“Faith, we may put up our pipes, and be gone” – Romeo and Juliet, IV.V.2756
It is easy to forget that washing machines weren’t standard appliances until the 1950s. The dryer lagged behind a bit, but could be found in most homes by the 1960s.
The days of spending a majority of the morning scrubbing out clothes by hand have mercifully ceased, but it is important to remember that for the thousands of historic homes in Winchester and the Northern Shenandoah Valley laundry rooms and laundry areas are retro fits. Early on, the basement was the place where the laundry area would be carved out; after all, this is usually where all the utilities are. But today laundry rooms can be found in almost any corner of a house.
A Laundry Room in Limbo:
At some point, a previous owner of our Old Grey House converted the room between the kitchen and the great room into a laundry room. This configuration isn’t that weird in and of itself. Full size laundry rooms are often just off or close to kitchens in houses built in the last twenty years. The problem for us was that guests had to lumber through the laundry room to get to the great room, the entertaining epicenter of the house. Nothing says, “Welcome to our house,” like strolling by a pile of unpressed pants, soaking socks, and the designated dog-washing towel.
Luxurious laundry rooms are actually quite a trend these days; the washer and dryer have effectively joined refrigerators and cooktops as “trophy appliances”. If you’ve been following Virginia Dwelling on Instagram (@virginiadwelling) you might have seen some of the pictures we’ve posted as we carve a legitimate hallway out of the laundry room to avoid the aforementioned encounters. Along with making the space more functional, we’ve made some necessary updates like putting the washer on a designated circuit.
The drainage system for the washing machine was also absolutely abysmal. A galvanized steel stack was tied into a PVC drain line in the basement with a rubber universal joint. Forget ye not: galvanized piping rusts from the inside. The system had a trap, but it leaked – in close proximity to a junction box in the basement. It doesn’t take a home inspector to notice that a small plastic bowl is not a permanent repair for this problem.
Here are the steps we took to improve the drainage system.
Behold, the old set-up. Besides having heavy galvanized pipe wobbling on a rubber universal joint (basement), a number of things about this arrangement were problematic. First, the standpipe, where the flexible drain line from the washer connects, is too short. The top of the standpipe should be higher than the rim of the wash basket in the washing machine (cylinder where you put your grimy garb). This prevents backflow of waste water into the unit. Next, plumbing traps should always be accompanied by proper venting. The former ferrous fixture was not vented.
Whenever undertaking a DIY project, start with a detailed supply list. This is a remarkable remedy for making a dozen trips to the hardware store. In our case, we measured the diameter and lengths of the pipes currently in place and bought the same pieces in PVC plastic.
The first improvement is simply using PVC instead of galvanized steel, a largely obsolete material. The reduction in weight alone fixed most of the wobbly pipe predicament of the old set up. Before breaking out the glue, we made all our cuts and then dry fitted the entire assembly to make sure everything fit.
When working with plastic piping, surface prep is key. We cut the pipe to length, did a rough sanding to get all the burrs off, and then a second sanding with a fine grit to prep the surfaces to be glued.
Always use a primer in conjunction with glue. The primer is an acid that preps the surface of the plastic to accept the glue. We had purple primer on hand, but for home projects you can get clear primer. The purple dye is for inspectors to positively identify the use of primer in permitted jobs.
Don’t rush. Let the primer dry before slathering the glue. PVC glue dries fast. Quickly coat both surfaces, fit the pieces together, and finish with a quarter turn to ensure good seating.
To address the venting issue, we used an AAC: Air Admittance Valve. These let air in but not out and are an easier, less expensive alternative to running a vent stack up through the roof.
The drain line fits into a one and a half inch pipe but the rest of the plumbing is two inch so we used a threaded adaptor. Even though this isn’t a pressurized line, we used Teflon tape on the threading for a superior seal. When wrapping the threads, remember to go in a clockwise direction; this is the same direction you’ll be tightening the fitting.
Here it is, the new drainage system for the washer. Sure, some folks would prefer to conceal the plumbing in the wall, but for now we’re content to hide it behind the units.
 Yeah, way out of context.
 People often refer to all light colored plastic piping, but PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), the whiter of the two, is for drain side applications only while CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride), the off-white piping, is for the supply side.
 With angled pieces or pieces that change direction, plan this turn ahead of time in your mind’s eye.