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Question DetailsAsked on 9/13/2014

Looking for an installer to disassemble/reassemble a washer and dryer to get them down a narrow basement staircase

we would like to install standard sized washer and dryer (27 to 30" width) in our basement. the problem is that we
live in an old house and the staircase leading to the basement only has 23 inches of width. We have consulted with
builders and there is no way to increase the width of the staircase due to structural issues that make it impractical.

we would like to find a company or contractor who would be able to disassemble a washer and dryer and then reassemble and install them in the basement.

this seems like it would be a not too uncommon issue for people living in old houses or buildings, but I have been unable to locate an company that offers this service.

does anyone have any recommendations?


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    4 Answers

    Voted Best Answer

    I presume the 23" is wall to wall - that there are not railings or door frames/door you can remove to temporarily widen the space ?

    I checked my standard size Whirlpool/Kenmore washer and dryer - they require 25" to clear in the narrowest direction even if disassembled because the housings are three-sided boxes, though I guess the 3-sided stamped metal casing could be bent closed a bit to get it down to 23 inches. To do this, I would say an Appliance Repairman - Large would be the person you want but unless you assist with moving will take 2 man crew - but I suspect it is going to cost you almost as much as just buying a new set of apartment-sized appliances that will fit through that space. I figure a good 2-3 hours to disassemble and move and reassemble a washer, and maybe 1 hour+ for a dryer, so you are into the $300-500 range probably to disassemble and move them - plus that much again to get them back out when dead, and again on new ones to move them in - so one changout of both could potentially run $1000 range, which I would put toward putting in permanent normal sized access to the basement. Also, doing this to a new appliance to move it in would undoubtedly void the warranty.

    A little thinking outside the box here - though would cost more in the short term, it could pay back when you sell the house and when you have to replace washer and/or dryer (and maybe furnace and water heater if in basement). Putting in a legal access could also help avoid a home inspector life-safety ding when you sell, as minimum legal width for a finished basement would be 36 inch wide (with some handrail intrusion into that space allowed in most cases).

    1) Have a door installed in the basement wall unless that would introduce serious water infiltration issues or would involve a major doorwell construction project. Still, would be a bonus (especially if sized at least 36" wide for appliances and furnace replacement and furniture moving in and out). Unless you would be going down 6-8 feet (as opposed to 3-4 feet) on whatever the low ground side is, you might get a metal exterior door cut in for about $1000 range innormal construction - maybe $700-1000 additional range for a 3-4 deep doorwell leading to it if needed, assuming reasonable digging conditions (maybe $1000-2000 for 6-8 foot deep well with weather (not flood proof) cover hatch or awning roof. This assumes you would not need it to be totally waterproof due to high surface water, torrential local rains (hurricane area for instance), or high water table.

    2) I am interested that they said staircase cannot be widened for structural reasons - granted it might cost a bit more, but usually as long as there are no objections to a couple of support posts or post and beams in the basement, usually widening out to two joist spans (typically about 45" rough opening") is not a terrible issue - commonly about $1000-2000 range including widening the stairs themselves and an economy door, not including any fancy stair step covering or fancy wall treatment.

    If you want to, if you take a pair of indoor and outdoor pictures of where an outside door might be able to go, and one from about 5-10 feet back of the foot of the stairs showing up under the flooring (assuming open joists) around the stairs to show the floor structure, perhaps the contributors here could advise whether they think putting a door in or widening the staircase (assuming you can afford the loss of upstairs floor space) is workable. Of course, if you have full walls on both sides of the stairs (as opposed to just a barrier wall for the stairs on one side) then the widening is probbly out of the feasible range.

    Answered 5 years ago by LCD



    thanks for the advice. I think what you've said makes a lot of sense.

    here are some pictures of the basement stairs.

    You can see in the pics that although the stairs themselves are 30" wide

    there are structural elements on both sides that eat up a lot of width,

    effectively making the spce only about 23" wide.

    looking down the staircase the right side is an exterior wall, so it is al brick and cement.

    on the left side are structural beams that are holding up the staircase for th first and second floor.

    Answered 5 years ago by Guest_99166161


    Ouch - looks like someone did not think out their clearance dimensions when they designed the house, because that is definitely not to code - and the trim on both sides aggravated the issue.

    If it were my house I would bite the bullet, assuming there are not inordinate water infiltration issues (groundwater or surface flooding), and put in an oversize exterior door to the basement - minimum 36" CLEAR opening (so full 180 degree opening 36" door) or even 42" to allow for easy furniture and appliance and furnace/water heater movement. Preferably daylight or ramp down to it, but stairs can work, especially if infrequently used. Yes, that would cost probably twice the money to disassemble and reassemble the two appliances now - but 5-10 years down the road twice again to do it with a new ones and void warranty - etc ...

    Or, depending on how tied you are to the full-size appliances and the age of the current ones, the cheapest route (figuring the appliances only and no resale benefit of the door) might be to just bite the bullet and try to sell the current ones and get stackable or space-saver or apartment -sized units - or do some careful checking of various brands, because there are a few 22" (in ads anyway) full-size (though not extra-duty) washers and dryers out there. Google 22" washer or 22" dryer and you can find a number of them, though many are European brands so check what brand you are seeing - particularly large number of them on BestBuy website, and Sears (Kenmore) and GE have several in that size range in their Apartment/Compact and Spacesaver (respectively) brandlines.

    One other thing I did not mention is one job I worked on where the owners lied in a swampy area with water level near foundation top year-around, so a sunken entry door was out of the feasible range, but they needed to convert the basement into an in-law apartment for an elderly relative. So, we cut out a section of wall and put in a standard exterior waterproof door in a solid concrete boxed-out entry with landing at the door then steps down to a cutout in the foundation, so the entire entry stairway was actually enclosed in what was effectively a bumpout of the foundation wall. Looked like an arctic entry more than a root cellar entry. Not terribly expensive to do (a couple thousand typically), because just a cutout of the foundation and a three-sided concrete box to pour, plus a 'doghouse' entry shed roof and doorway. Depends of course on being able to structurally cut through essentially all the foundation wall at that point, but that can be done in most cases. Of course, only works for full basements where there is full doorway headroom at the foundation.

    Answered 5 years ago by LCD



    thanks again for the advice.

    this house was built in the 1920's so it probably predates washing machines and other large applicances, and maybe residential building codes?

    i've been researching the issue for the past few weeks, and yes, definitely seems like adding a new seperate entry to the basement would be the best long term option. it would also make functional sense because right now the basement entry is on the "wrong" side of the house - the side no one really uses. if we add a new basement entry on the opposite side of the house we could gain easy acces from the driveway and all the other foot traffic.

    one more question, since this house has an old brick foundation, do you think it presents any challenges for adding an entry way? should i get an engineer involved to ensure the structural integrity of the foundation when the builders cut the entry way? or should a good brick mason be able to handle it?

    Answered 5 years ago by Guest_99166161


    Excellent question on the brick foundation. An experienced general contractor or framing carpenter should be able to handle this - you do not really need a mason for this job, as brick is only being removed, not installed, unless you intend to do a corbelled type brick frame around the door for arthitectural reasons.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Obviously the doorway should not be located under a support column in the house, or under a narrow support "pier wall" that is carrying beam load from adjacent openings or doorways at the sides of it. It should be under a "normal" wall panel, and generally not within 3 feet of a house corner. Those conditions are not absolute - but if they do exist, that is where I would start thinking of bringing a structural engineer in. Of course, check your town building department - in some areas ANY type of structural demolition (which this is) requires plans from a structural/civil engineer, or architect is allowed in some areas - though not so much their area of expertise.

    2) if the entire house is brick or solid brick faced, then providing temporary support is very important to prevent cracking. What I do is drill through a mortar joint of the course of bricks that will stay in place at several places and put in through bolts, which then bolt tightly into temporary wood beams across the opening to support it during cutting out. The bolt holes can easily be mortaared back in, or the supporting beams can be permanent decorative beams that also (on the outside) acts as a weather header after you put dripedge on it. On solid brick houses like that, you are best putting in a solid welded channel steel (usually 1/4-1/2" thick metal depending on span) outer frame to directly support the brick load, then the door frame slips inside that and is fastened to that. Usually built so the channel open side is just wider than the brick, so it fits over and wraps around the brick to stabilize the brick wall from moving or buckling out-of-plane (from inside to outside direction) as well as at the opening, and is grouted in place as it is set in place - with drilled-in brick anchors as well. There are also slip-in metal doors with supporting load-bearing frames for this purpose - they are a special order items except at very large commercial building door dealers - commonly used in CMU (concrete block) installations and retrofits of brick and concrete warehouses and such into apartments.

    3) For a brick foundation only, with a wood frame house on top, your doorway opening is likely to be penetrating most of the way through the foundation with at most a layer or few of bricks left above it, so in that case you treat it just like opening up a doorway in a house wall - open it up and put in a doorway header and king and trimmer studs bolted into the wall, then install the door and frame. Normally, as long as you do not leave it open for an extended period of time, unless there is unusual load like major bookcases or such right over the doorway, the wall can span the doorway distance OK for the short time from hole cutout to putting in the header. HOWEVER, if there is a joint in the bottom plate in the bottom of the wall above the opening then you have to assume it may try to buckle down at that point, and provide remedial support for the bottom plate (like nail-on metal splices plates) to prevent that, or take the load off that section of wall with temporary studwall under the floor joists (the best way). Obviously, cutting the doorway through the major load-bearing exterior wall (one that the floor joists sit on, usually the longer wall of the house) takes more care and temporary support than cutting into the walls (usually the narrower ends of the house) that does not carry the floor joist loads.

    If in doubt about your contractor, then get a structural engineer to work up a design, but will increase project cost several hundred to $500 depending on your area.

    Don't forget water issues if this is not going to be a free-draining daylight entry - consider what is going to be needed to repel both groundwater (permanent or in wet season) and surface runoff and rainfall/snowmelt, as that will control whether you need a bully water-tight poured concrete basement entry stair or can just use block, and will also control whether you put in a drywell in the bottom of the entry outside the door, and whether you need to consider a fully built-in enclosed entry or an awning or can use an open entry with maybe just a small shed roof to protect the door from direct wind-blown water. I emphatically recommend a non-wood door for this type of location if not protected by an overhead roof, or if the outside environment for the door is going to be damp most of the time.

    On door size - consider future furniture moving and water heater/furnace replacement needs - I would recommend a minimum 36" wide door (the door itself, not the rough opening).

    One other thought - before locating door, consider utility locations so you don't have to reroute them, and if you have a foundation french drain consider how that interfaces with your entry location. However, in many cases if you can put in a walk-out (ground level) entry that is worth more in resale value and functionality so minor utility relocation might be worth it, especially if you can put a patio or such right in front of the basement entrance. I have seen some neat daylight cut patios, where an excavation was required to get a walkout entrance, so the entrance or patio has tiered planters or retaining walls on two sides of it like this - the larger picture illustrates the idea but is not a true walk-out, but there are several more examples in the smaller images on that page of excavated cuts leading to walkout basement doors -

    Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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