Dear Angie: What type of service provider installs window wells? Would it be landscapers, general contractors or another category? — Garrett C., Upper Marlboro, Md.
Answer: A landscaper, general contractor or an experienced handyman can install a window well, which is a semi-circular or square excavation surrounding a basement window.
Often built of masonry, corrugated galvanized metal, plastic or pressure-treated wood, window wells serve several purposes, including:
■ Allowing sunlight into a below-ground level room.
■ Preventing moisture damage to basement windows at or below grade. (Window wells keep soil away while still allowing water to drain away from the house.)
The scope of your particular project will help determine which professional is best suited for the job. If you plan to install a replacement window at the same time, consult with a well-reviewed window company. If your project involves creating an opening in the foundation for a new window and window well, hire a company that specializes in foundation work. (Keep in mind that if you have a basement sleeping room, many building codes require that it have an "egress window," which allows escape in case of fire.)
Hiring a professional to install a window well will cost from $500 to more than $2,000, depending on materials used and what grading and/or drainage planning is required. If your project consists of cutting into the foundation — and only a licensed contractor should do this — to install a new window and window well, expect to pay at least $5,000. If you plan to install a window well yourself, be sure to at least consult with a professional to know if you'll need a drainage system.
Before you or anyone does any digging around your home, be sure all underground utilities are identified and marked. (You can dial 811 to get this process going.) Depending on where you live, a permit may be required for this kind of project, so be sure to check with your municipality before work begins.
To maintain the integrity of the window well, keep it clean. Don't allow leaves and other material to accumulate in the bottom of the window well, as this will prevent water from draining properly. It's a good idea to buy a clear cover to help keep out debris and excess water; they come in all price points and styles. And if a drain is required, keep it clear.
When hiring a contractor, consider pros who have good reviews on a trusted consumer site and who are appropriately licensed, insured and bonded.
Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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