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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi-

I'm turning a basement window into an egress window and looking for some guidance on the well wall - this would be almost exactly my target final product. I'm in northern Virginia so our frostline is around 24".

The exterior wall of the house around the window is cinder block, it's parallel to the joists, and we have a window drain/interior drainage/multi-sump pump elaborate waterproofing system. And the permits are approved despite an utter lack of detail on my plans for this portion beyond "9 sq ft egress well." So that's all covered-ish.

I'd like to avoid a prefab corrugated metal well wall because I don't like the look. In fact, I hate the look. I'd also like to avoid a prefab plastic well wall/form because they seem to be all $1000+ and I don't like the look.

The alternative, I think, would be a 3' or so wall constructed from wall block. I've seen a hundred pictures of the finished result but I'm having trouble finding out the broad strokes of the project. Do I just follow the rules for a retaining wall? If so, I have a few questions:

Otherwise:
  • What happens where the footing borders the house's exterior wall? Is there any type of gap or do you just pour against it?
  • Likewise for where the stones border the house's exterior wall - any science to that?
  • Most guidance says to do a french drain along the base exterior of the wall retaining wall - but my wall ends at my house's wall - what is the protocol for that?
  • Should I assume that, in all these pictures of wall block egress walls, only the caps are solid and the rest are holed to accommodate rebar?
 

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Master General ReEngineer
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Hi-

I'm turning a basement window into an egress window and looking for some guidance on the well wall - this would be almost exactly my target final product. I'm in northern Virginia so our frostline is around 24".

The exterior wall of the house around the window is cinder block, it's parallel to the joists, and we have a window drain/interior drainage/multi-sump pump elaborate waterproofing system. And the permits are approved despite an utter lack of detail on my plans for this portion beyond "9 sq ft egress well." So that's all covered-ish.

I'd like to avoid a prefab corrugated metal well wall because I don't like the look. In fact, I hate the look. I'd also like to avoid a prefab plastic well wall/form because they seem to be all $1000+ and I don't like the look.

The alternative, I think, would be a 3' or so wall constructed from wall block. I've seen a hundred pictures of the finished result but I'm having trouble finding out the broad strokes of the project. Do I just follow the rules for a retaining wall? If so, I have a few questions:

Otherwise:
  • What happens where the footing borders the house's exterior wall? Is there any type of gap or do you just pour against it?
  • Likewise for where the stones border the house's exterior wall - any science to that?
  • Most guidance says to do a french drain along the base exterior of the wall retaining wall - but my wall ends at my house's wall - what is the protocol for that?
  • Should I assume that, in all these pictures of wall block egress walls, only the caps are solid and the rest are holed to accommodate rebar?
Ayuh,... Yer link to yer final vision is a solid cobble type stone, dry stacked,...
Yet you keep talkin' 'bout concrete blocks, rebar, 'n core fillin',...

Anyways,... Yer diggin' a Big Hole right next to the foundation, regardless how elaborate yer Interior drainage system,...
Ya gotta/ oughta be drainin' this new hole yer diggin', Outside the foundation, rather than waitin' for the water to leach through into yer elaborate interior drainage system,....

Whatever you end up usin' for materials, yer gonna be workin' up against the foundation,...
It really don't matter awhole lot whether the new work is Bonded to, or set free from the existin',...

You can use the retainin' wall code for reference, but a retainin' wall, ain't an egress well,...
A retainin' wall is generally straight, 'n pushes over easily,...
The egress well is a U-shaped structure, which in itself is just stronger to begin with,....
 

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Concrete & Masonry
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First, there is no concrete footing for a segmental wall like that, just a compacted gravel base.

You can probably skip draintile around the wall itself, these walls bleed water well through the joints.

You will, however, want to dig a hole in the center of the well down to existing exterior draintile. You can then put a corragated drainpipe in the hole, filled with stone. Or a socked pipe with stone. I highly recommend placing a few inches of well draining stone in the bottom of the well also, not mulch like shown in the picture. ALso, technically, the stone should be at least 6" below and wood around the window, and especially from any non-treated framing.

Have you calculated the cost of the block, caps, pins, gravel, stone, rented tools to install wall, etc... yet? You might be surprised that there's often very little cost savings this way, unless you're doing a very shallow well. Also, a manufactured plastic well is much easier to get a cover for.


https://www.menards.com/main/window...ement-egress-window-well/p-1783673-c-6285.htm



https://www.menards.com/main/window...lene-modular-window-well/p-1769815-c-7705.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
A local Menards would be nice, based on everything I've ever heard of them and from seeing their prices - which I assume are all from an alternate universe. Home Depot and Lowes are my options around DC and I didn't see a real option for less than $900. I checked some Web sites as well but, with shipping, they're no better for the basics. One factor in this is that we plan to never move - so I tend to look for solutions that will last a very long time and will appease wife's sense of how things ought to look.

First, there is no concrete footing for a segmental wall like that, just a compacted gravel base.
Thank you. That might explain the number of videos and articles that have such little detail on that part.

You can probably skip draintile around the wall itself, these walls bleed water well through the joints. You will, however, want to dig a hole in the center of the well down to existing exterior draintile. You can then put a corragated drainpipe in the hole, filled with stone. Or a socked pipe with stone. I highly recommend placing a few inches of well draining stone in the bottom of the well also, not mulch like shown in the picture. ALso, technically, the stone should be at least 6" below and wood around the window, and especially from any non-treated framing.
Agreed. I plan the usual drainpipe to the drain tiles in addition to the existing "back-up" drain into the interior system. I'll absolutely have gravel. I'm not sure why, in that picture, they went with a pit of slowly decaying organic matter.

Have you calculated the cost of the block, caps, pins, gravel, stone, rented tools to install wall, etc... yet? You might be surprised that there's often very little cost savings this way, unless you're doing a very shallow well. Also, a manufactured plastic well is much easier to get a cover for.
Figuring against a prefab cost of $900 and now that I'm not factoring in a bunch of concrete, rebar, and more expensive stone, I figured around $250 for the stone and "negligible other costs" for everything else. (All completely aside from the window itself, and all assuming the digging is me, a shovel and a sturdy post digger.)
 
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