Egress Window Wells: Our Function and Style Guide

Recently there has been a trend popping up all over Pinterest to “beautify” egress window wells. While we do understand that the brushed metal, wood, or concrete material of a window well isn’t everyone’s favorite view from their basement window, these egress window wells do serve an important function in your home. If you’re looking to beautify your egress window well, we’ve found a few ways we’d recommend and a few we wouldn’t.

DO: Allow natural light and airflow into your egress window wells.

Not only do larger basement egress window wells represent an important safety feature of your home but they help basements to feel like a normal extension of your home’s living area. You can open the window for fresh air and reap the benefits of the natural light.

We’ve seen numerous Pinterest projects that require a solid cover to be placed over the window well to prevent figurines, plants, and even fairy gardens to be left untouched by the elements.

While solid window well covers can prevent most debris and water from entering the well they also prevent fresh air and can block out light to your basement. Read more about what to consider when looking at solid covers here.

DON’T: Fill the entire well with plants and shrubs.

Remember these wells are for your safety. Egress window wells were quite literally designed for egress – meaning to exit or leave. Should you ever have an emergency in your basement, such as a fire, those window wells need to be available for you and your family to climb into from your home and then out of to safety.

Popular Pinterest egress window well beautification pins included planting cacti or ivy. While cacti is an intriguing attempt to keep intruders out, it’s less conducive to keeping your family safe during an emergency exit. Ivy is beautiful in many respects and it may seem illustrious climbing up the wall of your window well. However, eventually, that beautiful plant will begin to steal your natural light and plays host to all sorts of critters and bugs, which may cause you to think twice about opening the window for fresh air.

In any case, lots of plants in your window well can prevent your emergency egress from being an easy task. Safety of yourself and your family is the top priority so leave the majority of your garden in the yard.

DO: Use Decorative Rock

Most emergencies requiring you or a family member to use the well as a means of egress involve someone sleeping, whether that be a nap or for the night. Therefore we’re a big fan of rounded and smooth rocks like River Rock because they won’t tear up your bare feet in a quick exit. I mean, how often are you wearing proper footwear inside your home?

Most landscape suppliers or soil and sand companies carry a wide variety of stones from small pebbles to larger stones in a variety of colors. It’s the perfect way to naturally accentuate your in-home décor while also beautifying your egress window well.

DON’T: Hang planters or other items from the window well escape ladder

Don’t get us wrong, we love the look of hanging plants or holiday decor, but they have a place. An Emergency Window Well Escape Ladder is specifically there to help you exit your home in an emergency. Adding an extra step to remove something hanging from the ladder will add time when seconds matter.

While one may think that the time it takes to unhook one planter isn’t significant, in an emergency every second counts. Even just a quick slip through your fingers while your adrenaline is pumping presents the potential for injury to you or a family member in the form of broken plastic, glass, or ceramic. Slipping on moss or other material hanging on your ladder could be just as disastrous. Remember, you could be exiting your window in the dark. Don’t make an emergency even worse with a preventable injury.

DO: Use weather-resistant Window Well Scenes.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. If you don’t wish to look out your window at the brushed metal or concrete, and no one would blame you, then these weather-resistant Window Well Scenes may very well fit the bill for you.

We’re fans of the Garden, Masonry, and Lake scenes ourselves but there are plenty to choose from.

DON’T: Cover or paint a rusting or rotting well.

If the integrity of your well has been compromised with wood rot or rust, it’s important to get this fixed. Egress window wells are important safety element of your home and many municipal building codes have strict guidelines as to how the well should function. A well that’s caving in on itself is unsafe for numerous reasons. You may need to have it repaired or replaced altogether, but it’s important that you don’t let it get worse.

DO: Use railings and fence.

While a railing around the well or a fence might not prevent a burglar from using your well as an entry point to your home, it does help to keep people and larger animals from accidentally falling in while also keeping a good amount of light, depending on the railing or fencing material.

We like this option most when you have an extremely large or a shallow depth well in a high traffic area where a grate doesn’t always make sense.

Remember, if you use this on a larger well, that you may still need to climb out of this well during an emergency. Make sure there is a ladder or a gate that allows for you to climb all the way out of the egress window wells should you ever need to.

Are you considering a different egress beautification project for your egress window wells?

Keep this rule of thumb in mind: if the project will prevent or increase the difficulty of exiting my home in an emergency, then it’s a no go.