So, you’re a handyman. Or, maybe you’re not, but you decide that a DIY window well cover is the best way to go. After all, there’s something to be said about building, creating, installing that gives you a sense of pride in what you’re done as well as the money you’ve saved. Plus, you can brag about it to all of your friends – “Oh, those little things? Yeah, made them and installed them all by myself.”
So, to make it a little easier on you if you go the do-it-yourself route, we’ve put together some things that you’ll want to consider so that you know better what to expect. Finding an actual set of specific plans online isn’t going to be easy because there are so many different ways that you can do a DIY window well cover. Most of what you find others have tried is their own creative method to varying degrees of success. The least you can do is learn from others’ mistakes before you go crazy with it. If you decide you don’t want to do it yourself, we’re always happy make some awesome custom covers for you!
Check Zoning Codes
The first thing you’ll want to do (though most people don’t) is call your city planner or zoning department to find out what the code is regarding window well covers. Because a basement needs to be escapable in case of emergencies, you don’t want to trap yourself in. Many cities will have code that you’re suggested to adhere to in order to ensure safety. For example, your city may require certain materials be used, specific weight limits can be held by the cover, that it can be opened from the inside, etc… Knowing what’s required is the first step.
Easy Open From the Inside
Regardless of whether your city requires it or not, you should make sure that your DIY window well cover can be opened from the inside. It doesn’t necessarily need to be easily opened from the outside because that would compromise the security of your home. But if you need to get out of your basement quick and the only way out is through a window, you don’t want to be stuck in a well because you can’t get the cover open! Window well cover locks are good option to think about as you create your cover.
Now, let’s talk materials. This is where it can get a little hairy with all the different options and materials available. How much weight does it need to be able to support? Do you want one solid cover or pieced together so that only parts of it open? How much light and air do you want coming through? How large of well does it need to cover? What tools are available for you to use? What do you want it to look like? You can go as simple or as extravagant as you want (depending on your city code), but generally the reason you’re doing this on your own is to save some money. You can check out this video that shows you how one man constructed his own DIY window well cover for fairly cheap using fiberglass, electrical metal tubing, PVC connectors and a few sheet metal screws. The total cost of his project was probably around $75 -$80. It’s not the most sturdy cover as evidenced from the video and it doesn’t look the greatest, but it’s functional. Of course, if you have access to welding equipment, then some type of metal would work well – steel or aluminum could do the trick. This will give you a much stronger and heftier cover. You can also use different types of plastic or fiberglass. It might be more flimsy, but will likely be cheaper. The connecting parts should be considered as well. PVC is cheap and fairly easy to work with since there are so many different sizes and variety of pipe and connectors. Since it can easily break, metal pipe would be preferable, though it’s not as easy to form.
Don’t Forget the Tools
Once you’ve decided on your materials (most of which can be picked up at a home improvement store) make sure you have the right tools for the job. If you can’t weld your cover, screwing it together is the next best thing so a drill would be handy. Something to cut the materials for the cover is also necessary – a jigsaw, pvc cutters, metal cutters or hacksaw should do the trick. Some industrial glue or pvc glue may also come in useful to hold things tight. If you’re going the cheap route, you probably have everything you need in your garage or can purchase the tools cheaply. If you’re getting into cutting/welding steel, then you may need to call a friend for help since most people don’t have welding equipment in their garage.
So, when all is said and done you’ll be looking at anywhere between $50-$150 in materials based on the quality of materials you use. Keep in mind that a better quality cover will last longer! A cheap plastic cover may only last a few weeks if it gets stepped on! A heftier cover will give you more time before you have to build a replacement.
Another thing to think about with a DIY window well cover is time. The more complex your cover is, the more time it will take. The less familiar you are with the tools you’ll be using, the more time it will take. A person who’s comfortable doing projects like this could knock out a simple window well cover in about an hour or a more complex cover (like steel) in a few hours. If you’re not familiar with this type of work, it could be a project that’s stretched over a couple weekends. With proper planning and expectations, you should be able to get it done before the seasons change though!
The last thing to think about is the installation. Wait. Let’s take this back a step or two. You should think about installation before you even begin a DIY window well cover so that it’s built properly to be installed the way you like. What we’re talking about here though is how to actually install it. You could build it so that it’s got a lip with the supporting frame sitting just inside the window well. That way it’ll just sit on top of your window well. This type of installation is a cinch. However, you’ll probably want it to be secure so it doesn’t move around or fall off. Especially if you just making a plastic cover or something that the wind can grab and lift off your well. Are you going to incorporate some type of lockdown? Maybe screw the frame into the window well itself? Secure it to the side of your home? Knowing how you’ll secure it will ensure that you build it properly and that it can still be removed or opened from the inside.
Don’t be disappointed if your cover doesn’t look like what you were hoping or if it doesn’t line up perfectly on your well. It can take a few tries before you get it down to something decent. It’s one of those projects that looks like it shouldn’t be too difficult, but when all is said and done can end up being more complex than you thought. If you want to save a little money (hopefully you don’t mess up too much!) and do a DIY window well cover, that’s great! If you want something affordable from a professional who’s made thousands and comes with a guarantee, call Wasatch Covers.