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Laundry Room Renovation Tips

by - Monday, November 26, 2012

Did you all have a good weekend? I made a few Black Friday purchases. We'll see if I'm still happy with them once they arrive. We also finally started on our next project, the basement bathroom. But before we move on to that, I wanted to share a few of our lessons learned from the laundry room reno. If you're planning your own laundry room renovation, here's a few things you might want to consider:

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Make room for the venting:
Everyone who has installed a dryer has the same problem - the size of the dryer vent requires you to push the dryer 6-8 inches away from the wall. If you want to have a countertop over your machines, this means that you'll have to have an extra deep countertop. Our solution: pull the venting through behind the laundry room wall and into the adjacent storage room. This solution only worked because we had access to the "backside" of the laundry machine wall. If your laundry machine is on an exterior wall, you won't be able to do this. We actually did the same thing with the plumbing: we moved the hot and cold shut off valves for the washing machine into the adjacent room. By avoiding pushing out the machines we were able to (a) save six inches of floor space, (b) avoid additional countertop cost, and (c) hide the plumbing lines (we avoided having the shut off valves visible above the counter).

Reno tip: When planning your laundry room, consider where your venting and plumbing/valves will go. Is there an opportunity to run them into a service space or another room, or perhaps into a nearby sink cabinet? Can you configure them somehow to save some space? 

Laundry rooms are typically below ground and have little natural light. We thought we could bring in more light by having a frosted door and bounce it around the room with the glass tile and mirror. We originally planned for two pot lights - but once the framing was up, we realized this would be not enough. With lighting especially, its important to reassess your lighting plan once the framing is up and you see the actual spacing of the lighting (based on location of the joists). Its much easier to have ample light (and put it on a dimmer to lessen it) than try to add another light after everything is done.

Placement of controls and receptacles:
In our electrical plan, we outlined the location of every plug and light switch. We determined location by looking at how we would use the room: where would we be ironing, where would the TV be located etc. However, we forgot about the in-floor heating thermostat and left it to the electrician to install. He placed it at shoulder height... right in the middle of the one wall we were planning to put some artwork. We actually made the same error in our upstairs bathroom, where the thermostat falls right below our towel hooks.

Reno tip: Receptacles can be easily re-located pre-drywall so make sure that receptacles "work around" your other items (artwork, windows and doors, cabinets, countertops etc.) and are easily accessible.  Ensure your electrician knows what items are coming in down the road so that he can place receptacles appropriately.

Room for function:
This next tip manifests itself in various scenarios but the basic concept is this: ensure that you place things so they have the physical room to function. For example, if you want to place cabinets on the counter like we did, you need to have 'spacer' panels below the cabinet and beside the cabinet so that the cabinet door won't scrape the countertop and so the doors can open fully beyond 90 degrees. Other examples: ensure your faucet is placed far enough from any wall so that the handle can fully rotate back and forth if it needs to, ensure that laundry machine doors have room to swing open.
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Plan for comfort:

Our laundry room might look "blinged out" but the few creature comforts we added in actually didn't cost that much. The in-floor heating? There's a small investment in the unit (cost depends on the size of your room), but it only costs approximate $0.05/day to run. The TV? The TV was on sale and to add the additional plug and cable outlet to our existing electrical quote was only $75 more. But here's the thing: these small add-on's actually increased our enjoyment of the laundry room significantly. Now we're more willing to do the laundry and more apt to stay in the laundry room for a longer time. These are two investments that have huge returns.

Plan storage first:
If you are building a new laundry room, you might think to plan the laundry room size just based on the essentials (room for washer, dryer, and maybe a sink), but if you are planning for any storage, use that to plan your room dimensions. I knew I wanted to maximize storage with at least two banks of pot drawers on one side of the laundry room and the washer, dryer, and sink cabinet on the other. Since we were using Ikea cabinets, I used the Ikea kitchen planner tool to mix and match options. Once I came up with a final design (two 30" pot drawers and one 18" drawer stack), we knew the minimum dimensions of the room. The result is the cabinetry looks custom fit to the room. If we had just laid out the room and left the storage planning until later, we might have had some weird dimensions that standard Ikea cabinetry couldn't fit and we'd have to find a 'hack' solution for, or have some extra large filler panels.

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Look for savings: 
 Renovations can be expensive, but there's always room for savings. Here's some ways we saved cost on our reno:
 - used Ikea cabinetry which we assembled and installed ourselves. We also bought the cabinetry during the Ikea kitchen sale and saved an additional 10% in gift cards
- did the measurements, built the plywood substrate, and installed our stainless steel countertops. Stainless steel can be expensive, but if you are able to do some of the work yourself, there are huge savings
- installed the tile backsplash ourselves

Our washer and dryer were purchased new and perfect, but another way to get some significant savings is to check out the "scratch and dent" area of your local appliance retailer. Some of the imperfections might be on the side or top of the machines and if you will be enclosing them or placing a countertop over them anyway, it might not matter to you!

Think Double Duty: 
 Laundry rooms don't need to be laundry rooms at all times. Can your laundry room also be your gardening room? Laundry + mudroom? Or laundry + craft room? Think about all your needs and see if there is a way to build multiple functions into one room. Our list of needs included: a sink for craft cleanup, storage for pantry items, general household storage, a hanging rod. We also considered putting a small fridge in the laundry room, to create a laundry + basement beverage center.

Reno tip: Identify your list of needs before you plan your layout. See if there is a room design that can satisfy more than one of those needs. 

Overall, a laundry room isn't a difficult room to renovate, but when done right, it can be one of the hardest working, most enjoyable spaces of your home!

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