Thursday, July 7, 2011

Washer and Dryer Platform on the Cheap

Last week we finished up our washer and dryer platform project and over the weekend the new machines were delivered!  We made a few mistakes and learned a few things but overall the project turned out pretty well.

When we started out it would have been all but impossible to put a washer and dryer in the area where the hookups were.  The previous owners had poured a concrete platform for a dryer, but it was far too small for our large new dryer.  The washer had apparently been balanced on two pieces of wood over an old sunken floor drain.  Since we were having the sewer replaced anyway, which involved digging up the basement floor to lay new pipe, we paid a little bit extra and and had the floor drain moved to the center of the room.  The project, however, still left a substantial dip in the floor where the old drain had been and our new washer needed to go and of course there was still that small platform where the dryer needed to go.

We considered a few possible options.  We could have poured a full concrete platform for our new washer and dryer to sit or we could have built a wooden platform over the whole area, but we ended up deciding on a combination of the two.  We are planning on finishing the basement eventually, so we didn't want something as permanent as a concrete platform and we weren't sure that we had the tools or skills to build a level wooden platform on such an un-level surface.  Since the entire basement will eventually have to be leveled anyway, we decided to level out washer and dryer area with concrete and build a simple and inexpensive platform over the existing concrete platform.

We started out with a bag of concrete that the sewer contractors left behind to fill in the deepest part of the dip in the floor (check out a little more on this part of the project here).  We cleaned the whole area thoroughly and brushed away any crumbling concrete from around the old platform with wire brushes.  The floors are painted so we used a paint scraper to scrape away as much of the paint as we could.  We coated the whole area with bonding concrete primer per the instructions on the bottle using a long handled paint roller.  We mixed the concrete per the instructions on the bag, poured it into the deepest area and leveled it out as best we could using a garden rake, mason trowel and wood float.

One 80 lb bag of concrete doesn't cover much ground when you're trying to fill in an area that is at least two inches lower than the rest of the floor.  To increase the area that is level we used a multi-purpose concrete that can be mixed to be pourable and self-leveling.  We just cleaned and primed the whole area again and poured the concrete right down.  It flowed out to fill the area and leveled itself perfectly with almost no work on our part.  The only challenge at this step was that we chose a quick-setting concrete which we found very difficult to work with.  Working quickly tends to be something that comes with experience and we found that the concrete was beginning to set in the buckets while we were still trying to figure out if we had reached the right consistency.

Once we had a level surface to work with, the rest was easy.  We opted to spend a little extra on a pre-treated piece of 3/4" plywood so that we wouldn't have to worry about warping or water damage.  The kind folks at Home Depot were nice enough to cut the board to the right size for us.  Because our project is temporary, however, we decided not to spend a lot of money on the construction of the platform.  We used the existing concrete platform as part of the support for the new platform and just used inexpensive wood shims to support the rest of the platform.  We drilled a couple wood screws into the shims to keep the whole thing together and it looks like it will last us a little while.

Now that the project is complete, there are a couple weaknesses that we've identified:

The shims are not very sturdy and most of them cracked when we drilled screws through them (despite the fact that we drilled pilot holes first).  They definitely will not be a long term solution, but seem to be holding up fine for now. 

After the washer and dryer were delivered, we noticed that the new concrete had cracked in a few places.  We think that this is probably due to adding too much water when we were mixing it.  Based on this experience, unless we gain some more concrete knowledge along the way, we will probably bring in professionals when it is time to level the whole basement floor.  Fortunately our washer and dryer are designed to minimize vibrations so both the shims and the concrete should be okay for now.

Overall we think we achieved a pretty good balance of functionality and cost effectiveness.  Here is the final cost breakdown of the whole project (not including the washer and dryer):

Wire Brushes:  $12
Paint Scraper:  Purchased for other projects
Bonding Concrete Primer:  $15
Paint Roller:  Purchased for other projects
Paint Roller Cover:  $5
80 lb bag concrete:  Free (left by sewer contractors)
50 lb bag multi-use concrete:  $19
Concrete Mixer Drill Attachement:  $13
Buckets, Mason Trowel & Wood Float:  $22
Shovel:  Free (left at house by previous owners)
Garden Rake:  Purchased for other projects
Total cost to level the floor:   $86

Treated 3/4" Plyboard:  $46
6 sets of shims:  $9
Wood Screws:  $3
Total cost of Platform:  $58

Grand Total for our Washer and Dryer Platform Project:  $144


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