Please help - pan in 2nd floor laundry - what for?

auburnfanOctober 31, 2007

Can anyone please help me understand the issues with a second floor laundry room (flood issues, not vibration issues)? I've read all of the threads I can find and talked to people at the appliance store, but it still doesn't make sense to me.

I'm building a house (3 weeks until closing), and the laundry room is upstairs. The builder told me that the washer will go in a drain pan with a drain built into it. I've known this for a while and even asked a few questions about specific washers with a drain pan.

But then, I started thinking about this pan. What water is it going to catch? In what ways does a washer flood the house? From what I read on the threads, it has to do with hoses. But, if my hose bursts, won't the water squirt all over the room? How is this little pan going to help? In fact, if the drain is in the pan, and most of the water is outide of the pan, the drain is no good.

So please help me understand - what is the pan going to catch?

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Catastrophic leaks are uncommon. Smaller leaks are quite common. Connections loosening; small ruptures of hoses; splits in fittings; improperly fixed clamps or fittings within the machine; time/fatigue on any/all of those. Typical situation is small leak going unnoticed for some period of until carpet is wet, wood stained, wet spot or mold on downstairs ceiling, or wet spot noticed on floor. If left unattended, the damage -- sometimes structural -- can be significant. The major gushing "flood" you are imagining is rare.

Your builder is being smart and conscientious on your behalf. Most just want to get it up and walk away. Suggest adjusting your thinking about this.

Also suggest single-lever shut off on hot/cold supply to washer and flood-chek hoses with gooseneck connectors. This is something that deserves to be set up carefully and substantially.

Here is a link that might be useful: Floodchek hoses and gooseneck connectors

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 5:59PM
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If you have a tank-type water heater, that should also have a pan under it with a drain. Tank water heaters almost always fail via tank-rupture and leaking. Just went through one of those on a slab floor. Total bill for mitigation and repair was over $5,000.00. Insurance deductable was still $1, a LOT of inconvenience. The leak was noticed within hours. If had been days, the damage would have been many times that. Don't mess with leak-potentials.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 6:15PM
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Oh, I have no beef with the builder. I didn't mean it to come out that way.

I want to do the right thing and get this set up in the safest way possible. I just don't see that a pan right under the washer is going to catch these tyeps of leaks. (And thanks for clearing up my misconception of gush vs. slow leak. I meant it when I said I didn't understand.)

So, will a little pan really take care of the kind of problems you cited? Wouldn't it have been better to slope the floor and put a drain in the middle? Too late now for me, but maybe it could help someone else.

As for the HWH, we have the tankless kind. The pan seems to make a little more sense with a HWH to me. I'm just not sure that's enough of a safeguard with the washer.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 6:53PM
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Yes, sloped and drained floor would be superior. Also would cost more because it would have to be completely water-tight as well -- kinda like a shower floor. The pan-with-drain being suggested is second-best compared with that, but still no small improvement -- a good, low-cost precaution to protect against the most common types of leakage on your suspended floor.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 7:03PM
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Also, check your building code and insurance requirements. Some posters here have had to put in drain pans due to one or the other.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Well it would've worked in the situation I had just last night. I started the washer (12 year old Kenmore/whirlpool direct drive toploader) & about half an hour later needed something from the garage. When I stepped in a huge amount of water my first thought was the hose had burst. But no, the washer was overflowing like Niagara Falls. Water flowed from my laundry room into the garage, and in the opposite direction into small hallway & half bath across from the laundry room. Unfortunately there is wood flooring in that hallway & half bath. I wish the builder of my house had installed pan with a drain in my laundry room. I also wish I had a drain in my laundry room floor. I agree with Asolo on the single lever shut off valve & turn it off after using your washer EVERY TIME. Also I highly recommend never running washers, dryers, dishwashers, etc. while sleeping or away from home. Thank goodness I hadn't started my washer & then gone to bed last night. The washer would've over flowed all night and I would've had a huge amount of damage instead of the very small amount we ended up with. Also my parents had an incident 2 weeks ago where their dishwasher almost caught on fire, the control board was smoking. When it was opened for repair the board was charred black! Turns out there was a recall on their model for the control boards catching fire. If they had not been home their house could've burned down.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 7:28PM
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Last week my 10 year old Kenmore did the same thing - overflowed on the second floor. It just never got the message that it full. I have a drain in my floor and most of it went in the drain (which was a good thing since it overflowed for 30 minutes before I realized).

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 8:40PM
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Wow. I'm sorry for both of your flooding troubles, but I thank you for giving examples where the pan would have helped. I'll definitely look into the shut off valve, too. Is that like a handle on the wall that is installed separately from the regular washer connection? Does it have to go in during construction, or can it be added later?

Thanks again for the input.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 7:31AM
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Here's one example. 1/8th-turn lever shut-off. These are very common, work well, and last long. About $30.00 at Lowe's, Home Depot, others. They do require the supply lines to be plumbed/positioned so hot/cold lines line up with the fitting's openings....which is just as easy as positioning them any other way. Your builder will be familiar with this

Here is a link that might be useful: Washer supply shut-off valve example

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 10:51AM
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Thanks for that link, Asolo. I forwarded it to DH. The plumbing has been finished for a long time and all the sheetrock, paint, etc. are also done, so we won't be able to reposition them if they don't line up. Maybe it will just fit anyway? Or, maybe we can get that retrofit kit for the automatic valve on that same webpage.

One more question. DH and I were trying to figure this all out last night, and it still seems like if a host bursts the water is going all over the room and not in the pan. Since the drain is in the pan, the water can't even get to the drain. Wouldn't it be better to have the shut-off valves and the drain in the floor, but no pan?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 11:29AM
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Retro-fit positioning of the valve is no huge deal if you want to....I just did it at one of my own properities. There are a number of alternatives if you want to poke around. I just googled "washer valves". No doubt other alternatives would yield lots more.

Yes, if a hose bursts catastrophically, water is likely going all over the place. However, such a failure is very uncommon. Far more common are slow/gradual leaks such as described previously or fail-open solenoid valves within the machine which result in flowing over but not spraying around. Keep in mind, NONE of these are frequent events. However, they do sometimes occur and, when they do, the amount of damage can be quite incredible. I'm not suggesting craziness to accomodate every remote possibility but I do think a pan-and-drain plus quick-shut-off valve plus high-quality connecitons are reasonable considerations.

Again, yes, a drain in the floor would be superior to a drain-and-pan arrangement but substantially more expensive. You'd essentially be building a "shower floor" for your laundry with appropriate materials and sloping.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 11:54AM
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the drain pan--is that something that is put under the floor on the second floor (between main floor ceiling and 2nd floor flooring)? we are just about to start construction on a two story house. one of the baths is on the second floor. we have had our present two story home for 20 years. several times through the years we have had problems in the second floor bath which caused us to have to re-drywall the kitchen ceiling! could this drain pan safeguard us from having this problem in the future? if not, do you have any other suggestions?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 8:28PM
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The drain pan sits on top of the floor and has a drain attached. The washer then sits in the pan.

It depends on water type of water problem your trying to prevent. If your worried about a leak or pipe breaking, they sell water sensor units. Its just a water sensor that if it detects water it shuts off the water.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 11:21AM
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hi there,

we also had a pan put under ours and had a problem where the washer started slowly leaking. it actually exceeded the capacity of the pan, but thank god it was there as there was no major damage.

keep the pans!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:13PM
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My washer had a hose pop off inside the machine. A hose clamp lost its tension. When I turned it on I heard the water run normally and often I just go upstairs and wait for it to finish. That day I happened to be doing a couple things down there. To make a long story short I noticed the water on the floor and it coming from inside. I thought about a hose breaking but knew it would be spraying. When I turned off the machine, it stopped. I just assumed the machine was gone and not worth fixing. Knew it probably wasn't worth calling a repairman for a nearly 30 year old washer. Then I got curious on what it was and figured I couldn't wreck it so I pulled it out, pulled off the back, didn't see anything so after a while I figured out how to get the top off from it and there it was. About a 4" hose sitting loose on one end. Went and bought a couple of 25¢ hose clamps, reassembled and going strong again. Let's see, I bought it 30 years ago this past February and it was a prior years' model and a floor model on clearance. Not bad for a $225 washer! Excuse me, $225.50 including the repair parts!

OH, my point is that a pan under it would have caught this water. My laundry has a floor drain so the water went right into it so I don't need a pan. But it's a good idea to shut off the water.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 7:40PM
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