Provisions for a basement laundry can easily be made in the basic design of a residential plumbing system. Even if room is available, funds usually prohibit the immediate installation of laundry facilities. The location of the washing machine and tubs can readily be determined beforehand, however, and the fittings for future drainage and vent piping can be installed and capped.
Several additional fittings will add only a negligible amount to the initial cost of the plumbing system, and they will greatly reduce the work and expense involved when the time to complete the installation arrives.
As a general rule, laundry tubs should be set below or close to a window so that full advantage can be taken of natural sunlight and ventilation. It is usually smart to place laundry tubs and a washing machine near a cellar floor drain. This makes the task of disposing of sloppage from either a relatively simple matter.
The cost of drainage piping can be considerably reduced by placing tubs near a soil or waste stack. Figure shows how a typical kitchen-sink installation can be easily and inexpensively modified during the planning stage to provide the necessary connections for a future basement laundry.
In this instance the laundry tubs are to be situated in the basement in an area almost directly below the kitchen sink. A 2"-diameter sanitary T fitting placed in the kitchen-sink waste-stack several inches above the point where the stack joins the house drain and a 2" x 1 1/2"-diameter TY fitting installed in the stack above the overflow level of the kitchen sink are the only modifications necessary to allow for the future expansion of the system in the basement.
If the sink in the kitchen is of the cabinet type, the capped fittings and the drainage and water service pipes can be left exposed. By merely disconnecting the sink, the remainder of the piping for the basement tub can be installed at the convenience of the amateur plumber.
If, however, the area behind the kitchen sink is to be walled, the drainage and vent piping should be completed to the extent. This involves the insertion of equallengthed nipples into the arms of the sanitary T and TY fittings. To the nipple on the kitchen floor level, add a 90° elbow. To the nipple on the basement level add a 2" x 1 1/2"-diameter TY fitting. Fasten the fitting in such a way that the opening of the 1 1/2" arm faces toward the basement ceiling.
Measure the length of 1 1/2"-diameter piping needed to join this opening with the 90° elbow. The length of pipe needed to link the two points should be only slightly less than the length of pipe between the two fittings previously installed on the kitchen-sink waste stack. After securing the pipe between the elbow and the top opening of the TY fitting, the horizontal arm of the fitting can be capped, and the area behind the kitchen sink may be walled after the distributing pipes are in position.
It is well to note that all the pipes and fittings installed on the kitchen floor level as well as the perpendicular pipe linking the elbow and the TY fitting in the basement are sized at 1 1/2". The reason for this is that these pipes and fittings will serve to vent the basement laundry while the 2"-diameter horizontal portion of the piping in the basement will carry the laundry waste.
Laundry tub support
Laundry tubs are extremely heavy and awkward objects to move. Lifting or moving them requires about the same amount of muscle power needed to move a baby upright piano, and although two men may be able to do the job, the services of two extra men will be most helpful. Because of their great weight, laundry tubs should be supported by special metal frames or cast iron legs particularly designed to hold them. Wall hangers should never be used, and wooden supports have generally proved unsatisfactory.
After positioning the metal frame or legs, lift the tub onto a box or support placed in front of the laundry stand. The tub can then be eased, one end at a time, onto the frame. If after setting the tub you find that it wobbles, shim up the support so that it becomes firm. Use a spirit level to make sure that the tubs are level.
Connecting the waste pipe
Measure the distance between the openings of the outlet drain of the tub and the horizontal arm of the sanitary T fitting. From this measurement deduct the length of pipe that the trap will occupy. The figure that you obtain will be the exact length of pipe needed. Cut the pipe, attach it to the trap, and join the assembly to the sanitary T fitting.
Connecting the drain pipe
Notice that the double tub is furnished with a twin waste connection that is cemented into the tub. Attached to the central portion of the twin waste on the tub's underside is a plug with two slots. These slots are designed to receive the sink bolts. Sink bolts usually have a 1/4" diameter and vary in length between 2 1/2" and 3". Each sink bolt should have two nuts. Remove one nut from each bolt and place the bolts in the slots. Tighten the nuts until they butt the slots in the plugs. The purpose of these particular nuts is to hold the bolt securely in position for securing the remainder of the waste assembly.
The funnel waste connection has one plain end. Over this end, slip the wash-tray collar, the loose-head coupling or slip nut, the metal washer, and finally the rubber washer. Then slide the end of the funnel connection into the top inlet of the half-S trap. Coat the top of the wash-tray collar liberally with putty and slide the collar upward until it supports the funnel end. Make sure that some of the putty is squeezed into the space between the collar and the funnel.
Align the openings in the collar with the sink bolts, and push the wash-tray collar firmly against the twin waste connection. Slip a washer and nut onto each sink bolt and begin to tighten the nuts. Do not completely tighten either nut as a single operation. Alternate the tightening procedure so that equal pressure is exerted on each nut.
After this, slide the rubber and metal washers down to the top of the trap and proceed to tighten the loose-head coupling or slip nut. This step completes the installation of the drainage and vent piping needed for the laundry tubs. The tubs should be filled with water at this point and allowed to drain so that you can check for leaks.
Washing machine T
The use of a fitting known as a washing-machine T, which can easily be added to a new or existing installation, will allow the housewife to use her tubs while the machine is draining. The fitting resembles a conventional T fitting with the exception that its horizontal arm has a detachable cap. It is inserted just above the trap. When the tubs are being used, the cap can be removed and the waste hose from the machine can be inserted. Before draining the tubs always be sure to remove the hose and screw the cap onto the fitting.
Laundry water supply
A combination faucet for laundry tubs is usually clamped to the tub edge behind the centre partition so that the swing spout can be directed to either compartment. These clamps must be securely seated so that the faucet is firmly held in place.
The run of water supply pipes to the faucet will depend chiefly on the way you wish to run the lines. The use of 1/2" piping is customary and it is usually run exposed along the basement walls. For appearance sake, try to keep the lines as nearly parallel as possible.
The installation of air chambers at some point along the lines, usually near the faucet, is recommended. Air chambers eliminate water hammer. They are installed by using T fittings in the vertical supplies. Elbows are then screwed in and capped pipes at least 12" long are screwed into the elbows. The installation of air chambers is always desirable, but they are especially important whenever the hot-water line is below the level of the hot-water tank.
If you plan to install the washing machine next to the tubs, special bypass valves which provide a permanent water supply hook-up for the machine are available. If the machine is to be situated at another point along the supply lines, you should provide Ts for the purpose of connecting the machine. The end of the T should be equipped with a faucet having a typical garden-hose connection, called a "hose bibb" by the trade.
Laundry-tub faucets as a rule have union connections situated at the top of the faucet. These connections generally have ground joints. If they do not, you will have to insert washers between the piping and the faucet. The fibre type of washer should be used.
Where your water is hard—full of calcium or magnesium compounds—all laundry operations will be much more difficult than with soft water. To overcome the hardness of water, stronger soaps or detergents are needed, which make clothes wear out faster. Also, hard water when heated forms a scale which is deposited on the inside of hot-water tanks and inside hot-water supply pipes. In due time that equipment has to be replaced or cleaned out, at considerable expense. So in the long run, installing a commercial water softener may prove to be an economical asset rather than an expensive luxury.
How softeners work
The usual commercial water softeners are steel tanks containing a special kind of sand known as the older "Zeolite." Hard water flows through this, losing the calcium or magnesium compounds which cause hardness in water, and the water comes out soft. Softeners can also be built to remove iron compounds from water.
After a certain amount of water has been treated, the Zeolite will not remove any more hardness. It is then necessary to put common salt in the softener and wash it slowly through the Zeolite, removing the accumulated minerals. Then the Zeolite is ready to soften more water. How often you have to regenerate your Zeolite by adding salt depends on the degree of hardness and the amount of water softened. In some cases you may need regeneration every two weeks, and in other cases once a month or once in two months.
Have water tested
Most manufacturers of water softeners maintain laboratories and will test your water free of charge. You can then buy a softener with the proper amount of Zeolite and other materials to fit your particular water.
Installing the water softener
Just where you install your water softener depends on two things: how much water you wish to soften, and your present piping layout. It is generally unnecessary to soften the water going to toilets or outdoor faucets. However, in most cases where houses are already built, such a hook-up is impossible as the cold-water supply goes directly to faucets and toilet tank. Also, if the bathroom is on the second floor, to install two separate cold-water lines would be too complicated.
The more probable installation arrangement would be to put the water softener just before the hot-water heater and soften only the hot water supply. However, you could soften all your fresh water by placing your softener just past the water meter, or storage tank if you have your own water supply system.
Actually, connecting a water softener in your supply line is not difficult, although several shut-off valves are needed, and at first glance the piping may seem complicated. The manufacturer will supply you with most of the connections all ready to be put in place and full directions and diagrams for piping connections.
Normally, valves 1, 3, and 4 are shut off. Thus, water enters by the hard water inlet at the right, goes down through open valve 2, enters the softener at the bottom of the tank, rises up through the gravel and Zeolite, goes out through the screen, out of the softener and up through open valve 5.
If you wish to disconnect the water softener entirely, open valve 4 and shut off all the other valves. Briefly, the method of regenerating the Zeolite is as follows: Open valve 3 and close all the rest. Some water will drain out of the softener. Unclamp the screw at the top, remove the lid, and pour in the salt. Open valve 2 until the softener fills with water. Then shut it off and replace the lid. Open valves 1 and 3. Water will flow in at the top of the softener, carrying salt water down through the Zeolite and out the drain pipe. Let this continue for about 30 minutes. Close valves 1 and 3, open valves 2 and 5, and the softener is ready to operate again.
Other water softeners
Besides the manually operated water softener described above, there are an automatic and a semi-automatic softener. Each involves the use of a second tank filled with a brine solution. The automatic softener is quite expensive but operates with no attention except the occasional addition of salt.