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I am redoing the area where my washing machine is. Currently it's placed in a closet and has a tile floor. I'd rather not use tile in the new setup, but it got me wondering if this is an important aspect of a laundry area.

How important is it for the floor below a washing machine to be resistant to water?

  • Is this in abasement or above grade? What is the current flooring material in the area where it will be situated? – bib Aug 19 '14 at 23:44
  • It is in the 3rd floor of a condo building. The current floor is tile but I want to have it match the rest of the area, which is engineered hardwood. – drs Aug 20 '14 at 0:03
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The floor should be resistant to water, however this is more of a cleaning requirement: you want to be able to cleanup any spills of soap on the floor. Engineered wood floors would meet this requirement.

As @bib mentions, there are drain pans available to place under your machine to catch any leaking water. However, periodically looking under you machine for any leaks would be sufficient to ensure there is no damage from a machine that has developed a leak. This also may alert you sooner to a developing issue.

The biggest risk with washing machines is that of the supply hoses bursting and causing massive water damage, especially when no one is home to shut it off. A non-drained drain pan will not provide any reduction of damage in this scenario.

To limit the risk of water damage caused by burst supply hoses, you should replace the hoses every 3 to 5 years. It's also recommended to use a higher quality hose, such as a stainless braided one. In addition, shut off the supply to the hoses when you leave for an extended period of time (weekends/vacation).

There also exists multiple products that can be installed either during the rough-in stage or as a retro-fit, that will detect if a hose bursts and automatically shut off the water supply. There are even versions that come with a floor sensor that will also shut off the water supply if water is sensed. More information can be read found in this This Old House article.

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It is common to set washing machines in a washing machine pan

washing machine pan

These can handle minor leaks. Some versions include connections for floor drains that handle larger leaks.

Many apartment buildings that allow above basement washers require that a built in pan be an integral part of the floor and sometimes specify a deeper pan than the 2" versions.

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From what I have seen of laminate and time passing, you might want to consider the "ceramic tile hardwood" (seen at at least one if not both flavors of US home improvement stores recently) for the area around the laundry; or just let it be different. Real life exposure to water is not generally harmless to laminate, whatever the sales-folk may tell you. Once the substrate starts to swell, the floor starts to look like bleep!

I see that engineered hardwood is (somewhat) different from laminate, in that it uses "real wood" on either side of the fiberboard center core (per Armstrong's description) rather than printed plastic wood-look, but the fundamental incompatibility with serious water exposure probably remains, in my "reading between the lines" opinion.

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