Monday, July 12, 2010

Washing machine advice

Today started out simple enough with plans to finish painting a small mudroom and laundry area but ended up with an important lesson about washing machine maintenance. As part of any proper painting job we moved out all the contents of the room including the washer and dryer so we could work comfortably. When we slid out the washer we noticed the floor was wet and the black rubber hose had a small bubble in it. Either of these two problems could have caused some major expensive damage had they not been caught early on. Let me address these two issues in more detail:

-A bubble in the water hose means that the inner portion of the hose has been breached and it is only a matter of time before the thinner outer wall of the hose will burst. A burst washer hose can release about 500 gallons of water an hour and they never burst when you are home. They always burst when you are at work or worse yet, vacation. You can only imagine how much damage this $8 hose can cause. First off, make it a point if you haven’t already, to replace the black rubber hoses with the new braided stainless steel hoses which are virtually burst-proof. The black hoses are about $14 and the braided stainless hoses are $20. If you ask me the $6 is a cheap insurance policy. Second, have your plumber install one of these manual shut off valves so you can quickly and easily shut off the water whenever you are done washing your clothes. Get in the habit of shutting it off each time you are done. Make extra sure you shut it off when you go away for any length of time. There is an even better option which I recommend whereby an automatic valve opens up the supply of water once the washing machine is turned on. The valve senses the flow of electricity and opens automatically while closing after the machine shuts off. You can even get an optional sensor which sits on the floor by the machine that can sense if any water is leaking and tells the valve to shut off if the machine is mid cycle.

-These days most clients want their washer and dryer on the second floor closer to the source of the dirty laundry but what happens to the rooms below if the machine leaks? I have repaired many a ceiling due to leaky washing machines so what I recommend is to install a pan below the washing machine which is attached the the main drain in your home. It doesn’t take more than a trickle of water to create a stain on the ceiling below and mildew or mold is possible too. The pan can be basic plastic with a PVC connector or a custom copper pan which would made up by your plumbing supplier. A pan basically drains away any water resulting from an internal leak or overflow but I have never seen an overflow. The washing machine we moved today appeared to have an internal leak which was not obvious but the water that was on the floor was pretty minor so we installed a plastic pan which will collect any drips. The plan is for the water to evaporate on its own but it warrants keeping a close eye on in case it gets worse. If the valve is shut off after use then there will be no chance of the machine leaking other than when it is in use. That is where the water sensor comes in handy. The water pan will do nothing to collect any water that leaks from a burst hose so the auto shut-off valve is the key defender here.

Additional tips:

  • If you have a front loader the seal around the door is airtight so it’s a good idea to leave the door open for a while so you don’t trap in the moisture causing a musty smell

  • A machine that is not leveled properly will probably shake and wobble. Take the time to adjust the leveling feet and get it as close as possible

  • You can buy this vibration control platform which will supposedly reduce vibration up to 95%

  • Some washing machines have a balancing device called a Snubber which can wear out over time. Check out this link for some good info about replacing a worn-out snubber.

In a future blog I will discuss dryer safety tips


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