By: Christopher Brooks
Today's homebuyers want better basements. They want basements that are bigger, more functional, beautiful - and brighter! It's no wonder manufacturers strive to offer new ideas and innovation in their basement window products. The key to a better basement is not only assurance it will be dry, but also that it will offer a maximum of natural light. Window wells and other window products are making a difference in how homeowners use their basements.
Natural light essential
An abundance of natural light is the key factor that most homeowners recognize as the major difference between lower and upper living areas. Functional and practical floor plans for a new basement today must consider windows. And although new building codes requiring safe egress are one issue, all homeowners want to add more light - and preferably natural light - to their basements.
Any access to the outdoors is an excellent asset to a basement. The right window products can also completely upgrade this room - and increase its value to the homeowner. Window wells, available in various sizes and colors, add light to an otherwise-dark room, and are one of the best amenities available in a new home.
The Bilco Company, manufacturer of specialty access products for the residential and architectural markets in West Haven, Conn., offers the ScapeWEL window well as one solution. "ScapeWEL is a basement window well that adds beautiful, natural daylight to normally dreary basement rooms, allowing the space to look more like the bright, upstairs rooms," says Jim Edgeworth, sales and marketing manager for The Bilco Company. "ScapeWEL also satisfies International Residential Code (IRC 2000) stipulations, which state that finished basements have a secondary means of emergency egress." ScapeWEL consists of two side panels and two- or three-step panel components that simply snap together onsite in a patented slot-and-tab design.
"Unlike concrete window wells, ScapeWEL requires no forming or pouring and is faster and more cost-effective than installing custom terraced site-built wells," continues Edgeworth. "It attaches directly to the window buck or foundation and requires no special ladder, since the stair units are incorporated in the terraced planter design. Made from high-density polyethylene, ScapeWEL is impervious to soil and moisture conditions and features a rigid structural foam-filled core for added strength and stability."
Since its introduction, ScapeWEL has received numerous industry distinctions, including first prize in the 1996 New Product Design Competition (Retail Hardware category) from the Society of Plastics Industry. In addition, ScapeWEL satisfies all building code requirements for emergency egress, including the Uniform Building Code, CABO one- and two-family dwelling code and the new IRC 2000 Building Code. ScapeWEL has also been endorsed by the NAHB Research Center.
Two-piece hopper system
"Builders and foundation contractors will welcome the new Series 650 Masonry Hopper Window's easy, hassle-free installation," Edgeworth adds. "The two-piece system consists of a pour-in-place buck and window insert. The window buck is designed to slide directly into masonry forms and is easily secured in place utilizing the built-in nailing blocks. The buck features injection molded vinyl construction and built-in steel lintel that provide superior strength and proper support during the pouring process." Once the foundation is complete, the buck's build-in security bars prevent unauthorized access into the home throughout the construction process. After construction is complete, the security grille is removed and the window insert is simply snapped into place to complete the installation.
Edgeworth points out that "the Series 650 Hopper Window features Intercept Warm-Edge spacers between the two panes of glass to create a three-quarter-inch-thick glass panel. Intercept spacers reduce condensation around the window perimeter and, combined with their air space between the glass panes, create an effective thermal barrier to reduce heat loss."
Built-in stair design
Brett Oakley is the president of MAR-FLEX Waterproofing and Basement Products in Middletown, Ohio. "Today, there's a better way to build more value into a new basement," he says. "The answer lies in part with choice of windows wells. For instance, egress window wells can make a dramatic difference in how people use and enjoy their lower living areas." The MAR-FLEX egress window wells system provides natural light and the ultimate in safety with a built-in stair design for easy emergency exit. MAR-FLEX Egress Window Wells are easy to install and provide exceptional beauty with ledges, which allow for decorative landscaping. Made of durable polyethylene (HDPE), the window wells are available in four sizes and three colors: white, sandstone and granite.
MAR-FLEX Window Wells are designed for use in all residential below-grade window applications, with custom sizes available for your window needs. The window-well system adds more natural light than traditional window wells and meets basement building codes for below-grade living space egress.
System components include a window well and hardware installation kit. Clear and frosted covers are available. "The one-piece design makes for quick, easy installation, enhances the value of your below-grade living space and provides an attractive view," adds Oakley.
An effective waterproofing system is essential for every new home. However, in terms of aesthetics and safety benefits, your choice of window products is probably the next best decision you can make on your next job. Check out these and other manufacturers' web sites to learn more about the wide range of choices available.
The Bilco Company
MAR-FLEX Waterproofing Systems
Based in Bucks County, Pa., Christopher Brooks writes about the home - inside and out - for consumer and trade publications.