Wednesday, October 19, 2016

21 Laundry Room Update: Lowering Hookups & Installing a Counter

We made some jumbo sized progress in our laundry room this past week and I am ridiculously excited about the changes.

But before I dive in, let's chat about laundry rooms for a moment. How do you feel about them being a combo of function and fabulous? I know there tends to be a lot of debate on this subject, as the task of laundry is a little mundane and tedious and how pretty does a laundry room really need to be? On the flip side of the coin, some families (mine included) spend ridiculous amounts of time on laundry every week, making the space almost as busy as the kitchen!

I personally think a laundry room should be fabulous as long as it is functioning big first. We have a large laundry room, and for that I am extremely grateful. I know the size alone is a blessing, and the fact that we are able to utilize the space for much more than just laundry is a bonus. I can use it for sorting/folding clothes, as a cleaning supply hub, storing our extra linens and beach gear, sewing, organizing my painting supplies, etc... This room works so hard for our family, and I really want to give it a little lovin'.

With that, this project has been on my wish list since we purchased our front loading washer and dryer over ten years ago! I loved the washer and dryer instantly, but didn't love that all of our connections for water and power were at a level above the pair of machines. It caused instant visual clutter and I would find myself putting more clutter in front of the hookups to hide their unsightliness. I wish I would have known just how easy it was for us to move these items lower so we would have done it long ago!

The clutter was one thing, but the primary reason we wanted to lower the hookups was to add a solid surface folding counter above the washer/dryer. We had been trying to use a smaller counter behind us, but that counter sort of became a catch-all space and wasn't really ideal for spreading out and folding large loads. A deep, large surface would be a huge improvement to the functionality of the room.

Our utility sink was beyond its prime so that was the first to go. Eventually we will have a small snack bar in the adjoining den, and we will need a place to wash a few dishes. And of course, hand washing specific clothing and project supplies will happen in this room as well. So we made plans to add a 36" cabinet paired with a large, deep sink.

The wall behind the sink was typically dirty and challenging to scrub clean, so we will finally be installing a backsplash tile. I am also thinking of doing both an open shelf and a cabinet above. The counter for the washer and dryer is so deep, that really any of the upper storage will be for items less frequently used. And because our laundry room can feel a bit dark, we are planning to add a sconce for some additional lighting.

But let's take a step back and take a peek at a before...

To begin with the planned update, the first step was to find a base cabinet and take a bazillion measurements. The cabinet allowed us to have just enough room for our washer and dryer and 2-3" of built-in counter support around each machine. I liked that there wouldn't be any gaps or wasted space, and that the supports in the center would ensure the large sized counter wouldn't sag or bow down the road.

Speaking of counters, there was a lot of back and forth on the type of counter to install. Because we are now obsessed with our Cambria kitchen counters, quartz would have been my first choice. But as much as we use the laundry room, it just seemed a little bit much... especially when cost started factoring in. I will splurge on counters in a kitchen, even a bathroom, but I was OK sticking with a less expensive option in our laundry room. We plan to add two wood shelving pieces to the room so I ultimately opted for a laminate counter for the sink/washer/dryer setup. We brought our overall dimensions to Home Depot and put in a custom order for two pieces of countertop in Formica Neo Cloud finish. To select the depth, we figured how much room we would need for the hookups in the back, as well as where we wanted the face of the washer and dryer to show. Our washer has a pull out drawer for pouring in detergent/bleach/softener, so we opened that to be sure the drawer would be accessible to its fullest while still tucked under the counter. We ultimately landed at a counter that was 30" deep (and 24" deep for the base cabinet).

Another laundry room blessing is that we have full access to our electrical, gas, venting and water supply on the back side of our laundry room wall (inside of our utility room). Bryan knows just enough to feel confident in handling the movement of these items on his own, especially because we have family members who specialize in the electrical and plumbing industries on call. After he measured and determined the new location for the hookups, he shut off our water and power supply, cut the plumbing and used his multipurpose oscillating tool to cut the new box shapes from the sheetrock.

We removed a bit of length from the PVC pipe below the hookup box, and also moved it to the side a bit. It is important if elbowing these pipes, not to use a 90 degree piece or air pockets can form and create a back-up (so we used two 60 degree pieces). We had to add PEX tubing for the water line to the hookups, and the fool-proof way to do this quick and easily was with our Shark Bite pals. Although these little buggers are a bit pricey, they are SO worth it due to their ease of use.

They just snap on to the cut tubing, and create a watertight connection to the new length of tubing (allowing us to extend the overall length and lower the hookup box).

With the boxes now lowered, we were able to patch the walls on the laundry room side.

Once the walls were coated, sanded and dry, I gave them a couple coats of white paint/primer. I am not fully committed to the design of the remainder of the room, so I just splashed the white up for now.

OK, time to install the cabinets and counters. Starting in the far corner of the room, we shimmed and installed the sink base cabinet first.

From there, we added a ledger board for the counter, using a stud finder to be sure it was being reinforced along the remainder of the wall.

For the support walls of the washer and dryer, we combined two pieces of smooth 3/4" plywood together to create a 1 1/2" thick support. The wood was cut to the correct height and depth with our circular saw, combined together with construction grade glue and screws and then sanded... Then it was affixed to the base cabinet with more screws and shims to ensure levelness.

We repeated this step for the center piece, and used the multi-purpose tool to cut out a notch to insert the support into the ledger board. We reinforced with heavy duty L-shaped brackets on both sides at the top, and again into the studs at the floor.

And one more time on the far end, screwing into the wall studs.

You will see above that we pre-drilled some pocket holes into this piece prior to screwing it into the wall. These holes were added to all of the support pieces give us a way to screw up into the counter top. This is also why this Kregg Jig continues to be one of our favorite tools. Insert heart eye emoji here.

You will also see in the piece against the wall that we were initially going to finish the faces of these boards with an iron on edge tape. This would have worked just fine, but we ultimately liked the look of adding a full piece of trim board to the faces instead. More on that in a minute.

Above you can see the washer/dryer cubbies taking shape, and prepped for the counter install. I didn't get a photo of this, as I was standing on the top of the counter pushing down, while Bryan was under the counter attaching it through the pre-drilled pocket holes.

You know when you grab for your level and then hold your breath? Well, we let out the biggest sigh of relief! Everything ended up level in all directions. #cheers!

With everything installed, we used glue and our brad nailer to affix 1x2" boards to the two ends and a 1x3" board to the center.

This really finished off the faces of the supports and bridged any small gaps within the washer/dryer cavity and the machines.

With everything installed, I got to work with caulk and wood filler to clean up all of the nail and screw holes in the entire piece. Lots of sanding later, it was time to tape and paint!

Again, for now I went with white; two coats of Behr Marquee Ultra Pure White in satin applied with both a brush and smooth roller. I have some ideas for this space that need refining, so although everything is going white right now, color is coming!

It is worth mentioning that we still have work to do on the sink base cabinet and counter. We plan to reinforce the counter with extra support to hold the weight of the new sink and reduce any bowing, fix the doors (they are a little wonky) and add a decorative toe kick. But for now, we are celebrating the install of the washer and dryer and the fact that we have been using it with zero leaks!

And a final view of the depth and height difference. I had a hard time finding any detailed photos or tutorials for this project, so I wanted to be sure to share ours with as many words and photos as I could muster up.

This is the beginning of something fun; a true blank slate for tile and wallpaper! I absolutely can't wait! The counter is a simple enough pattern that it should remain versatile for many years, and the large surface area is already my new laundry bff. And no need to send out a search party for me when I go missing over the next few days, I will be right here catching up on all of the laundry that piled up while working on this project.

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  1. OHMYGOSH! The difference already is amazing... Can't wait to see what's next.

  2. Utility rooms like laundry are so much more fun to work in when you "make it pretty"! Can't wait to see the finishing details. I re-did our dark basement laundry area several years ago, covering the bare basement walls with white pegboard, re-painting our old kitchen cabinets (recycled after a remodel), adding countertops and lots of lighting. Now I can see when I fold clothes, wrap presents (installed a gift wrap wall)and do projects with my grandkids. Took me awhile to figure out just how I wanted to do it and so glad I did. When we finally move, this room alone will sell this house. And I get to use and enjoy it until we move.

    1. Your space sounds absolutely charming and amazing Patricia! I especially love that you created walls from pegboard.

  3. I am so envious that you were able to move those hookups! Our eyesores are still out in the open and our only option at this point is trying to hide them. Your laundry room already looks amazing! Great job!

    1. would it be possible to raise your washer/dryer? i know many front loading have a bottom drawer option that makes them higher...this should hide the hoses.

  4. after 10 years living with my tiny, cramped laundry room, i am finally going to move it. I really like yours, it is simple, functional and yet it will be pretty as well, once you finish it. i am leaning towards butcherblock for the cabinet top. thanks for some really great ideas.

  5. I always thought you needed to have access to the hookups since they also act as a shut off. I guess you can just turn off your whole house water if you have an issue?
    Or, actually in your case since you have access to the incoming water lines on the other side of the wall, you could add a shut off there if you don't have one already - just trade out one of the straight shark bite connector for a straight valve shark bite connector on each line.

    1. Hi Katharine,
      You are correct, we do have quick access in the utility room, but the washer and dryer also slide out fairly easily and the hoses are still long enough that we can slide them out and access the hookups at any time.

  6. I'm planning a similar project. I'm wondering how you feel about folding on top of the W/D. I think it will be fine but some people think it might be too tall. My plan is to run the extra deep counter about 12 feet long.

    1. I find the height to be ideal, the very top is at 41" and it feels like a natural working surface (although, I am not standing there for hours, only minutes at a time).

    2. Thanks for the feedback! I can't wait to get started.

  7. I have followed you for years and love what you do, but this just flabbergasted me. I do the same thing with clutter on top of my front loaders to hide the hook-ups. I am going to tackle this job now. THANK YOU!

  8. That looks amazing. I went tp the link for the sink cabinet you got, and it has horrific reviews. Please keep us updated if you have better luck. Wondering if you have wiped down the interior of the cabinet, or if you've experienced any of the paint bubbling that they listed. .

    1. Hi Suzie,
      It is interesting to go back and read those reviews now, I am fairly sure that is the same cabinet we purchased, but we picked it out during a visit to the store. After looking it over there, we purchased it on the spot and took it home (we didn't custom order it). Both the interior and exterior are free of any marks, imperfections or bubbles. I have wiped down the interior once since installing and so far so good, but I do plan to add a liner in typical Jen fashion. :) The only thing I noticed was one door was a little un-level, but that can usually be fixed with hinge adjustments. I will be sure to update this post if our experience changes over time.

  9. So excited to watch your laundry room come together! It's going to be so good!!!

  10. How exciting! Do you have any advice for those laundry rooms in the dungeon type basement. Our house was built in 1903 with short ceiling and practically dirt floors. Any ideas how to make it pretty and organized in such an unpleasant place. Keep up the great work!

  11. I have the exact same layout and also have a very tired utility sink and unsightly hook ups (blah) and have been dreaming of this exact upgrade. Guess what I'll be shown my husband tonight! Thanks for the step by step- you did alllll the thinking for us!

  12. My laundry room is on my short list to get some love but still in the "how do we use the space" and "what do I want to include" planning phase! Can't wait to see what you do next. I would love to do wallpaper as well but we have orange peel textured walls so not sure how that works with wallpaper!

  13. Just wondering on the face frame why you nailed it in instead of using the Kreg Jig? I do know that the shorter screws for thinner woods can be a little hard to come by...

    1. Hi Nicole,
      It was actually a little cleaner for us to just nail them because the two end pieces were the exact width of the support we built (we used a 1x2 which is really 1 1/2" wide which is the width of the two pieces of plywood put together). So we just looked at it like we were applying a piece of trim as a decorative touch. If your pieces overhang the way our center piece did, pocket holes are definitely an alternative option.


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