by Theo Stephens October 29, 2020
We often get asked by homeowners if they should include a window well cover or grate in their egress window project. Window well covers and grates aren’t required, but do offer another layer of protection against the elements or accidental falls.
But deciding which option is best can be confusing. Here are some things to consider that might help make the selection easier.
Many homeowners aren’t aware of the water issues they may be facing before installing an egress window. Figuring out your situation is key and will help you determine whether a grate or cover will make the most sense. If you have gutters located directly above the window well, there’s an increased chance of flooding. Nearby trees can also clog gutters when they shed leaves, causing water to overflow directly into the window well. If this sounds like the scenario at your home, your best bet will be a window well cover because it will serve as the first line of defense against water damage, deflecting overflow away from the window.
Both covers and grates will require some cleaning to maintain their effectiveness. Cleaning a window cover usually involves hosing it off every few months to keep it clear of mud and other substances. Grates, on the other hand, need to be removed and the leaves and other debris that may collect in the well should be cleared by hand or vacuumed out with a Shop-Vac or other industrial-type vacuum. A grate will also rust unless it’s made of galvanized steel, so keep that in mind when weighing the options. A grate that is sandblasted and powder coated will also offer protection against rusting, but those types of grates can be expensive, costing twice as much as the galvanized product we offer.
Again, the location of your window wells will play a big role in deciding whether a cover or grate is best. If your grates are in a high-traffic area (especially one frequented by children) a traditional grate might be better than a window cover. Because they’re typically made of polycarbonate, window covers can be susceptible to scratching and get slick when wet, which could cause problems if kids or pets are running across them. However, with grates, there’s always the danger that children could get their fingers stuck between the slats, so it’s wise to warn kids about the dangers of playing near window wells.
Basements can be dark, stuffy places. Adding an egress window should improve the situation, helping to make basements brighter and better ventilated. Generally speaking, grates and window well covers both allow light to shine through with some caveats. Grates might create lines or shadows based on how large the bars are, while window well covers need to be kept free of snow or ice, which could block light in the winter. When it comes to ventilation, it’s nearly a wash. Grates let more air in, but there are some covers – including the polycarbonate covers that work with our egress window kits – that feature a venting design to help maintain air flow.
While the factors cited above typically drive the decision to choose a well cover over a grate – or vice-versa – you might have some concerns that we didn’t address here. If that’s the case, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to make a recommendation on the option that would work best for our kits.
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Bright Idea founder Theo Stephens offers a step-by-step guide to egress window installation in Extreme How-To magazine, a top destination for the latest information on tools, techniques, building materials, and home-improvement products.
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