Finding a Space for a Home Laundry Area

Washer and Dryer in Corner of Kitchen
Joe Schmelzer / Getty Images

Many of us long for those huge laundry rooms featured in the glossy home magazines. You know the ones, rows of cabinets with a gleaming washer and dryer in a fashion color. There's counter space for sorting, lots of rattan baskets for sorting and a built-in ironing board at the ready. If you want a little something extra, there's the sewing area and a crafting/gift wrapping area.

In real life, just having a convenient spot to do laundry is foremost and the extras are gravy. If you hate using a laundromat, community laundry room, or even a scary basement or garage laundry space, there may be a space in your home that can be converted into a workable laundry area. An in-home laundry area is invaluable to young parents and senior citizens

Finding the Space

The two most obvious places to find space for a laundry area are in or near a kitchen or bathroom that has existing plumbing stacks. The walls might be adjacent to, or on the backside of, a closet or mechanical room. Existing plumbing means both water supply and waste lines are easily accessible and will save you a great deal of money as you develop the laundry space.

In addition to the plumbing requirement, you will need to have the electrical capacity to support the appliances. A washer needs a 120v outlet, and a dryer must have a 240v outlet to meet safety specifications.

To convert a closet or pantry into a laundry space, make sure that the closet is large enough to have a 2.5-foot wide door so that stacked machine doors can be opened and easily accessed. The area should be at least 2.6 to 2.9-foot deep to accommodate machines. Three feet is best so that there is room for air circulation around machines.

In a bathroom, a large or double sink vanity can be converted to house a washer and dryer. By giving up some storage space and the second sink, a washer/dryer combination appliance can be installed under the counter. The vanity can be shortened to allow the installations of a stacked washer/dryer unit.

Select the Right Appliances

For a closet space, stackable washers and dryers are a great choice. Front-loading washers reduce the height requirement even more and allow for a full-sized machine.

For a vented dryer, a vent must be installed to exhaust to an exterior wall. Quite often, the vent can run within the ceiling or floor joists; or you can create a soffit to conceal the vent under the joists. If an exterior vent is impossible, choose a ventless dryer.

A popular appliance in Europe is the combination or all-in-one washer/dryer. Becoming more available in the United States, a combination machine works as both a washer and dryer in a single unit. The laundry cycle takes longer, but you need much less space and no exterior air vent. These units are sized to conveniently fit under the counter or inside a closet.

A Stylish Space

If you have installed under-the-counter appliances in a bathroom or kitchen, use matching cabinet doors to conceal the machines. Sometimes there is not enough clearance space for doors, but you can always use a tension rod and a decorative curtain. Another option is a rolling window shade. It is easy to pull down, can be covered with any type of fabric and rolls out of the way when its time to do laundry.

The same idea can be used for a closet laundry room—use doors or a curtain. You can also buy an inexpensive folding screen that can add style to the rest of the room.

Add as much lighting as possible to the space. It will make it more cheerful and make it easier to spot stains and problems. Choose a great paint color and, if there's room, add some artwork. Having a cheerful space will make every load of laundry easier.

Room for the Extras

In almost every laundry space, there is room for a few extras. If you have side by side appliances, add a slim organizer between the machines for detergents, spot cleaners, and other tools.

Use collapsible laundry hampers, which use much less space than cumbersome wicker or plastic baskets.

Don't forget wall space. A shoe organizer can be used to hold tools, lost socks, dryer sheets, and treasures pulled from pockets. Add some wire shelving that can be used for storage and even for hanging damp clothes. A retractable clothesline or a wall-mounted drying rack is a wonderful addition.