The newest trend in laundry room remodeling reflects homeowners' demand for convenience while doing this chore, according to the Remodelors Council.
Laundry rooms are moving into spaces adjacent to kitchens, bedrooms or bathrooms. Some homeowners even want their laundry room to blend in with the rest of the house, with crown molding and hardwood or tiled flooring to match adjacent rooms.
"Today's laundry room has moved upstairs into the living quarters, and it is spacious, practically rivaling the kitchen in finishes and gadgets," said council chairman Douglas L. Sutton Sr. of Springfield, Ill.
"People want comfortable workspaces no matter what activity they are doing, and they don't want to lug laundry up and down stairs," he said.
Other trends, according to the council:
People want more counter space to fold, iron or sew clothes, with granite or Formica countertops that match those found in the kitchen.
Homeowners also want cabinets to store laundry detergent and other products, often in wood finishes normally used in the kitchen.
Customers want bigger, high-end appliances -- washers and dryers that can handle growing wash loads and even two dryers to keep up with the washer.
To give the laundry room a more sophisticated look, many homeowners are creating built-in cabinets or closets to hide the appliances when not in use.
A survey by the National Association of Home Builders, "What 21st Century Home Buyers Want," found that 92 percent of new-home buyers wanted a laundry room among a home's "extra rooms for convenience and luxury." (Other choices were home offices, libraries and sunrooms.)
Laundry rooms and dining rooms, in fact, were widely considered essentials in new homes, said Gopal Ahluwalia, the association's vice president of research.
Where to put that laundry room did not have such a clear-cut answer among new-home buyers. The survey showed that 26 percent wanted it near the bedrooms, 26 percent near the kitchen, 23 percent in the basement, and 10 percent in the garage.
A recent study by two Florida State University professors of 29,000 residential transactions in 21 Philadelphia-area counties between 1996 and 2003 showed that having a laundry room in the basement tended to detract from a house's sale price.
The builder group's survey focused on new construction, which has more flexibility about location.
Yet owners of existing houses often have no choice but to put the laundry room in the basement: Apart from the needed space, it often is the place with ready access to hot water and drainage, and somewhere unobtrusive to vent the dryer.
Why is location so important?
A survey by Whirlpool Corp. found that 20 million women and 8 million men do laundry each day, and that the typical family does 8 to 10 loads of wash per week.
When Maytag Corp. test-marketed its Neptune washer in Bern, Iowa, a few years back, it found that the average Bern family (two adults and two children) did 11 loads a week.
According to the manufacturers, a load of clothes takes more than two hours from start to finish, including collecting them, transporting them, sorting them, washing them, drying them, returning them to bedrooms, and putting them away.
With those numbers -- two hours per load, eight to 10 loads per week -- having the washer and dryer close to where the clothing is dropped off and picked up takes on greater significance.
Whirlpool found that more than half of those polled in its survey said doing laundry did not bother them, and that one in four said doing laundry was a time for them to relax.
When asked to rank the least favorite task of all laundry activities, respondents put folding first, followed by ironing and then storing.
So why not ask the wearers of all those dirty clothes to help? (Nearly three-fourths of those whom Whirlpool surveyed reported that their children help with the laundry.)
Getting from dirty to clean involves more than just a washer and a dryer these days, at least as far as manufacturers are concerned.
According to the folks at General Electric Co.:
- Twenty-five percent of women claim their spouses have ruined clothing because of a lack of knowledge about washing techniques and equipment.
- Women are more likely than men to follow preventive and maintenance procedures, including closing zippers and hooks while sorting clothes, turning down cuffs, separating delicates, and reading care labels.
- Forty-three percent of women and 47 percent of men still don't know when to use a powder or liquid detergent.
- Ten percent of men have never done wash.