We get a lot of inquiries about keeping washing machines in the bathroom, and whether that is weird or not. It’s not! In fact, having a bathroom and laundry combined makes a whole lot of sense; it is where a lot of laundry is produced after all.
Planning for a combined laundry and bathroom isn’t difficult, but there are a few things to consider.
1. Building Codes and Regulations
The first thing to do when thinking about doing a bathroom and laundry combined is to refer to local building code and regulations to see what rules exist regarding installing dryers and washing machines in bathrooms.
Washing machine and dryer installation involves pipes and plumbing, water supply, air ducting and ventilation, and electrical cables. There are different code requirements and regulations for each so building, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical codes should be reviewed.
For a complete list of state codes and permit requirements, check out this directory of building codes set out state-by-state.
If you are hiring a professional plumber they will be aware of all local regulations and should be able to guide you through the process.
2. Plumbing Specifications
Once the local codes and regulations are known, you’ll need to consider the plumbing specifications for the laundry set up you are planning on installing. This will depend on a few factors:
- Existing Plumbing. It will be important to know where existing water supply and drainage pipes are located. Consider creating a schematic diagram of the existing plumbing in the bathroom. This will help in planning for the installation of the washing machine.
- Planned Layout. Whether installing laundry into an existing bathroom, or creating a new bathroom and laundry combined, you will need to have a plan as to where everything will fit. Where you can place a washing machine will depend on existing plumbing, manufacturer requirements, and your ability to make it all fit where you want it to.
- Manufacturer Requirements. Each washing machine manufacturer will have water intake and drainage requirements. Be sure to understand the requirements of the washing machine you intend on installing, and ensure that it will fit into your planned layout.
3. Moisture Effects (and Control)
Bathrooms are already moist environments. Creating a combined bathroom and laundry space increases the moisture level substantially.
Moisture issues in the bathroom can lead to peeling paint, damp drywall, and even mold growth (which can have long term health implications).
Keeping moisture in control is the key to avoiding these problems:
- Strong ventilation fan. Installing a strong ventilation fan can help combat moisture that is produced either by showering or by washing machines. Bathroom fans should be vented to and open area on the exterior of the building to ensure that moisture is directed away from the building itself.
- Modulated ventilation fan on a timer. Bathroom fan timers are a great way to ensure that the fan stays on long enough to remove moisture but not so long as to be a drain on the electrical bill. Some models allow you to set the ventilation fan on a schedule to further remove moisture during the day or at night when it is not being used.
- Keep the bathroom warmer. Moisture accumulates more on colder surfaces than on warm surfaces. Keeping the bathroom warmer can help in reducing the amount of moisture in the room. Simply turning up the heat in this room will work, but also consider heated floors and towel racks as subtle ways to add heat to the room also.
- Keep bathroom window and/or doors open. One of the simplest ways to combat moisture is to increase natural ventilation by keeping bathroom windows and doors open when not in use. This allows the moisture to easily escape and disperse into the surrounding area with no extra effort or cost.
4. Dryer Vent Requirements
It is the dryer vent that is likely the biggest hurdle to having a bathroom and laundry combined room.
International Residence Code (IRC) states that unless the dryer is a condensing (or ductless) dryer the ‘exhaust systems shall be independent of all systems and shall convey the moisture to the outdoors’. This means that the dryer venting cannot be combined with the existing bathroom venting.
Here are a few of the other requirements:
- Length limit. The venting ductwork should be as straight as possible and should not exceed 25 feet in length.
- Exterior venting. The dryer vent must exhaust through an exterior wall to the outside.
- Cleanable. The dryer ductwork must be cleanable – so no sharp corners or excessive curves. If the accumulated lint cannot be vacuumed or blown out, the lint will build up and become a fire hazard.
Consult the IRC website for more specific compliance regulations: iccsafe.org
Not all is lost though; it is possible to install a dryer vent either as part of new construction (easy peasy!), or as a small renovation project (totally doable!).
This is a fantastic video from Home Depot on how to install a dryer vent:
What if you don’t want to, or can’t, install a dryer vent in your bathroom?
It is still possible to have laundry in your bathroom even if you don’t want to, or can’t, install a dryer vent.
You can, instead, install a condensing (or ventless) dryer!
In much of Europe it is common to have ventless dryers in homes. These dryers work by heating up the drum and circulating warm air and then condensing the moisture from that air and depositing it into a reservoir.
No dryer vent or ducting required. Brilliant!
5. Electric Outlets
The electric outlet requirements when considering a combined bathroom and laundry space depend on whether you are installing just a washer, or a washer and a dryer.
Washers, typically, can be plugged into standard 120 v outlets and so, other than having an outlet available, don’t have any special wiring requirements.
Dryers, on the other hand (again), do have special electrical requirements.
Dryers (both conventional dryers and condensing (or ductless) dryers) require special 240 v outlets to supply more power to the appliance. This extra power is needed by the dryer element (which heats the air, or the drum), and the blower motor (or condenser in a ventless dryer).
It is unlikely that your bathroom is wired with a 240 v outlet. It is, however, possible to retrofit your bathroom with this outlet. This is not a DIY project. Our recommendation is to hire a professional electrician to do this for you to ensure that building and electrical codes are safely adhered to.
The common element for both washer and dryer electric outlets is that they be both GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) and AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) certified. GFCI protects from electrocution, while AFCI protects from fire. The National Association of Home Builders has an AFCI/GFCI Requirements by State document that can be referred to for local regulations.
6. Space Options
Space really is the Final Frontier (insert eyeroll and groan for bad joke here 🙂 ). Once all the technical requirements and regulations have been sorted out, it’s time to determine what space you have available in the bathroom for the washer and dryer.
Ideally, the laundry portion of the combined bathroom and laundry room should be easily accessible and have a counter atop to facilitate folding. Ideally is not always possible though, so here are some other options to consider:
Stacking Washer/Dryer. Stacking washer and dryer units have been around for many years. Popular in apartments and condominiums where space is at a premium, they are now also found in many smaller houses for the same reasons. They take up very little horizontal space and, although not large capacity appliances, they are full sized and work well for couples and small families.
Washer/Dryer Combo. Combination units are very popular in Europe and are starting to become more available in North America also. This is a single appliance that does both the washing and the drying function. It is first a front-loading washing machine and then becomes a condensing (or ventless) dryer. They are the ultimate space-savers!
Under Sink. If under-the-sink storage is not required, then installing laundry appliances under the sink is a fantastic option. The appliance then takes up no extra space in the bathroom and is easily accessible.
Closet. In my home, our stacking washer and dryer are located in a closet just outside of the bathroom. A converted linen closet inside the bathroom would be just as handy.
Portable Washer/Dryer. Lastly is the solution for those who have no extra bathroom space for built in appliance options – the portable washing machine. Having a portable washing machine would allow you to tuck it away when not in use and then wheel it in when needed. No construction, no installation, no plumbing required. A perfect solution!