the basement and creating an emergency exit, window wells protect vulnerable below-grade windows from moisture damage, allowing water to drain away from the house and preventing dirt from building up and seeping into the foundation walls. 

Installing a window well involves a number of different discrete tasks if you’re starting from scratch: you must excavate the dirt, cut and install foundation windows, and install the window well and cover. Given the range of specialized work entailed, your best bet is to hire a local general contractor to oversee the whole project and to bring in licensed subcontractors when required.

Benefits of Hiring a General Contractor for Window Well Installation

contractor doing maintenance on window well
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If you’re installing a window well from scratch, it’s likely that you’re also adding egress windows, or another type of window, to your basement. Combined with the considerations involved in digging the window well, this means the project requires a fairly diverse array of specialized skills and knowledge, making a general contractor or a versatile local handyperson the obvious choice.

The egress window will most likely be installed below grade. If performed improperly, this job can lead to chronic leaking or flooding and can trap moisture in the basement, nurturing the growth of mold and mildew. It also typically requires building permits because it intersects with a complex set of code considerations. 

Both cutting the windows and attaching the window well necessitate a precise knowledge of underground utility, telecommunication, and plumbing lines to avert dangerous error and interrupted service. Additionally, if your project requires you to cut into your foundation, you must work with a licensed contractor and take every precaution to avoid the kind of error that could put the whole structure of your home at risk.  

Depending on your soil and the grading, excavating the land for your window well may also require professional assistance, and professional excavators near you typically work as subcontractors.

No professional is better suited to coordinating the range of skills and knowledge—as well as, potentially, subcontractors—than a general contractor. The contractor will work with you directly to plan the project, adhere to a budget, and keep a schedule. They will also make sure that the work is performed with proper permits and licenses in place, as well ensuring it conforms with all relevant building codes, saving you costly repairs or remodeling down the road. A general contractor will also be able to recommend and hire subcontractors for any work they cannot practically or legally perform themselves. 

Certain handypersons in your area might also be a good fit for the job too, but you’ll have to ask around a bit to find someone with all the right qualifications for the demands of your project. As you weigh your options, keep in mind the differences between a handyperson and a contractor.

Can I DIY Window Well Installation?

If adding a window well to your home requires you to cut into the foundation, install windows, or execute any tricky grading, the safest move is to hire knowledgeable and licensed professionals. If, however, you only need to excavate the land and install the window well, the project is within reach of an experienced and confident DIYer.  

1. To dig and install a window well, take the following steps:

2. Measure the window, and then add 6 inches to the width and 8 inches to the length to determine the dimensions of your window well. 

Before digging, call 811, the dig line to confirm that your project doesn’t require you to move or dig utility lines. If it does, it’s time to hire a pro. 

3. Start digging your hole about six inches out from the window. The hole should be 6 inches wider and 5 inches deeper than the window well dimensions you determined in the first step.

4. Using an auger, bore a hole for the drain. Install a perforated tube to carry water away and add a drain cap. Add gravel to fill any space between the tube and the drain hole.

5. Place your window well securely in the hole and line up the cover’s predrilled holes with the foundation, marking the places you’ll need to drill pilot holes.

6. Using a hammer drill with a three-eights-inch masonry bit, drill pilot holes into the foundation, and then screw the window well in place.

7. Add 2 to 3 inches of gravel to the bottom, packing it down evenly with a shovel. If empty spaces remain in the window well, fill them with dirt.

8. Add your window well cover.

Can I Hire a Different Pro to Install a Window Well?

If you’re not starting from scratch and your egress windows are already installed, or the land has already been graded, a general contractor might not be the best choice. A contractor excels in projects with lots of different components or moving parts. If the tasks that stand between you and a window are more discrete, you have a few different options.

Landscaper

If excavating and leveling or grading the land to make space for your window is the portion of the job for which you most require professional assistance, you might hire a local professional landscaper. An excavator employed by a landscaping company can prepare the earth, dig and haul away the dirt, and perform any necessary grading or leveling to keep precipitation and moisture from pooling in your window well. Landscapers typically charge between $8 and $25 per cubic foot for dirt removal, with hourly rates for more involved work, like grading, averaging between $50 and $200 per hour.

Window Installer

When adding or replacing an egress window, you will likely save time and money hiring an egress window installer near you who can also take on the window well. Expect to pay at least $5,000 for the whole project.

Foundation Contractor

Installing a window well, especially alongside any below-grade windows, typically requires risky cutting and drilling work on your home’s foundation. Any errors could lead to problems that necessitate costly and time-consuming repairs, and potentially decrease the value of your home. Even if you’re a confident DIYer ready to take on window well installation without the assistance of a general contractor, you should consult with a local foundation contractor to ensure you avoid any mistakes that could threaten the stability of your home.

How Do General Contractors Install Window Wells?

Whether you’re working with a contractor who is equipped and licensed to handle every part of the process themselves, or someone who will be overseeing the process and subcontracting various jobs, the installation process will follow a series of similar steps. 

If you need to add egress windows or other types of windows to a finished home, the first step will be to excavate the land, cut into the foundation, and install the windows. Expect to pay between $2,700 and $5,700 per window for all parts and labor to install the window and the well at the same time.  

In cases where the window installation will be handled by someone else, your contractor will primarily be working to excavate and grade the land and put in the window well and cover. Average costs for a job of this type run between $1,500 and $3,000

If the windows are in place and the well has already been dug, you may hire a contractor to simply install the window well cover that protects it from accumulating dirt, debris, pests, and precipitation. Costs for this job range between $370 and $1,115, or an average total of $705.

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