Window wells entail well-like openings in the earth built around a submerged or ground-level window. These structures commonly exist to satisfy egress requirements for basements – building codes require two means of escape from all living spaces, usually a door and a large window. Various types of concrete window wells exist, including poured concrete wells. Pouring a concrete well requires minimal tools and supplies, though you need to complete a good deal of preparation before actually pouring concrete.
Things You'll Need
- Measuring tape
- Power saw
- Nail gun
- Work Boots
- Wheel barrow
- Plastic sheet
- 2-by-4 plywood planks
- Plywood boards (6)
Determine the depth, width and height you want for your basement well. Base this on the depth of your current or desired basement window and any local building code requirements on egress.
Create a drawing of your basement well using paper and pencil. Write the dimensions of each section of the wall, including height, thickness and length.
Put on your work boots and gloves.
Use your shovel to dig a big enough hole around your existing basement window to accommodate your window well. Base the size of the whole on the dimensions from your drawing. Make this hole at least 4 inches deeper and 8 inches wider on all sides than required by your well's dimensions.
Pour a 4-inch thick layer of gravel across the bottom of the hole. Pack the gravel tightly by walking on it and tapping it down with your shovel.
Cut three plywood 2-by-4s to meet the dimensions of the floor of the well, based on your diagrams. Cut two to conform to length requirements and one to meet width requirements. The floor must fit inside the walls, arranged in a "U" shape.
Mix concrete in your wheel barrow, as per manufacturer's instruction. Transfer this concrete to the area between the planks you placed in Section 1, Step 6.
Fill the area between these planks, one bucketful at a time, with concrete.
Flatten and smooth concrete with a trowel. Use a level to ensure a straight, flat layer.
Cover the wet concrete with your plastic sheet. Let the concrete dry for at least three days, and as long as a week if desired. The longer you allow concrete to dry, the stronger it becomes.
Use your power saw to cut your plywood boards. Cut four of the boards to meet the length of the wall, and two to meet its width.
Write the word "side" on the boards cut to wall length, and the word "back" for the boards cut to wall width. Cut all boards to the same height.
Cut four planks of plywood for each of your six boards, using your power saw. Cut two planks to fit the length of each board and two to fit the height.
Using your nail gun, attach these planks to the sides and top of each board so that the inside edge of the plank lines up with the inside edge of the board.
Cut eight more plywood planks to meet the height of the plywood boards. Use these boards to create “L” shaped pieces, by nailing planks together at a 90-degree angle.
Line up boards opposite one another in sets of two. Place "side" boards opposite other "side" boards and "back" boards opposite other "back" boards.
Place all three sets of boards in your well, on top of the gravel, in a “U” shape, to form the outline of your concrete wall. Line the pairs you labeled "side" in Step 2 perpendicularly against your basement wall, protruding outward into the well, to form the sides of the "U" shape. Place the pair you labeled "back" in Step 2 perpendicular to these two pairs where they end, to form the bottom of the "U" shape. These forms should fit snugly against the floor of the well poured in Section 2.
Use your “L” shaped sections from Section 3, Step 4 to connect each set of boards at the corners, with one “L” shaped section serving as the inside corner and one as the outside corner. Attach them with your nail gun.
Fill in the distance between the back of this structure -- called a concrete form -- and the edge of the window well hole with gravel. Pour the gravel slowly, in layers, and pack it tightly in.
Attach diagonal plywood planks to the inside faces of each concrete form, using your nail gun. These planks should extend from the side of the form to the ground, and will prevent concrete from breaking or toppling the forms as it expands within them.
Pouring and Finishing
Mix concrete in your wheel barrow, following the instructions found on the packaging.
Use your bucket to remove concrete from the wheel barrow and transfer it into the concrete forms. Pour the concrete into the area between the boards. Repeat this step until you fill each form to the top.
Use a 2-by-4 and a trowel to flatten the concrete at the top of each form, and to remove any excess.
Cover each form in plastic sheeting. Let the concrete set for at least three days, before removing the plastic sheeting.
Remove the plastic sheeting from each form. Take the forms apart using your hammer, removing each part slowly until you expose the wall beneath.
Tips & Warnings
- Concrete requires moisturizing in temperatures hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it dries slowly to form the optimal surface. Regularly mist your drying concrete in hot weather.
- You can make a curved concrete wall if you know how to curve wood using shaping tools.
- The diagonal pieces of wood you need to use to support your concrete forms during the process all extend into the same space. Place these planks very carefully to avoid running out of space for them.
- Check local building codes before pouring concrete, which may require a site inspection and permit.
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