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Utility room

New trends: "Storage, storage and more storage," says Lou Manfredini, author of Mr. Fix-It Introduces You to Your Home. Organizational units and shelving are the big concerns in the utility or laundry room.

"It's evolved," says Rich Trethewey, a master plumber and an expert on the PBS series, "This Old House." "More and more, we're seeing people put laundry facilities where the dirty clothes are generated, on the second floor."

Features to consider: What appliances do you have and what kind of space do they require? "Take a hard look at a front-loading washing machine," says Darius Baker, certified remodeler, and a committee vice chairman for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. The machines can save space, power and water.

For flooring, choose something that really holds up to wear and tear. Manfredini recommends commercial vinyl tile.

Consider a bucket tub, good also for rinsing brushes, cleaning fish and washing the dog. With a larger room, think of installing an island to give the family a place to fold laundry or set up messy hobbies, says Larry Spangler, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, an industry group. "Make it a comfortable place to be."

Remodeling suggestions and helpful hints: Install storage designed for the way you will use the room, like extra shelving or rods to make doing laundry easier. "Whatever it takes to make it a pleasure to be in the utility room," says Manfredini, also a correspondent for the NBC "Today" show.

If you opt for an upper-level laundry room, fit the washing machine with a valve that turns off the pressure to the hoses when the machine's not in use.

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Have an older home where the washer-dryer hookups aren't recessed into the wall? Getting a pro to do the job will gain you an extra half-foot of space, a lot in a small room, says Baker.

New products: Washers and dryers that fit under a standard counter just like a typical dishwasher, giving homeowners a little extra space to fluff and fold. Also an air-drying closet to take care of wet clothes or delicates; shallow sinks with gentle jets for hand-washing, front-loading, energy- and water-efficient washers and dryers and home dry-cleaning cabinets.

Special problems: Maximizing the space.

Biggest mistake: "I think it's just trying to put too much stuff in too little space," says Baker, also president of D&J Kitchens & Baths Inc. in Sacramento, Calif. "It's rare when you run into a utility area that has a whole lot of extra space. Ninety-nine percent of the time what we're doing is making them bigger."

Professional or DIY: "If it's more complicated than installing a new washing machine, you need to call a professional, especially for plumbing," says Baker, also a contributor to the "Weekend Warrior" home improvement column in the Sacramento Bee.

-- Posted: April 7, 2003


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