By Anna Hazard
The penultimate section of our aging in place series finishes off the laundry room with tips & advice for some often overlooked options such as accessible laundry sinks, lighting & outlets, as well as laundry appropriate flooring. Due to similar functions, many of the previous guidelines mentioned for bathroom & kitchen accessibility can also be applied to this location.
Laundry & Utility Sinks
An extra sink installed directly within the laundry room can significantly improve the overall washing process by being readily available for hand washing delicate items as well as providing easier access to rinsing or pre-treating heavy duty stains before the clothes are added to the washing machine.
Similar to bathroom sinks, the laundry room sink (also known as a utility sink) should be wall-mounted or otherwise have clear space underneath (generally 30" wide x 27" tall x 11-25" deep) for wheelchair access or to otherwise allow someone to sit directly at the sink. The sink should be at a height that leaves it within easy reach from both a sitting and standing position without requiring any stretching or bending over.
In particular, the ADA recommends that sinks have a maximum height of 34". If a tall person is expected to be using the sink from a standing position, then an adjustable height sink would provide the easiest access, otherwise it may be necessary to install two sinks at differing heights.
Similar to both bathroom and kitchen sinks, the laundry faucet should have a manual lever, loop handle, or foot pedal controls that are easy to use with minimal force required. It's also optimal for the sink to have a touchless, automatic, or motion sensor control which turns the water on and off depending if an object (such as hands or a bit of laundry) is detected directly beneath the faucet sensor. This function is particularly helpful for those potential users with memory or cognitive problems that might lead to leaving the sink turned on in an out-of-the way room.
Otherwise, it's preferable that the laundry sink has a basin that is large width-wise, but also shallow. This style would allow the user to hand wash several pieces of laundry at once without having to reach into the bottom of a deep basin or across a vertically tall one.
Laundry Room Circuits & Outlets
The laundry room tends to be one of the largest sources of electricity usage within the household whenever it's appliances are in use. Within North America this generally means that a 20-amp 120-volt circuit will be necessary for the washing machine and any gas dryers with while a dedicated 30-amp 240 volt circuit would be best for an electrical dryer. Besides the main appliances, a 15-amp circuit will be needed for lighting, fans, and smaller devices.
A couple outlets near the countertops & other work areas should be placed higher along the wall for easy access to portable appliances like irons & clothes steamers that will normally be used at counter height. Otherwise standard accessible positioning should be used for light switches, controls, and outlets which would between 15" - 48" above the floor surface with a clear access space of at least 30" x 48" in front of them.
As good lighting is necessary for properly checking over laundry for stains, lighting within the laundry room should otherwise be abundant, easy to activate, and easy to maintain. Light switches should either be glow-in-the-dark for better visibility as well as sound or motion activated in case the user is toting laundry into a darkened room.
Manual light switches should be included as back-up in case the sensor-based or automated lights don't properly function (so as not to leave the user fumbling around in a darkened laundry room). Manual light switches should preferably be rocker or touch style for easy use by those with arthritis or other hand problems.
The light fixtures should be in easily accessible areas for problem-free light bulb changes. LED light bulbs are recommended as they last longer and consume less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. In addition, task lighting should be installed in front of the washer, dryer, ironing board, and other work areas for better visibility. Extra lighting should also be installed in any dark spots that remain within the room to help avoid potential accidents or tripping hazards.
If possible, it would also be preferable to have at least one window present within the laundry room to allow for natural lighting. In addition to energy savings for less electrical light consumption, natural lighting has many health benefits for the body and also provides more accurate color viewing for laundry.
Flooring within the laundry room should be similar to what is used in other moisture-prone areas of the household such as the bathroom or kitchen. This includes generally avoiding surfaces such as carpets, hardwood, bamboo, or cork that can be more easily damaged by the presence of moisture or standing liquids. In addition, area and throw rugs should also be avoided as their exposed edges can be the cause of tripping (which is particularly hazardous while carrying a load of unwieldy or bulky laundry)
Textured non-slip waterproof surface flooring is recommended such as sheet vinyl or rubber. Sheet-type surfaces are preferred over tiling as moisture can sometimes seep in-between the tile edges. In addition, tiling tends to pose more of a tripping hazard due to potential uneven edges or grouting.
Sheet vinyl tends to be easy to clean & maintain, is moisture-proof, has good traction with applied textured, and is easy to navigate while using wheeled mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs. While it does not have as much cushioning as rubber in the case of falls or accidents, it's generally far less expensive and comes in a variety of styles that can mimic hardwood, tiling, or other textures.
Rubber flooring is another optimal option when it comes to a moisture-proof floor surface. It does not become slippery when wet, is easy to traverse with mobility aids, and provides good cushioning in case of falls or other accidents. However, rubber flooring tends to be more expensive than other options and has far less patterns & styles available for decorative purposes. Rubber sheeting instead of tiling tends to also be rarer and thus more difficult to acquire as well.
View the Rest of the Series
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Exterior
Part 3 - Landscaping & Gardens
Part 4 - Patio, Porch, & Deck
Part 5 - Garage & Carports
Part 6 - Entrances, Exits, & Thresholds
Part 7 - Exterior Steps & Ramps
Part 8 - Threshold Lighting & Windows
Part 9 - Interior Doors & Halls
Part 10 - Interior Steps & Staircases
Part 11 - Interior Stairlifts
Part 12 - Interior Elevators
Part 13 - Interior Lighting
Part 14 - General Interior Flooring
Part 15 - Interior Flooring Comparisons
Part 16 - HVAC & Energy Efficiency
Part 17 - Power, Communications, & Other Interior Systems
Part 18 - Living Room
Part 19 - Kitchen Layout, HVAC, & Electrical Systems
Part 20 - Kitchen Lighting, Flooring, and Sink Faucets
Part 21 - Kitchen Countertops & Cabinets
Part 22 - Kitchen Refrigerators, Freezers, and Dishwashers
Part 23 - Kitchen Ovens, Ranges, Stovetops, and Cooktops
Part 24 - Kitchen Microwaves, Blenders, & Food Processors
Part 25 - Miscellaneous Kitchen Items
Part 26 - Dining Room Layout, Tables, & Other Furniture
Part 27 - Dining Room Flooring, Lighting, & Meal Serving Equipment
Part 28 - Bedroom Layout & Closets
Part 29 - Accessible Beds
Part 30 - Bedroom Furniture, Electronics, & Other Accessories
Part 31 - Bedroom Flooring
Part 32 - Bedroom Lighting
Part 33 - Bathroom General Layout
Part 34 - Bathroom General Tips for Showers & Tubs
Part 35 - Bathroom Accessible Tubs
Part 36 - Bathroom Accessible Showers
Part 37 - Bathroom Accessible Toilets
Part 38 - Bathroom Sinks & Vanities
Part 39 - Bathroom Cabinets & Shelving
Part 40 - Bathroom Grab Bars
Part 41 - Bathroom Flooring
Part 42 - Bathroom Lighting
Part 43 - Bathroom Ableware - Toilet Aids & General Accessibility
Part 44 - Bathroom Ableware - Shower, Bathing, & Grooming Aids
Part 45 - Laundry Room Location, Layout, & Spacing
Part 46 - Laundry Room Carts, Rolling Hampers, & Chutes
Part 47 - Laundry Room Dumbwaiters
Part 48 - Laundry Appliances (Washers & Dryers)
Part 49 - Laundry Room Cabinets, Shelving, & Countertops
Part 50 - Laundry Room Storage & Organization
Part 51 - Laundry Sinks, Lighting, & Flooring