Basement egress and window wells

Any thoughts on this? The contractor who built this home was concerned about the buyers small children possibly falling into the basement egress well. He considered a gate but felt the location of the AC condenser would hinder the operation. He decided to install a climbable fence around the well. he has done this before and it was approved, however the fire official on this house said no (same town). I am undecided on it. Any thoughts?

Also, given the concern of ‘falling in’ any thoughts on the much shallower open wells for safety and/or water intrusion?

Thank you

Rip it all out and hire a professional!

Curious… which way does that window ‘swing’ open??

He outfoxed himself by providing a custom enclosure. Most builders just use prefab window wells and cover them with either a a clear plastic or a light metal grate. Both are easily liftable from inside the well as you climb out.



Window swing is correct, right hand.

I wouldn’t want a fence like that around mine. The best thing to do is just put covers over the window wells.


…is just keep it simple!!


Agreed, have seen many of the prefabs, however, this is a very high end home and I the builder is being consistent with a theme. I think am going to recommend removing the fence and installing a clear cover which is consistent with what I generally see on these basement escapes.

Thanks Ryan, agreed.

You’re just the Home Inspector. It’s not your job or responsibility to recommend anything to the builder. This window well problem is completely between him and the AHJ. If he’s really concerned about child safety a grate such as the one I pictured is the only alternative that will support a childs weight. Clear plastic won’t cut it.

You are going to create some serious liability issues for yourself if you keep allowing yourself to be the “middle man.”


There are many polycarbonate options that will easily support the average person. These also keep rain/snow out much better than metal grates.

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With restrictions, (other than weight), that are common to states like Minnesota!

At What Temperature Does Plastic Become Brittle? - Plastic Expert.

Also… from Ryan’s link…


Gotta say, I don’t see a problem needing a fix. This is personal preference or different style thing. Unless your local AHJs want window well covers, move on.


What about the weight of a 2’ snow drift on top of it? :thinking:


The OP’s wells have drains.

Doesn’t answer the question. Does it swing in or out?

A drain don’t help you when trying to get out of this window in an emergency.


The snow should get cleared off of covers. Otherwise it’s a death trap in my opinion.

It’s a horse a piece because if you have a grated cover or no cover the snow will fill the well and possibly prevent escape. And if you let the snow pile up on a solid cover that could also prevent escape. I guess people would be more likely to clean off the cover periodically than dig out the well though.

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If there was a fire and the window opened in, I don’t see a problem getting out, but if there was a plexiglass cover on it with snow, I don’t think you could lift it open. You would die of smoke inhalation.


Swings out fully, about 110 degrees.

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Opening in or out won’t matter in some cases. As well, a metal grated cover, depending on the type, could easily have snow pile on it as well. If I had metal grated covers on my home I would probably throw plywood over them in the winter. And then you shovel them off periodically.

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OK, It is a mid January evening, and we are in the middle of a Noreaster. A foot of wet snow has already fallen, so we light the wood stove for some extra heat, we are enjoying the evening, and it is time for bed. Are you going to go out and clean the egress cover off? Meanwhile, everyone is in bed sleeping, there is a fire in the house, and the window well is the only way out for one of your kids. :thinking: if the window opened in, you could dig your way out. Just my thought.