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Key Factors to Consider Before Installing a Washing Machine

by Michael Chotiner

Man in washing machineInstalling a clothes washer is an easy project that any reasonably handy person can do him or herself, provided that cold and hot water supplies, a code-approved drain hookup and a compatible power supply are already in place.

If you're simply swapping out an old machine that was made in the U.S. for a new one of the same origin, in a relatively modern house built by a code-observant builder (and you're strong enough to wrestle the machine into place by yourself), well, then, it's pretty simple. But if your case is different from the replacement scenario described above, a washing machine installation might be a little more complicated.

New Location??

If you're planning to install a new washer in a location other than where your old one was hooked up:

  • Make sure that the floor is relatively level and sturdy enough to support at least 400 pounds.
  • Finished flooring should provide a hard surface that won't be excessively damaged by sliding the washer in and out of place for installation and service, or by the machine's vibration during operation. Concrete, ceramic tile applied over a concrete or thin-set substrate, laminated or hardwood floor will do better than over resilient flooring.
  • If the washer is to be installed on an upper floor of the house, install a washer pan with a drain to prevent damage in the event the washer leaks or overflows.
  • Make sure that an adequate provision for draining the washer is in place. Any of the following will work: a 2 in. standpipe at least 30 in. tall, a floor drain fitted with a P-trap or a laundry sink with capacity for draining at least 17 gal. per minute.

Typical standpipe drain for washing machine

The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors provides the specifications illustrated (above) for an acceptable configuration of a standpipe and drain line for a clothes washer.

  • Make sure that hot and cold water supply lines with shutoff valves and threaded hose connections are present within 3 ft. of the location where the clothes washer will be installed.

Typical gfci outlet

A GFCI-equipped receptacle (above) is required for water-bearing appliances in some locales. Check with your electrician or local building department for the applicable standards.

  • You'll need a dedicated electrical circuit with a receptacle that's compatible with your washer's plug within 3 ft. of the washer location. Many local codes require a GFCI-equipped receptacle. Most machines made in the USA operate on 120-volts; European-made washers run on 240 volts, which have different plug configurations. For a new circuit, consult with a licensed electrician.
  • If a dryer is to be installed nearby, make sure that there's adequate space for it and that the washer's water supply and electrical connections won't interfere with the dryer exhaust duct. The dryer will need its own dedicated circuit.

Installation in a Closet

Repurposing an available closet for a laundry center is a great way to get the clothes washer out of the basement and closer to where the dirty clothes can be more conveniently processed, provided that the closet is large enough and that all of the pre-conditions listed for new locations are met. In addition, consider these issues, which might complicate installation:

  • Make sure that the available space inside the closet is enough to accommodate the washer in width and depth, but also to provide recommended ventilation around washer and dryer cabinets. If you're planning to install a stacked combination washer and dryer, the ceiling height must also be considered.
  • The configuration of water and drain connections on washers vary. As you shop for a machine, look for fittings on the back that will serve the available space and connection routes inside the closet without kinking or blocking necessary connections to the dryer. Straight connections require more space behind the washer for hooking up hoses.
  • If you're planning to install a front-loading unit, consider the available clearance for opening doors that may swing right or left. If necessary, select a machine with hinges that can be installed to swing in the opposite direction.
  • Bi-fold closet doors mounted with standard hardware can severely limit usable space at the closet opening. If your laundry closet has bi-fold doors, consider remounting them with "full-access hinges" which require no top track. This setup enables each pair of doors to swing clear of the opening and fold against walls on either side.

Full access bifold door hardware

Unlike standard bi-fold door systems, the full-access bi-fold hardware system from Johnson doesn't have a top track. Doors can be folded open against the walls at the side of the closet-door opening.

Old Houses

  • Water supply hookups in an old house with galvanized pipes might need repair or replacement. Oftentimes, shutoff valves, which should be present at the washer water supply connections, are missing or inoperable.
  • Electrical wiring may be deteriorated or inadequate. A clothes washer needs a polarized, grounded outlet wired to a dedicated circuit with its own breaker.
  • Sagging floors in the area of installation may indicate insufficient strength to support a modern washer, which can weigh up to 400 pounds when fully loaded and filled with water. Make structural repairs as necessary before installing a new washing machine.

Installing a European Brand... you may need an electrical upgrade!

  • European-made washers such as Miele, Bosch and Asko models run on 240 volts. You may need to have a 240-volt circuit installed by a licensed electrician if there's not one already in place.
  • 240-volt outlets have different configurations designed for the amperage of the circuit on which they're wired. Make sure that both the circuit amperage and receptacle configuration match the machine's requirements before installing the washer.

The Easiest Clothes Washer Installation... just copy the last one!

If you're just swapping out an old washer for a new one of comparable size and design, the project should be pretty easy. Of course, you'll need to disconnect the old machine and arrange for its disposal. Be sure to turn off the water-supply valves before disconnecting the hoses.

Washing machine hose connections

Once the packaging has been removed from your new washer, look at the back panel and find the drain hose and the threaded water inlet valves on the back of the machine. The hot and cold inlet valves are usually identified with initials. When hooking up the supply hoses, it's important to hook up the hot to the hot and the cold to the cold.

Provided that an adequate water supply, drain hookup and electrical receptacle are in place, almost everything else you'll need to install the new washer will be delivered along with the machine. You'll also need a few simple tools.

  • Large slip-joint pliers
  • A small adjustable wrench
  • 2 ft. level

The first step is to take the washer out of its box and find the owner's manual. It will guide you on removing any additional packaging materials, which might include bolts installed to stabilize the tub during transport, foam plugs and other protective items. You must find them and get them off and out before installation begins.

Find the new water supply hoses, which are usually packed in a plastic bag inside the tub. (You might opt for burst-proof, braided-steel supply hoses instead of the plastic or rubber ones that come with the new machine, but that would be an extra purchase.) Also find the drain hose, which is usually already attached at the back of the machine. It may be coiled up against the back panel or have one end protruding from a retractable keeper. The power cord and plug should be already attached at the back of the machine, too. Free them all up by removing the tape and other packing aids, and discard all packing materials.

Attach one end of each of the water supply hoses to the fittings at the wall. The connections are threaded like garden hoses. Make sure there's a rubber washer inside each hose fitting, and hand-tighten them to the hot and cold water supply valves. Then give each hose fitting a half-turn with a pair of pliers to tighten them fully. Slide the machine to a position just in front of the spot where it will be installed. Look beneath the machine at the adjustable feet and make sure all are touching the floor. You can usually screw them down by hand if need be.

Next, lay a level across the top front edge of the washer. Adjust the front feet as necessary to get the bubble centered in the vial. Repeat the process with the level lying front-to-back across the top of the washer. Adjust the back feet as necessary to center the bubble, then re-check for level side to side. It is very important that the machine is installed level; if it's not, excessive vibration will result in premature wear and possibly damage flooring. When you've got the machine level, tighten the nuts, if present, on the back feet to lock them.

Washer drain hoses are flexible. Many come with an accessory that snaps onto the end of the hose to form a J-shape, which can be conveniently inserted into a standpipe or hooked onto the side of a laundry sink.

Method of securing washing machine drain hose for sink

Whether the washer drains to a laundry sink or a standpipe, it's important to strap the drain hose firmly (above) so it can't come loose from vibration and/or pulsing action of the washer's pump.

If your machine drains to a standpipe, the top of that pipe should be at least 24 in. above the floor and not more than 96 in. higher. Insert the end of the washer drain hose no more than 8 in. into the standpipe and strap the hose in place with tape or wire. If the machine drains to a laundry sink, hook the drain hose over the side and secure it in place.

Use a wrench to tighten the washing machine hose one half turn

Thread the water supply hoses onto the inlet valves by hand (above). When you can't turn them any more with your fingers, give them another half-turn with pliers to get a good seal. Check for leaking once you turn the water back on. Note:

Connect the loose ends of the water supply hoses to the fittings at the back of the machine, making sure to connect the cold-water line to the cold inlet valve and the hot to the hot. (Some newer machines require only a cold supply.) Turn on the water supply valves and check for leaks at the fittings. Plug in the power cord, then slide the machine into place and re-check that it is level.

Set the empty machine to "spin" and run it for 30 seconds to check for excess vibration and/or movement. If all seems well, tighten the nuts on the adjustable feet at the front.

Most manufacturers suggest running a new washer through a complete cycle with a half-measure of soap but without a load of clothes. It's a good way to double-check for problems like leaks and too much vibration. It also ensures that the tub is completely clean and ready for use.

About the author: A veteran of the construction industry for many years, Michael Chotiner likes to provide instruction and tips on a range of home improvement topics for The Home Depot. He gives advice on the installation of appliances including washers and dryers. To view a whole selection of washers that are similar to the one Michael talked about in this article, visit the washing machine pages on