Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Laundry Room Update: Over the Washer/Dryer Shelf

Phase Three:  Install an Over the Washer/Dryer Shelf
This post discusses phase three of our laundry room update: Creating and Installing an Over the Washer/Dryer shelf.  Previously, we installed a new countertop and laundry room sink and replaced wire-mesh shelving with wall-mounted storage cabinets.

The idea of an over the washer/dryer shelf is not new.  We built one in our Savannah laundry room and loved it:
Inspiration: Over-the washer/dryer shelf in our old home
We just never got around to building a shelf in the new house.   I think I've procrastinated for the same reason we hadn't updated the rest of the room:  Because my dream has been to own a front-load washer/dyer combo, featuring a solid surface folding station built over top.  Or, a front-load washer/dryer combo stacked with ample room for kids' lockers and a broom closet.  All this dreaming of a front-load washer and dryer has kept me from optimizing the laundry room here in ATL.  Until last week, that is.  Last week, we installed the new laundry sink and set off on the path to a complete laundry room overhaul.  I finally accept the fact that, if I really wanted the stackable front-loaders, I would have gotten them by now.  I am committing to the top-loader washer we do have, which (by the way) does a fine job of cleaning the clothes.  So, it's time to optimize the space.

We built a 6-foot long, 8-inch-deep shelf and installed it over the washer and dryer.  A hole drilled through the shelf and an electric power strip attached to the underside enable us to neatly store and charge our Dustbuster in the laundry room.  We could also accommodate an iPod, clock, phone, etc.  Keep reading to see how we built this space-saving solution.

How to Build an Over the Washer/Dryer Shelf
  • White Melamine Shelf - We bought a shelf that was 1" x 12" x 72".
    Note:  We chose melamine for this project for its smooth, white finish.  For more information on deciding between wood and melamine shelving, see my discussion in my post about the tiered multi-bin organizer.
  • 2" x 2" Pine furring strip, long enough to create a cleat underneath the back and sides of your shelf.   
  • Decorative Case Molding - To finish off the front of the shelf
  • Electric Power Strip (optional)
  • Drywall screws and anchors
  • Pencil or Pen
  • Measuring Tape or Ruler
  • Stud Finder
  • Laser Level
  • Miter Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill and Drill Bits
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Finishing nails
  • Caulk
  • Touch up paint
General How To:
  • Determine dimensions and placement of the shelf.
    Note: We designed a shelf that would meet the following criteria:
    *Span from wall to wall
    *Clear the top of the washer and dryer
    *Obscure the hoses and plugs behind the washer
    *Clear the washer lid when open.
    For our situation, we determined the shelf should be 72-inches long, 8-inches deep and approximately 46-inches high. 
Height of finished shelf
Shelf allows washer lid to open fully.
Shelf clears the top of the washer and dryer.
  • Use a laser level to mark a line on the wall at the desired height
    Note:  You will be attaching the furring strip flush with this mark.  The actual shelf surface will be about 3/4" above the 2" x 2".
  • Mark a spot every 12-inches or so along the marked line.   Use a stud finder to locate studs.
    Note: Since most wall studs are 16" on center, you must use a combination of drywall screws and regular screws with wall anchors.  The stud finder will also help locate duct work, plumbing, electrical, etc. that is in the walls.
  • Drill pilot holes and insert wall anchors as necessary.
Tap wall anchors in place using a hammer.
  • Measure and cut a piece of pine furring strip that measures the length of your shelf.
    Note:  We cut a 6-foot piece of furring strip using a miter saw.
  • Paint the strip to match your shelf color.
    Note:  We painted only the two visible sides of the wood.
2" x 2" furring strip
  • Dry fit your furring strip and mark the spots for the screws.
    Note:  These marks should match up with the wall anchor and stud pilot holes.  
  • Drill pilot holes in the furring strip, centered on the strip, at the designated marks.
  • Use your screwdriver to attach the furring strip to the wall.
    Note:  Verify level before moving on.  If this furring strip is not level, nothing else will be. 
Match the pine with the anchors and attach.
  • Repeat these steps to measure, two cut, and attach shorter pieces of 2" x 2" pine furring strip to the side walls.
    Note:  We butt-jointed two furring strips in each corner.  You could miter the corner joint if you want, but it is not necessary.
    Result:  You have created your shelf supports.
Detail of 2" x 2" supports under the shelf
  • If necessary, trim the melamine shelf to the desired depth and dry fit to verify your measurements.
    Note:  We cut our 12-inch deep board down to a depth of 8-inches using a circular saw.  
  • Measure one inch in from the back edge of the melamine shelf and drill pilot holes every 12-inches or so.
    Note: This is where you will attach the shelf to the 2" x 2" supports.  Ideally, the pilot holes will enable you to screw into the center of the furring strip.
  • If you want to add an electrical power strip to the shelf, this is the point at which you should drill a 1-2 inch hole into the corner of the shelf surface.
    Note:  You can drill the hole after the fact, but it will be much easier to do it now.
  • Use a screwdriver and screws to attach the shelf to the 2" x 2" supports.
  • Use caulk and trim paint to patch the exposed screw holes.
    Result:  The shelf is attached.  Time to trim it out so it looks more substantial and prettier.
We drilled a hole through which we pass the Dustbuster cord.
  • Cut a piece of case molding trim the length of the shelf.
    Note:  We used only one length of trim because our shelf spanned from wall to wall.  
Case molding
  • Nail case molding to the front of the melamine shelf using finishing nails.
  • Use caulk and trim paint to hide the nail marks and seal any gap along the wall.
    Result:  Now you are done!
Close up of the trim molding
  • Want to add the electrical power strip?  Use screws and metal clamps to attach the power strip to the bottom of the shelf.
    Note:  Our power strip is not very pretty.  However, no one is going to see it.
Electric power strip affixed to underside of shelf.
  • Plug in your dustbuster, clock, phone, etc. and set it/them on the shelf.
    Result:  You just optimized a normally unused space.  Congratulations.
This project was very straight-forward and inexpensive.  The shelf, furring strip and case molding cost us less than twenty dollars.  The project itself took just a couple of hours to complete (we had to wait for the paint to dry).  Not a bad investment for a shelf that adds so much more functionality to the room.
Check back with me for the next phase of our laundry room update.  I got right to work on tiling the backsplash around the sink.  And, since that tile looked so good, I decided to add tile to the wall behind this shelf too!
Over the Washer/Dryer shelf complete - moving on to Phase Four!

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