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Laundry rooms move out of the basement

Homeowners are putting their matching washer and dryer on display

Last updated: October 2013

Carrying loads of dirty laundry from the bedroom down to the basement or utility room is a cumbersome task at best. That’s one reason more home­owners are putting the laundry room closer to the source of the dirty clothes and linens, according to the National Association of Home Builders. In other residences the washer and dryer live next to such gathering places as the family room.

And in some homes a second set of washers and dryers has been added to large master-bedroom suites or guest rooms. Having the appliances in a more visible area is one reason more and more people are buying matching washers and dryers. (Here are top-rated pairs that did well in our tests.)

Of course, moving the laundry room to another location takes some thought and planning. And condo, co-op, and apartment dwellers should consult the association’s board or review their lease before embarking on a laundry room remodeling project. Here are some things to consider before you get started.

Make sure the new location is structurally sound

An engineer can help determine whether your home, or house plan, can accommodate a second-floor laundry. Space-planning issues, particularly in an existing home, are best addressed by an architect, who can also incorporate necessary mechanical changes into the design.

Framing. Floor joists must be sturdy enough to support the extra weight and vibrations of a washer and dryer. Older framing might need to be beefed up with additional sistering or blocking. A clear path must also be established through which to run plumbing, venting, and electrical and, possibly, gas lines.

Noise. Walls and ceilings made from two layers of 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch gypsum wallboard are better than a single layer at dampening vibrations generated by a washer or dryer. Wall and joist spaces should be filled with fiberglass batts, rigid foam, or spray-in insulation to prevent sound from traveling to adjoining rooms, including those above and below.

Waterproofing. The best way to prevent a leak from flooding the rest of the house is to build a curb across the laundry room’s threshold, waterproof the floor area, and install a floor drain. Because the drain will normally be dry, it will require a trap primer, which diverts a dribble of water from the supply line to the drain to keep the trap full and prevent sewer gas from wafting into the living space. Additional safeguards include washing-machine drip pans and electronic shutoff valves that automatically stop the flow of water when they sense a leak.

Running new water and utility lines can be costly

Running new service lines with minimal demolition and disruption is usually the most challenging and time-consuming part of having a laundry room on an upper floor. It’s also often the costliest step because building codes require that licensed professionals do much of the work.

Water. Besides running new supply lines, a licensed plumber will need to add an adequately sized drain line to whisk washing-machine waste water away; otherwise, the force created by the washer’s discharge pump might overwhelm existing drain lines and overflow toilets, tubs, and showers downstream with water or soap suds. Also important, and often required by code, is a plumbing vent, which allows air to escape from the system.

Electricity and gas. A licensed electrician will need to pull dedicated lines for both the washer and dryer, including a 240-volt line if your dryer is electric. Gas-fueled dryers require only standard 120-volt electrical service. Many building codes require a plumber to install the gas piping between the municipal natural-gas supply or an on-site propane storage tank and your dryer.

Most dryer models are available in electric and gas versions. In our experience testing dryers, performance is the same for both versions. So for simplicity, we test only electric models.

Venting. Running dryer venting is often relatively simple because ducts can be run straight up through the attic and roof.

Find top-rated washers and dryers

All images courtesy of Whirlpool.

To minimize vibrations, make sure that your appliances are level. And purchase products from a dealer who will allow you to return or exchange them if they shake and shimmy too much once they're in place. Also keep the following points in mind.

Stackability. Some front-loaders can accommodate a dryer perched on top, which is useful when retrofitting a small space such as a closet. Also consider laundry centers, which combine a washer and dryer into a single tall unit.

Cycle noise. In general, front-loaders operate more quietly than top-loaders, though some produce a high-frequency whir akin to an airplane engine revving up as they accelerate into the final spin.

Cycle time. While front-loaders can take two hours to wash a load, the fastest top-loaders finish the job in 35 minutes, which means less overall disturbance.

End-of-cycle signal. A loud chime or buzzer is great for appliances that are down in the basement, but when they’re next door to your bedroom, a signal that can be turned off (or down) is preferable.

Use our washing machine and dryer buying guides to help find the best models for your home.

   

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