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I have 2 covered basement window wells on the side of my house. When it rains heavily, they fill up with water from beneath the surface.

There are 4 downspouts from the gutters on our roof. They run into underground pipes (the black corrugated kind) that lead to a large drywell. When it rains heavily, the pipes take quite a lot of water.

One of the pipes ran very close to the window wells and had some leaky elbows. We thought that was the cause of the seepage, so we ripped out that portion of pipe (about 10 feet in all) and re-routed it about 5 feet from the window wells using a much higher quality PVC pipe.

It's still happening!

We recently ran a camera down the pipes and it appears there are a few places where the pipes are crimped or broken by tree roots. This is about 25 feet from the window wells.

Roto Rooter said that the crimped/broken pipes are what is causing the problem still and that I should replace ALL of our underground pipes with more solid quality pipes.

Question: could this REALLY be the cause? I would figure that any backflow due to the crimps in the pipe would cause the water to overflow from where the downspouts connect into the ground pipe, not come up from underground inside the window wells.

Note: there are no drains inside the window wells, just rocks. Not sure drains would help since the water is coming up from below.

  • Seems correct to me. If the soil at the level of your window is waterlogged, it will try to equalize with the area inside the window well. You need the water "table" to be below the bottom of the window well for the drainage to work properly. Note, however, that you could just run new pipes instead of ripping up the old ones, or maybe add a new dry well near by the window wells to take the leaked water. Not sure which would be cheaper/easier. – user3757614 Jul 1 '15 at 20:30
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    I'd be really scared if it was filling from the top down... – keshlam Oct 12 '15 at 21:33
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If the water is coming up from below into the window wells you have a big problem. That issue means your basement is becoming a reverse swimming pool. Imagine taking a big concrete box and putting in in a lake right up to the edge of the box. Eventually many many problems will crop up that your window well issue is just the first warning of.

You are going need to take that water away from the house.

A sump pump will do it quickest and easiest, as long as the power doesn't go out during a storm (gee, somehow that seems like it might happen, plan on having it happen and take what ever measures you think necessary, like back up power for the sump pump).

Redirecting the gutter downspouts will do even better if the power does go out.

Grading the slope of the land around your house to drain away from your house in every direction will also help without power - possibly with buried plastic under the soil sloping away from the house as well as a sort of 'earth sheltered umbrella'.

Adding new better french drains around the building while performing the grading and redirecting the downspouts and adding a sump pump or two would be best of all.

But in the end, if none of the above work, I would recommend abandoning the basement entirely, filling it in with gravel and a sump pump as the water level in your soil will never allow you to have a safely dry basement.

I know one family who had to do this very thing, and was much happier knowing that their foundation wouldn't become a molding swimming pool slowly being crushed by the outside soil/water pressure. It required moving some of the HVAC and other utilities that were down there, and using the space under the floor only as a crawl space.

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The cause of the seepage is that the system is simply being overwhelmed.

During a heavy rain, your dry-well fills quickly, as the downspouts are fed into it. If they didn't feed into there, you'd stand half a chance of the drain system doing what it's supposed to: drain those wells (as opposed to filling them). Those rocks, with their proximity to the (perforated) corrugated pipe, are the drain.

Install a sump pump in your basement, if necessary.


Disconnect the downspouts, and add several extra feet of gutter that discharges onto the lawn (ideally, downhill), as far from the house as reasonably possible.

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There should be a french drain around the building. Often the problem with water issues such as this is your sight profile. Look at the land and see if re-grading part of it might keep the water from pooling to close to the building. But in your case it seems as though the broken pipes explain your problem as pointed out by Roto Rooter. You could try taking off part of your rain drain from some point above the ground and put a temporary pipe that drains to a low spot away from the window well and see if it stops the water from building up. You could also add in a rain barrel. If your window well no longer fills up you have your answer and replace the broken pipe.

  • I think the OP basically has a french drain around their house. The problem is that their downspouts feed into it (AFAIK, or at least IMO, those shouldn't feed into a FD) – Mazura Jun 27 '16 at 5:26
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You have to get rid of the rocks & remove that path of no resistance. Otherwise, you need to add drains in the window well bottoms, below the gravel & windowsill. These should either tie into the downspout pipes or have their own pipes. But, I'd listen to Roto Rooter.

The back-up could be coming out anywhere & saturation will always find your low-spot window wells. One option that you may have is regarding around the window wells to pitch any surface water away, so regular saturation has a hard time setting up as well. But, definitely get the downspout line(s) solid & water-tight.

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Of course, try to keep the rain water away from the window wells by putting long downspout hoses on surrounded downspouts. But a more direct method to get around this is to dig down through the rocks in the window well till you come to dirt. Continue digging till you are below the foundation level. Purchase a 3 foot or so piece of pipping they use on water meter cover holes. Put this down the hole in your window well hole. You might want to put a piece of screen down first then put then put the 3 foot piece of pipe in the hole. Then put a sump pump down the hole. My mother in law lives in a place with a high water table and she has one in her basement. It goes on ten times a day in the spring time and then occasionally during the fall rains and we hardly know its there.

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