Friday, October 26, 2012

Optimal Washer and Dryer Location

Imagine that you are building a 3-story house in suburbia. The traditional layout - bedrooms on the top floor, salon+living room+kitchen on the main floor and whatever you need (computers, play room, guestroom ) in the basement. Where would you place the utility room with the washer, dryer and ironing station?

This may seem like a simple household planning task, but as with many other household tasks, there is a surprising math problem hiding inside.
There are quite a few variables to consider:

  1. distance each member of the household needs to walk to bring dirty laundry to the basket
  2. distance between the basket and the washer
  3. distance one needs to walk to deposit the laundry, then switch from washer to dryer, then take the clothes out
  4. distance one needs to walk to sort the folded laundry to the shelves
All these variables may have different weight depending on the number of people in the household, size of the washer, and slope as walking downstairs is usually easier than going up.

What are your thoughts on this problem?

I have lived in a house where laundry room was in a basement but the Distance #1 was minimized by having a laundry chute all the way from the bedroom floor to the basement.  Therefore D1 and D2 were close to 0. D3 was an OK run 20' down the stairs from the main living space times 3 (to deposit the laundry, switch to the dryer and take it out). However, D4 was a problematic hauling of the heavy folded laundry two floors up.

Since then I have seen people claiming that laundry room should be on the same floor as the bedrooms to make D1 and D4 simultaneously minimal. And I have met people who were convinced that laundry room should be right next to the kitchen that will minimize the D3.  

How do you optimize this in your house?

Image by sbluerock, distributed under CCL.

Your answers are accepted any time until midnight Eastern Time on Sunday, on our Family Puzzle Marathon.


Tom said...

My thoughts.

Our house is flat, no stairs.

Stairs are good for everyone. Almost everyone. So is walking. Minimizing these distances is a questionable goal, unless there is a handicap involved.

Plumbing matters also. And noise. And heat. More important than distance, I think.

But for the puzzle's sake, assuming the location of the laundry matters and distance should be minimized, then design the laundry room as central as possible.

My wife hated the laundry in the kitchen, in our previous home. Now she hates having it out in the garage. I do it, anyway.

Thad said...

When we built our current house we put the laundry room on the upstairs floor where the bedrooms are. It's definitely the best (IMO). Never hauling laundry very far is the way to go! Yes, occasionally I have to run upstairs to move the laundry from washer to dryer, but I never have to haul a basket full of the laundry up/down stairs so I don't mind.

Wang said...

I like the idea of having the utility room on the top floor - this would help minimize D1 and D4 but then again, you wouldn't be able to take naps with the washer and dryer going (if it was right next to you say).

I guess you don't have to have all the 'logical' rooms in one place either if you really wanted to minimize the work you have to do for laundry - I'd place most of the bedrooms on the same floor as the kitchen and the utility room (probably with privacy locks on the bedroom) and that would eliminate any stairs in the travel.

Jerome said...

I can see this problem giving lots of answers. I'm only going to give one this week.

We live in a mobile home. It is roughly 60 feet long and 12 feet wide. Three years ago we had a new roof put on. The trusses were 16 feet wide and the shingles (30 bundles I estimate) had a combined weight (30 * 66) of 1980 pounds (roughly). That added to the weight of the trusses (not a trivial consideration) and the plywood on the roof (48 pounds per sheet or about 30 sheets of particle board 1440 pounds.

The total weight of the roof = 1440 + 1980 = 3420 pounds of roof weight.

Here's the point. When our washing machine gets going, I can feel it during its spin cycle!! I live almost the full length of the trailer away from the washing maching.

That cannot be good for the washing machine nor for that matter for our floor.

If we had a basement, distance would never be a consideration. I would want it sitting on a firm foundation -- cement 1 foot thick for me. Mind you, I might change my mind if I had to lug the stuff up two flights of stairs.

Jerome's wife said...

I think the least amount of walking to deposit and transfer and return that same laundry to their shelves should happen by placing the laundry room closest to the most number of bedrooms on the same level. If there was a bedroom isolated from the most number of bedrooms, then that person/persons alone would have more steps of walking to process their laundry. Any towels or tea towels would be the exception, as there would be the fact that those items would have to be deposited to the bathrooms, or bathroom shelves regardless of whether they are on the same level as the bedrooms or on a different level. The heavy items, like sheets and blankets would be deposited on shelves on the same level as the bedrooms, resulting in easy carrying to take them to the shelves and less walking.

thelittlebird said...

We have a clothes chute in our house so we've minimized D1. If laundry basket size is increased, less trips to deliver laundry back to the rooms would be needed. Overall efficiency should also be considered ~ no time needed for a workout at the gym if I'm running up and down stairs AND hauling a large basket of laundry (cardio & weights at the same time!).

I would argue that it seems the teenage variable has not been considered ~ that no distance to deposit dirty clothes in the receptacle is short enough! My teenager also seems to create the most dirty laundry of our 5 person household. Possibly putting the washer and dryer IN the teenager's room would be the optimal placement?

Maria said...

Very interesting!

It looks like most of us agree that if total distance minimization is the goal, then laundry room should be as close to the bedroom cluster as possible. I have seen only few houses with such arrangement. Builders and architects - perhaps it is something to consider.

However, you reminded me of other considerations:

1)Walking and climbing while doing laundry is healthy for most and can replace a trip to the gym. So, we should remember to feel good about yourself and perhaps try doing sit-ups with this heavy laundry basket. No irony, thelittlebird and Tom, I am taking your advice very seriously.

2)Laundry room needs a solid cement base that may be available only in the garage or basements.

3)Washer and dryer make a lot of noise and heat. Serious isolation should be arranged if they are placed close to the living area.

Plenty of useful info to take into account. A puzzle point for everyone!

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