Is there code on this? I am having an egress window well installed today and was surprised to see the window well sticking out 2 feet above ground (1 foot if you count all the new dirt they mounded up around it). I was surprised because in all my research, most of the wells seem to be closer to flush with the ground (very few images I see on Google image search seem to have the well set so far above ground). It is far more of an eye sore than I was expecting for the $4,000 price tag associated with the work and the initial pictures I was shown before signing a contract.

The installers said it is required to have it set above ground so that people do not fall in and that most people cover the wells with shrubs, but I do not recall reading this in any applicable building code and it seems like planting shrubs to cover up a fire escape seems like a generally bad idea.

Can anyone confirm whether what I am being told is correct with an applicable code reference (if one exists)? If it is not required, I definitely want the well set an appropriate depth (or a shorter well placed) as I am unhappy with its appearance and would prefer to not have to do my own decorative brick work to cover it up.

Here is a picture of the egress window well: enter image description here

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    You don't state your location so it is impossible to know what codes there may be, but in the USA most states use some version of the IRC (possibly with local amendments). The IRC is available for free online: publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/index.htm. Section R310 deals with emergency egress. Of course you will need to find out what version your state uses, if any.
    – Hank
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 21:17
  • My apologies for not specifying, I was seeking IIRC references since my state's residential code is largely based on it. Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 21:31
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    Looks like this is 4 bricks higher than grade. Are your bricks plus mortar seriously 6 inches high per layer? That's insane!
    – Myles
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 22:29
  • @Miles the picture doesn't capture the slope well. At the side against the house it only sticks up about a foot, but then with the grading away from the house, it ramps up to about 2 feet. If it was on the back of my house, I wouldn't care as much, but this is on the side of my house and visible from the street. Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 0:11
  • This is not on subject, but is the window placed in an existing opening? The window looks like a new install, but there is no evidence of a steel lintel added, nor any flashing at the top of the window.
    – Jack
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 1:49

2 Answers 2


Obviously there may be local restrictions, but on the 4 wells I had installed last year they highest one is about 3" above the surrounding ground level.

I agree - that looks rather awful. I'd definitely ask them to replace it with a better sized well. My guess would be that was the one they brought and they didn't want to deal with having to go get a shorter one from their warehouse.

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    Thank you for reminding me what I should have done in the first place: I just confirmed with my local building inspector that there are no requirements in force in my area for how high the window well needs to stick out above the ground. I will be asking the installers to correct the well. Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 20:20
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    You also need to ensure that a person using the window can easily exit the well (or the whole purpose is defeated). That often means steps within the well, and sometimes a wider well if it is deep.
    – bib
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 20:35
  • @bib Absolutely. This question was specific to the height of the well above grade. The rest of the installation meets applicable code requirements for basement egress. Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 20:39
  • @statueuphemism - One argument that might help your case in getting them to lower it: a 2' drop to ground level would actually be fairly problematic for any small child getting out and over the lip of the well.
    – Drew
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 20:58

The tops of my window wells are 0" - 2" above ground level. My grass is 1" - 3" high, so the tops of the window wells are about as high as my lawn. My window wells are the same style as yours.

On some of my window wells, my builder correctly installed them at this level, and they passed inspection.

On my remaining window wells, my builder mistakenly installed them too tall. I cut them down to their current height. I glued on two layers of rubber tubing to the cut edges, so that they would be safe to handle. (A person climbing out of the window well is likely to put their entire weight on their hands, while gripping the top edge of the window well.) This process exposed some of the window trim, so I sealed the exposed trim with butyl rubber, added wood patches to complete the trim, and painted the patches. As a bonus, lowering the window wells resulted in more light in my basement, plus eye-level views of cats, birds, and squirrels on my lawn.

Also, the excess dirt needs to be disposed of. Does your contract specify who is responsible for disposing of the dirt? I would expect the contractor to put away his tools (including the caulk gun) and dispose of his trash. If dirt disposal was not discussed at all, I would expect a general contractor to dispose of the dirt.

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