Houses need all sorts of weird things that you’ve never thought about buying before. One of those things is a cover for a window well — the little hole surrounding a basement window.
What Are Window Well Covers?
A window well is the small, dug out area around a basement window. They allow light into the basement and also serve as an emergency egress in the case you want to put a basement bedroom in your home. The window wells often have covers to prevent water from collecting in them or snow build-up that could flood the basement. Basement window well covers also prevent accidental falls into the well which can lead to a twisted ankle or worse.
Window well covers are sheets, grates, panels, or other things used to cover basement window wells.
Window well covers can be made from different materials. They are usually made from plastic — generally polycarbonate or polyethylene. The polycarbonate covers are much stronger. They are multiple times stronger than polyethylene and also can withstand temperature changes easily.
Some covered are made from metal — usually steel or aluminum — which are known as a window well grate. The metal grates often have a plastic top cover to deflect snow and water.
Styles of Well Covers
Most well covers come in the following styles:
- Grate: A metal grate that covers your well. They are usually aluminum but steel is used as well.
- Bubble/Dome: A plastic cover that is used with a window that is half below ground and half above.
- Low Profile: A flat or nearly flat cover cover made of some type of plastic. This is the most common type in 2021
- Custom: These can be polycarbonate, grate, wood slats, or any combination of materials in order to suit your window and well. Glass is technically possible, but it’s usually not used because it’s not strong enough until it gets quite thick
Buying Window Well Covers For Your Home
When you buy a window well cover, you can keep these points in mind while making the purchase:
- Choose a cover made from a material that is rust-proof. Look for a durable material so you don’t have to replace it frequently. Polycarbonate, stainless steel, or aluminum covers are and most durable.
- The cover should be strong enough to support someone’s weight. When you place the cover, you are doing it to prevent someone from falling in accidentally. The cover should not break if someone steps on it. This is less of a concern if you don’t have children, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
- Look for a window well cover that comes with a warranty, so you don’t have to worry about replacements in case of damage.
- If you are worried about children or pets falling into the basement, a reinforced mesh also works. It also allow your basement to get light. Another option is to have polycarbonate in steel frames.
- A bubble-style cover is helpful if the top of the window is above the window well.
- Choose the window well cover based on the shape of the window well.
- While deciding the size, the measurement should be taken from the point where the well is attached to the house. To find the height, measure from the well top to the window top.
- You can get standard size window well covers that provide a proper fit. In case you don’t find the right-sized one, you can always order a custom-size cover.
The Best Well Cover Options
The following are some of the best window well cover options you can consider buying.
Custom Well Covers
While you can buy off-the-shelf well covers, many people go with custom or semi-custom options. This is the case because while your windows are likely a standard width, your wells could easily be non-standard. Also finding the exact combination of well width, well cover style (bubble, dome, grate, low-profile, etc.), well cover material, well cover color, and finally aesthetic might be impossible when you are simply sorting through what you can find at Home Depot.
There are specialty online retailers like Window Well Experts that offer a huge array of options and more support than you can are going to get from a big box store. Sellers like these have off-the-shelf options but also sell custom solutions so you can find a fix for any basement window well. WindowWellcovers.com is another option.
Shape Products Polycarbonate Window Well Cover
This Shape Products polycarbonate cover is the top seller at Home Depot. Being the best material for most buyers, this cover is strong and durable. It can support up to 400 pounds weight even though it doesn’t appear to be particularly strong (and it looks a bit plastic-y). It is a universal cover that can fit most types of window wells. It uses tension spring clips for easy installation.
The flat design means this model is for below-ground windows and wells that are under 52 inches wide.
MacCourt Bubble Window Well Cover
Polyethylene is a popular plastic material used to make window well covers. It is not as strong as polycarbonate but is highly cost-effective. As such, the MacCourt is a budget window well cover. It is lightweight and very easy to install. It can be used for both rectangular and round window wells. It is transparent and thus allows light in while keeping snow and rain out. It is the best option if your main concern is not to prevent people from falling in.
Adjust-a-Grate Window Well Grate
This is a universal window well grate made of metal. A grate type of cover is ideal when your requirement is not protection against moisture but preventing animals or people from falling in.
This cover is best suited for custom-built window wells. When you don’t find a cover to suit your window well, this window well grate will serve you well because it is adjustable. You can adjust it from 22 to 25 inches in width and 45 to 60 inches in length.
Bilco Well Cover
Having been the owner of a Bilco door which served me well for over 20 years, it was great to find out that Bilco also makes well covers. These bubble-style polycarbonate covers will work with a number of window types and they can hold up to 200 pounds, which means sense given how large they are.
These covers are expensive, but they are egress-friendly and designed to be used when access is required, such as for a below-ground bedroom is in place and an exit is required for local fire code.
Window well covers are a surprisingly expensive purchase and probably not something you expected to be buying right now. The good news is that you can buy these covers online on most of the top retail websites, often saving some money compared to buying at your local Ace Hardware. Buying online will also give you a huge range of options and access to some of the specialty retailer mentioned above.
That noted, most people can and still do buy well covers locally at a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowes, where the selection is adequate and prices are often on par with online.