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How To Support A Laundry Room Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer

by - Monday, August 06, 2012

How do you build a counter over a washer and dryer? 

That is one of the challenging questions we faced when renovating the laundry room. A countertop in the laundry room is a necessity. Whether you have a small laundry room or a large one, you want to make ever inch count! 

A countertop above the washing machine and dryer provides counter space for folding clothes, a great place for placing detergent and other cleaning products, a work surface when you're at the sink, and - as is the case in our house - room to stack the folded clothes for weeks until you put them away ;). In fact, having a countertop is a priority for our laundry room makeover and one of the reasons we didn't opt for a top load washer and dryer.

We debated a few different options for the countertop material - a butcher block countertop, laminate, Corian, natural stone. In the end, we went with a stainless steel countertop in our laundry room and I thought I'd share the steps we took to install and support the countertop over our front load washing machine and dryer.

How To Build A Counter Over A Washer And Dryer

Determining how to install a laundry countertop is not complicated and is an easy DIY project. If you are installing your own counter over front loaders, no matter what material you use for the countertop, the supporting structure beneath will pretty much be the same. 

In fact, the method I am sharing here can be used to install any kind of floating horizontal surface. You can use it for a desk, counter, or floating bench.

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What's the best way to support a countertop across a washer and dryer?

Typically, laundry rooms have a counter over the top of the washer and dryer. In order to support a laundry room countertop, you may need two components: something to affix the countertop to the wall, and something to hold the countertop above the laundry machines. 

This easy method uses a combination of cleats and gables to achieve that. The cleat provides a brace to hold the countertop up on the wall, and the gables provides support on the side and underneath a long counter so it won't sag. 

If our washer and dryer was in a niche and had walls on three sides, depending on the weight of the countertop, we could install the countertop just using cleats. 

In our situation, we had a sink beside the washing machine and dryer so we used a pre-made gable (an Ikea panel from the As Is section) to support one side of the countertop, a DIY gable hidden between the machines to provide additional support, and cleats on the back and right side walls.

Countertop Materials for the Laundry Room

The cleat and gable method can be used to support most any kind of countertop including butcher block countertops, laminate countertops to natural stone. 

Now depending on countertop material you choose, the first thing you need to determine is if you need a substrate as well. Here's a few options:
  • if you are using a plywood countertop, you do not need a substrate. The plywood sits on the cleats and is supported by the gable
  • if you are building a countertop out of individual pine boards, you do not need a substrate. The boards span the width and are affixed directly to the cleats
  • if you are using a pre-fabricated laminate countertop you purchased at Home Depot or the like, you do not need an additional substrate. The laminate (plastic) is already fused onto a substrate (either plywood, MDF or particleboard. See here for differences about the materials.)
  • if you are using wood countertops like a butcher block countertop, you do not need a substrate. The butcher block sits on the cleats and is supported by the gable
  • if you are using a natural stone or engineered stone solid surface countertops (e.g. Corian or quartz countertop), you may or may not need a substrate. The stone may be strong enough on its own to span the area above your washer and dryer. Consult with your stone fabricator to see what is needed
  • if you are making your own countertop and covering it with laminate or stainless steel, then yes, you need to build the substrate first.
There are lots of options for a DIY laundry room countertop. Since we decided to go with stainless steel countertops in the laundry room, we were able to save some money by building the substrate ourselves (custom sized to our space), and then bringing that substrate to a metal fabricator to have it skinned in stainless steel.

Floating Countertop Support

In addition to using this method for a counter over a washer and dryer, you can also use cleats and gables for:
  • installing floating shelves in a closet
    • installing a floating countertop in a three sided nook
    • installing a floating desktop between cabinets like this
    • installing a floating bench
    Generally, you can use a combination cleats and gables anywhere you want to install a horizontal surface. Installing and supporting a floating countertop of any kind is not difficult. Here's how we did it.

    How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer:

    1. Draw a Level Line

    First step to installing a counter over a washer and dryer is to draw a level line to indicate the underside of the countertop. If you want to be able to move your washing machines in and out, you'll want to ensure you have enough room so don't have the countertop touching the tops of the machines. We had about a 3" gap above our machines.

    How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat, counter over front load washer and dryer

    2. Install a cleat on the wall

    Under this line, install a cleat. A cleat is a strip of material to which the countertop will be attached and which provides horizontal support

    Sean used a scrap 3/4" piece of plywood cut into 2" strips to create the cleats. He affixed the cleats with construction adhesive (you could also use wood glue) and used a stud finder and screwed the cleats into the wall studs. Since we were using an end panel on the left side of the washer, we only needed to install cleats along the back and right wall. 

    Cleats provide extra support whenever you want something to appear "floating". Here's an example where we used cleats to mount an IKEA bookcase to the wall

    counter over front load washer and dryer, How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat

    You'll notice that the right side cleat is mitred at the end and is set back from the face of the countertop. By doing this, the cleat won't be visible once the countertop is installed. You could even paint the cleat your wall colour to make it less visible.

    counter over front load washer and dryer, How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat

    counter over front load washer and dryer, How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat

    3. Support the countertop with a gable

    If your countertop spans a wide area, or if one end of your countertop is not against a wall, you'll also need to install gables. For our laundry room, we used two gables: 
    • one gable to the left of the washing machines (between the sink cabinet and the washer). We used a panel from the IKEA As Is section and cut it to size
    • one centre gable in between the washing machines (to provide additional support underneath the countertop). We made this gable out of plywood.
    Gables are also known as cabinet end panels. End panels can be used for decorative purposes (for example, to hide the unfinished sides of a kitchen cabinet) or for structural purposes (to create a niche or box around your refrigerator). See this post for tips on building DIY gables/cabinet end panels.

    Countertop Support Gable:


    The photo below shows the centre gable we created out of plywood. This gable is placed vertically between the washer and dryer set and is positioned with the horizontal piece running from the front of the machines to the back wall, with the vertical pieces against the back cleat.

    Ensure that the height of the gable is level with the top of the cleat and that the depth of the gable is shorter than the depth of your countertop. Again, you'll want to make your gable less deep than your counter so it isn't visible once fully installed. Because this gable is not visible once the counter and machines are installed, it does not need to be finished or painted.

    The top short vertical piece will screw into the cleat. For the bottom vertical piece, you will first need to screw a spacer piece (the same thickness as the cleat) at the base of your wall, and screw into that. The long horizontal piece will be screwed into the underside of the countertop. 

    counter over front load washer and dryer, How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat, gable

    How to build a countertop base or substrate:

    If you are building your own countertop, say out of plywood, here is an example of how you can structure it. 

    What you are looking at is the underside of the countertop. This countertop is built out of a sheet of 3/4" plywood with additional 3/4"strips around the perimeter and middle. The middle strip is what the centre gable will screw upwards into.

    counter over front load washer and dryer, plywood countertop base, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room

    4. Affix the countertop to the cleats and gable 

    Use a combination of L-brackets, construction adhesive, and screws to affix the countertop and gable. This task is best done with two people. 

    First, if you have a side gable, put it in place. If it is beside a cabinet, attach it to the cabinet with cabinet screws from inside the cabinet. 

    Next, put your countertop in place resting it on the cleat and side gable. Have one person hold the countertop while the other person attaches L-brackets around the perimeter of the countertop. Screw one side of the L into the countertop and the other into the cleat.

    Next, slide the centre gable in place. Use L-brackets along the top of the gable with one side screwed into the underside of the countertop (along the middle horizontal piece) and the other into the gable.

    Once the countertop has been attached to the cleat and gables, slide the washer and dryer back in place. Here's our plywood countertops installed!

    counter over front load washer and dryer, How To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat, countertop gableHow To Install A Countertop Over A Washer And Dryer, DIY floating countertop in the laundry room, countertop cleat, countertop gable

    You might be wondering where our water shut-off valves are. We've brought them into the hidden storage room that sits behind this laundry room. See the washing machine supply lines in this post.

    If we had sanded and sealed the plywood, we could call this project done. A plywood countertop is affordable but not exactly the most durable or water resistant in a laundry room. So, we took that plywood substrate to a metal fabricator and had it clad with stainless steel.

    stainless steel countertop in laundry room, floating countertop in laundry room, counter over front load washer and dryer
    stainless steel countertop in laundry room, floating countertop in laundry room

    Stainless Steel Countertop

    The more we thought about it, the more stainless steel countertops in the laundry room made sense. They are resistant to water and heat damage, hygienic, and would create a nice integrated look with the stainless steel sink. Plus, they are reflective and nicely bounce the light around this windowless laundry room.

    Stainless steel can be expensive but we called around and found a local fabricator with an amazing price and very quick turnaround. Because we built the substrate ourselves and did the install too, we saved on the cost.

    We've already done tons of loads of laundry and I have to say it feels great to fold clothes and have this counter over the washer and dryer. There is enough space between the counter and the upper cabinets. This is quickly becoming one of our favourite rooms in the house :)

    counter over front load washer and dryer, galley laundry room, stainless steel countertop in laundry room, floating countertop in laundry room

    There's more to come in this room, hence the missing paint in the corners. But we'll leave those surprises for another post.

    ***

    UPDATE: We used the cleat & gable method once again for the countertop in our latest laundry room. However, this time, instead of using a pre-made panel as a gable, we made our own gable. 

    See this post for more information about how to build a DIY cabinet end panel. There's tips on selecting materials for an end panel, scribing your panel to the floor, and how to finish your panel to match your kitchen cabinetry.

    how to build cabinet end panel, kitchen cabinet end panel, cabinetry end panel, cabinet gable
    Laundry room with DIY gables/cabinet end panels awaiting countertops

    ****

    Looking for other Laundry Room projects? Check out:


    How to build DIY cabinet end panels

    How to make cabinets look built in

    Laundry Room Renovation Tips

    Backsplash Tile Installation Tips

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    20 comments

    1. Carol Ann Sandell12:48 PM

      Great choice on the countertop.  I love everything about this room and am so jealous!

      ReplyDelete
    2. Ben@Lea Furniture1:01 PM

      Looks fantastic!
      Love the post! Good
      job.

      ReplyDelete
    3. lipstikevents1:03 PM

      Oh my, your laundry room is looking amazing! I love the counter top.

      ReplyDelete
    4. OurWiredLives1:04 PM

      lovely choice!

      ReplyDelete
    5. Cassie {Hi Sugarplum}1:04 PM

      Oh wow -- I love that! This room is going to be fabulous!! thanks for the great tutorial!

      ReplyDelete
    6. Katrina Sullivan1:04 PM

      nice! The counter tops look so sleek :)

      ReplyDelete
    7. Wow, the basement is looking really good. I think you chose a great stainless steel countertop. It makes the basement look even bright when we really like. Can't wait to see more !

      ReplyDelete
    8. Love the stainless steel. They look great with your appliances and the sink. It's exciting to see everything coming together!

      ReplyDelete
    9. Oh my! This looks AMAZING Jennifer. Seriously, I had to do a double take because it looked like a Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe room...gorgeous. xo

      ReplyDelete
    10. barbara@hodge:podge1:05 PM

      I love the stainless steel, you are right, perfect for a windowless space!

      ReplyDelete
    11. Michelle1:05 PM

      Looks fantastic!
      Michelle.

      ReplyDelete
    12. Grace @ sense and simplicity1:05 PM

      I love the stainless steel counters.  It's funny, but I was just thinking the other day how much I like them and that I would consider them for my next kitchen if I could find them for the right price.  They look great in your laundry room.

      ReplyDelete
    13. jbhat1:05 PM

      Much ooh-ing and ah-ing has ensued here.  Brilliant choice--both stunning and practical.  You guys made the installation process look so easy too. 

      jbhat

      ReplyDelete
    14. Simonereis1:05 PM

      It looks just W.O.N.D.E.R.F.U.L! Way to go!

      ReplyDelete
    15. Love the countertop!! 

      ReplyDelete
    16. Keira @ The Bennett House1:05 PM

      The stainless counters are amazing! Great choice and a really interesting how-to. -- thanks!

      ReplyDelete
    17. Heather1:05 PM

      Maybe I would like to do laundry if I had a room like that! Can't wait to see more!

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    18. What a great lesson!! I will have to do the same when I'm ready to tackle a similar project.  Jen your laundry room is looking fantastic! I can't wait to see it all completed!

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    19. I love stainless steel countertops so much - it looks fantastic!

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    20. I love love LOVE the counter! Thanks for the great inspiration!

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