By Gene and Katie Hamilton
For safety's sake a basement window well should be covered to prevent someone falling into it and aesthetically, a cover can be an attractive component of a house that complements the building. Left uncovered and open to the elements a well can become a bottomless pit where leaves and debris collect preventing sunlight from filtering inside. More importantly the debris can be an obstacle to using the window as an egress or way to escape through the window if the need arises.
You get what you pay for with a lower price cover that easily cracks and succumbs to sunlight, snow and rains. A better choice is window well made of a heavy material with the strength to withstand harsh weather conditions and the weight of someone standing on it. Most are designed in half moon or rectangular shapes with a quick release mechanism that lets you open the cover to exit through the basement window. You'll find the covers sold at home centers and lumberyards and online by typing "window well covers" into a search engine. The retailer or Web site will provide instructions to measure your opening and order the appropriate size.
A carpenter will install a 41 by 19 inch half moon shaped window well cover for $95, which includes labor and material. You can buy the unit for $55 and do it yourself and save 42 percent. Carpentry experience and tools will help. Since most of these units are designed for homeowner installation manufacturers provide comprehensive instructions.