Q: I'm remodeling my laundry room. Before I order cabinets, help me design a workable floor plan.
A: In all the years I was building homes, I pretty much neglected the laundry room in the houses I worked on. When I was a kid our washer and dryer were in our basement, and the laundry process seemed pretty insignificant. Shows what I know.
When I built my own home more than 20 years ago, I moved the laundry room to the first floor by my garage. My wife and I thought we had the perfect laundry room design, layout and cabinets. We were wrong. I am remodeling the room, and our choice of cabinets was greatly influenced by the mistakes we made in the past.
Our laundry room became the overflow for all sorts of items beyond detergent and fabric softener. This was the dump spot where we piled pet supplies, lightbulbs, picnic supplies and kids' sports equipment. They were all visible on top of the few cabinets we had and on some open shelves I built a few years ago in a last-ditch effort to control the clutter.
The new laundry room wall cabinets are 42 inches tall. Standard cabinets are 30 inches high. We decided to take the cabinets to the ceiling so that every square foot of available space is used for storage. These extra-tall cabinets are gorgeous and do not overpower the room. I encourage you to price these out for your job.
As for the layout of your laundry room, you may be able to move things with a little bit of work. In my case, we changed the location of the dryer, washing machine and 48-inch sink base cabinet. In the old layout, the washer and dryer stood immediately adjacent to the main pathway leading from the garage to the rest of the house. On laundry day, that path was blocked with baskets and piles of clothing.
If your laundry room is large enough, include a folding surface for clothes and a utility sink to soak or rinse things before you wash them. We use the deep stainless steel utility sink next to our washing machine to clean things that would otherwise be a hassle in our regular kitchen sink. It's a great place to scrub cookie sheets, clean paintbrushes or fill buckets for cleaning.
Superior lighting and a bright color scheme are important in this room. Doing laundry is work, and you should make the environment as pleasant as possible. Have a convenient power outlet for a radio or maybe a small television.
If you have lots of cordless items that need recharging — small appliances, phones, tools — create a space near a power source where the charging stations can be plugged in.
For flooring, choose a material that is durable and will not show dirt. We have a ceramic tile floor that is a light mottled brown. It hides dirt, and when it is time to clean it, a mop makes it look like new in minutes.
If you are moving your dryer-vent pipe, place the top of it 42 inches off the floor directly behind the dryer. This will allow you to easily connect the smooth metal pipe as you slide the dryer into position. The building code requires that smooth metal pipe be used to vent dryers. Avoid using the collapsible plastic piping, as it can be easily crushed as you slide the dryer back against the wall. Then your dryer won't work properly and you'll pay the price in higher energy bills.
Removing a useless small closet in our laundry room opened up enough space to permit us to install 5 linear feet of additional base cabinets. I added a second sink here that will come in handy for any number of things. We also were able to install a new wall cabinet in this location to store pet food and supplies.
We also decided to install organizing baskets, drawers and bins in a large closet immediately adjacent to the laundry room to maximize the space and minimize clutter.
If you are planning to build a new home and have large dogs, think about installing a rectangular shower basin that can be used to wash off muddy beasts before they come in the house.
Tim Carter is a licensed contractor. To view previous columns, tap into his archive of information and sources of building materials, or sign up for e-mail alerts, go to www.askthebuilder.com. You can write to Tim Carter at P.O. Box 36352, Cincinnati, OH 45236-0352.