Movin' On Up

Whether as the primary wash-and-dry center or a secondary one, upstairs laundry rooms are gaining in popularity.

You've seen them in tiny apartments: laundry closets with stackable washers and dryers. But today, you're just as likely to spot one on the second floor of a larger house, say, off the master bath to function as a hamper for damp towels, says Minneapolis architect Christine Albertsson. Thanks to new compact and quieter machines, the upstairs laundry room — often the second such dedicated space in the house—is a growing trend for homeowners who want their laundry as close as possible to the dirty clothes and bed linens.

Upstairs laundry rooms require planning. Consider the following:

Flooding: Install the washer over a shower base with a floor drain (required by some local building codes), or a pan that'll funnel water to plumbing waste lines running to the basement, and be sure to hook the machine to an automatic shutoff valve — a must for downstairs washers, too.

Placement: New machines are quieter, but they still vibrate and thus shouldn't share bedroom walls. If your machine is level, it won't rock on the floor, says Albertsson. But in older homes, where floors are often uneven, put motion-arresting pads under the washer.

Venting: Ventless dryers (which use condensers to wring out water) are an option for second-floor laundry rooms. Common in Europe and Asia, they're becoming popular here. Albertsson cautions, however, that the machines are pricey and may take longer to dry your clothes. If your laundry room shares an outside wall, it's still best to use a conventional dryer that vents outdoors.

Noise: Choose cast-iron pipes over PVC, which don't muffle water sounds well. Wrapping pipes with insulation will also cut down on noise. And seek out machines engineered for quiet function. Bosch's Nexxt washers and dryers, for example, are so quiet you wouldn't even know they were on.

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