How to install a laundry chute in 7 steps
No more hauling baskets up and down the stairs.
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Laundry is one of those perpetual chores. If your washer and dryer are on a different level of your house than the bedrooms, where you’d typically change your clothes, that means never-ending trips downstairs with full baskets of dirty laundry. And who wants to do that, especially as you age.
Enter the laundry chute.
Rather than lug your laundry up and down in a heavy basket, a laundry chute allows you to just toss your clothes into a hole in the wall or floor, which spits them out in your laundry room. Much better, right?
Adding a laundry chute to your home isn’t a simple job, but with some careful planning, layout luck, and determination, you’ll be on your way to eliminating those trips downstairs with full baskets.
Here’s how to install a laundry chute, step-by-step.
1. Check your local building codes
Before making a single hole in a wall, check your local building codes for the regulations around laundry chutes. There are likely rules for fire blocking above and below the chute, fire barriers in the laundry room, height of the opening, locks on the chute doors, and where it can be located in your home.
Understanding and following code will keep you and your family safe and ensure that your home remains compliant. If you have questions, reach out to the building department.
2. Find a path that works
Once you understand what’s allowed structurally and legally, plan out your run. You need a fairly straight, out-of-the-way path from your upstairs level down to your laundry room. Running through bathrooms or closets is often ideal, but every house is unique and you have to decide what location works best for you.
There are two ways to locate a laundry chute: inside the wall and through the floor.
Yes, you can install a laundry chute completely inside a wall. This is certainly the least intrusive option available to most people. However, your chute is limited to the interior size of your wall, which will typically only be about 3.5 inches wide. In a chute that narrow, clothes will get stuck easily, even if you throw them down one article at a time.
Unless you’re very lucky with the layout of your house, a two-story chute will likely need to be run inside the walls.
On the other hand, going directly through the floor means sacrificing some living area. It also means building an enclosure, often a wall, a bench, or a storage solution, around the hole.
While more complicated to cover and secure than an in-wall solution, going through the floor allows you to install a much larger 8-inch by 8-inch or even 12-inch by 12-inch chute, which means fewer stuck clothes.
Going through the floor is often only feasible on one-story chutes, though if the layout of the house works, you may be able to get away with two. If there is a closet directly below where you want to run the chute, for example, you can take over part of the closet.
3. Check for obstructions
Walls and floors aren’t just empty spaces. There are studs, pipes, and wires running throughout your house. Ideally, you will avoid those completely. However, sometimes you can’t avoid them, in which case you may need to relocate your chute, angle it around the obstructions, or have a professional come in to reroute those in-wall utilities.
There are several methods to locate wires or pipes in your walls. If you’re lucky, you either have blueprints for your house or have access to the builder who may be able to provide them. These can give you a good starting point, but remember that blueprints and the finished product do not always match up 100%.
Look for visible electric and plumbing. Where there are outlets, switches, sinks, and toilets, there are wires and pipes nearby. You can also go into the basement to get a sense of where the pipes and wires go up into the house. While there will be other pipes and wires that you can’t see, this provides a starting place.
The next option is to drill a small hole and insert a camera into the wall. Many of these small cameras run on USB and can be operated right from your phone.
If you’re willing to spend more money to avoid having to patch small camera holes, then you may want to try a wall-scanner. These devices scan your walls and detect objects located inside. They can locate studs, pipes, and wires alike. Some connect with your smartphone while others are standalone devices.
While you are investigating, mark the location of studs and floor joists in the areas you’re considering for the chute.
4. Open up the run from top to bottom
Once you know exactly where the chute is going, it’s time to start cutting.
My recommendation is to make a small hole first. This will allow you one final look into the space, just to make sure that there are no obstructions that your scanner or camera didn’t pick up.
If you are putting the laundry chute either entirely or partially into the wall, you may have to cut through the base plate of the wall. This is a piece of 2-by-4 that separates one story from the next. A reciprocating saw is usually the best tool for this cut.
When the run is all the way open, install any fire-blocking that is required by your local code. If you are building into the wall, also install a 2-by-4 piece at the very top of your chute to attach the eventual door to.
5. Frame your enclosure
Once the hole is opened up, build the framing for the enclosure to hide the openings and chute. This step looks different depending on how you’re planning to enclose the chute.
If you’re using a piece of furniture to hide the opening, put it into place and cut the necessary holes and channels. If you’re creating a built-in storage solution or bench, then put the necessary pieces in place around the hole. If you’re simply enclosing the chute in a wall, put up the 2-by-4 framing.
Leave yourself enough room to slip the chute into place. Depending on your design, it may be easier to build your enclosure with the chute already installed.
6. Assemble and install the chute
There are many different ways to make the actual chute. The simplest is to buy a laundry chute. You can also make your own out of metal ductwork, which is available at most hardware stores. Another option is to reach out to local HVAC contractors to see if they can fabricate a custom size.
However you get your chute, make sure that all of the edges are smooth and that there are no protrusions on the inside of the chute for clothes to get caught on.
Pro tip: File the edges smooth and assemble the pieces so that the lower pieces attach outside the higher pieces.
Once the chute is smooth and hangup-free, slip it into place. Depending on the length of your run and the number of bends, you may have to install the ductwork in multiple pieces from different directions.
Once the chute is in place, throw some test laundry down. Make sure that none of your clothes get hung up on rough edges and that they can make their way through any bends in the ductwork. Fix alignment or smoothness issues now.
7. Close everything up
Once you’re confident that the chute is working, it’s time to seal it up.
Patch any holes, drywall the enclosure walls, and put the final touches on built-ins or custom furniture.
Align and install the doors, and trim around the top and bottom openings as needed.
Then step back, admire your handiwork, and never carry a basket of dirty laundry downstairs again.
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