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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 6/1/2010

The Short Version: 

We've run into a problem with the apartment window wells, but we have a solution.

The Longer Version:

The problem stems to way, waay back when we were making our final positioning of Tanglewood on the lot. We had originally had the house a bit too far "forward" on the flat spot, and our opinion in walking around and looking at things was that it felt like it was "perched" on the hillside. After a bit of pondering and fiddling with plans, we realized that if we rotated the house on the hillside a bit (around 5 degrees) it suddenly felt like it fit properly.

An unforeseen consequence of this, however, didn't become apparent until we began building. The blueprints and overhead lot diagram we were working from didn't have the hill behind the house very clearly defined, with the result that when we rotated the house we ended up pushing the entire back of the house deeper into the hillside. This had the unexpected side effect of putting the apartment windows considerably deeper into the hillside, and now we required window wells for code reasons (and just to make the windows both look better and actually be useful). There aren't many other windows along the back and (fortunately) they won't require window wells, though they will be relatively low to the ground when viewed from the outside.

Okay, so now that we've just about completed excavation along the back, the crew began digging out the window-well openings for the apartment while Colleen and Builder Dale started looking around for somebody to provide the window-well enclosures themselves. That's where we ran into a problem.

The "classic" window well enclosure is an aluminum, steel, or high-density plastic semi-circle kinda like this or this. Older versions are usually just corrugated metal, while the newer ones often will have a ladder or some steps built into them for egress (usually in the event of fire). On fancier houses they're often a bit larger and made of railroad ties or landscaping timbers to allow for a terraced effect while still providing emergency steps of some kind.

The problem we ran into was that Tanglewood's windows are, frankly, larger than the local supplier usually handles. The smaller window (off the apartment bathroom) is a standard size, but the next largest window (off the apartment kitchen) would require a special order to get the right-sized enclosure. And the largest window, the one outside the apartment living room--they flat didn't carry anything of that size.

After pondering options, Colleen and the erstwhile supplier came to the same conclusion--we'd be better off building the window-well enclosures ourselves. With a ton of partial ICF blocks lying around from the main construction effort they seemed a natural route to go, and the supplier (though he admitted he wasn't going to make any money on the deal) readily agreed. We chatted with Builder Dale, and he concurred this seemed the best way to go as well and authorized us to pull blocks out of the stockpile that was still on site (most of these blocks had been set aside for eventual use by the crew in finishing the walls at either end of the garage).

Tomorrow Colleen goes up finish the dig-out of the wells (there's only so much the Bobcat can do that close to the house) and start piecing together the wells themselves. I'll go up after work and pick up where she leaves off, and hopefully we'll have them roughed-in by the weekend.

In the meantime the plumbing crew is scheduled to come up to make an inspection and then get started on the underslab main runs. They'll be putting this stuff in now since it needs to be protected and below frost line; later they'll come back and take care of the detailed runs to each area, toilets, sinks, etc.

Things are moving quickly now... it's exhausting, but fun!

Steven in Colorado Springs

My Construction Website

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