Building Your Dream Laundry Room
Lessons learned the hard way - so you don't have to
I have learned a lot about appliances in our homes and how to best prepare for their installation, and how layout can affect performance. Here are my hard-earned lessons to help you make better decisions for your own remodel or new home.
This article will focus on the Laundry Room. Most laundry spaces are fairly small, so make sure your layout takes into consideration places for things like baskets, hang-drying needs, and supplies.
My Advice When Choosing Appliances
The single best piece of advice I can offer is to buy the appliances when you select them, and store them until installation. I have experienced the pain of selecting an appliance, and waiting too long to buy it as it became discontinued by the manufacturer and then my custom design had to be modified. Change order!
Where to start? Easy: cabinets
The biggest mistake is the perceived need for lots of cabinetry. In order to best utilize a small space for laundry, consider these design guidelines:
Install a countertop, but no cabinets below. Use the open space below for laundry baskets and dirty clothing bins. You can even tuck in large bags of dog food or packages of paper towels and toilet paper.
Install one or two upper cabinets to store detergent, dryer sheets, etc…you can always add more upper cabinets once you get used to using the space.
- In older homes, we became used to lots of lint build up in these rooms. With newer appliances and new code requirements, lint build up is not as much of an issue, but it still exists. Open shelves are a cost-saving measure, but will require more cleaning than a cabinet.
Tips for Choosing Appliances
- If using a gas dryer, the building code requires a vent in the laundry room. This is just like a bathroom fan and needs to be installed before drywall and inspected. Be sure to add a switch for the fan. Even if not using gas, a vent in the ceiling is a nice touch to clear moisture out of the room.
- Dryers that are a far distance from the exterior, or that need to vent upwards out of a basement often need a BOOSTER, which is an in-line fan that helps propel the moist air out of the dryer. The in-line booster will have an automatic switch that turns on when it senses moisture in the line. Make sure you tell the electrician to provide wiring for this unit before drywall!
- Many new dryers come with a steam option for drying delicate items. Be sure to rough in a small water line near the dryer with a shut-off valve. Don’t put the shut off valve behind the dryer, but rather put it next to the dryer so you can reach it easily in an emergency without having to pull the dryer out from the wall.
- Many washers and dryers have reversible door swings, but lately I am seeing this option eliminated. So be sure to check which way the doors swing before deciding whether to do washer-left or washer-right in your design.
- Allow as much room in front of the units as possible. It’s not just about access to the front: when you are doing work on the units, they have to be pulled out from the wall to get access to the connections at the back, so give yourself an extra foot or two for repairs, if possible.
- Pedestal bases are a nice way to get the doors at a more workable height, plus they add a nice big drawer at the bottom for storage. However, the laundry basket still sits on the floor when you are loading and unloading, so for some people it makes for extra work and sometimes smaller articles of clothing miss the basket and fall on a dirty floor. I think it is better to work with the normal heights.
- Top load or front load? Basically, front loads use less water, but they are not as good at cleaning very dirty clothing. Front loads are also better for sweaters and individual, delicate items because many units have a sweater tray. They are also easier to unload. But if you have lots of kids and tough stains to deal with, the top load is the real workhorse. You can also soak items better with a top load.
- Remember to have your dryer ducts vacuumed professionally every couple of years. The lint build-up can be a major fire hazard. It’s easy to look at the vent outside the home and clear any lint build-up there. This also increases the efficiency of the dryer and decreases energy bills.
designing the details
- If possible, install a floor drain in the laundry room, and even better if you can pitch the floor toward the drain. It’s not the washer that leaks, it’s the hoses! Invest in good quality hoses and connectors for your washer’s connections.
- A sink in the laundry room really rounds out the utility of this room. Be sure to add a retractable hose that can fill a mop bucket on the floor, and install as big a sink as possible for other tough cleaning projects like paint brushes and art project aftermath. It doesn’t need to be an expensive sink, but the bigger the better.
- We are fortunate here in the Roaring Fork Valley to have so much sunshine, so personally, I have many pieces of clothing that I wash but don’t machine-dry. So, I make sure I have either collapsible drying racks (and space for them) or better yet a retractable pole or two in the room for those hang-dry items. They can be anywhere in the room so they are out of the way.
- If you are lucky enough to have a sink in the laundry room, consider the idea that whatever you clean will need an adjacent counter top to place things on, just like using a kitchen sink. Many people put the sink right next to the washer or dryer, forcing you to use the top of the appliance as a drying rack. Consider placing the sink somewhere else in the room to maximize the potential of the sink.
- Dryers are notorious for lint build-up which eventually become a fire hazard. The main reason is the hose connecting the dryer to the vent in the wall. This hose is flimsy and gets crushed when you push the dryer into place. Because of this hose, many dryers don’t push all the way back to the wall and take up valuable floor space, not to mention the dust trap behind them. The best solution is called a DRYER BOX and it is installed during framing. This allows for the vent duct to live inside a wall cavity and not be crushed when you move it back against the wall.
- When selecting cabinet doors, a flat cabinet door is a wise choice. There is no place to collect residual lint, and a durable finish will allow for easing regular wiping. Don’t forget the tops of the doors when cleaning!
- Purchase the appliances in advance of construction and store them until installation.
- Be sure you have considered all utilities - gas, water, drains, electricity, ventilation, lighting - during the framing stage before drywall goes in.
- Go light on the cabinetry to start. Add more later if needed.
- Create spaces to hang clothing that can't be placed in the dryer.
- Create counter top space wherever possible, with open space below. Do not use base cabinets, except maybe under the sink.
- Consult with the local building department to understand new code rules, and this will ensure a good selling point later.
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