How to install an automatic washing machine

Though an automatic washing machine is a boon to any household, many people are discouraged from buying one because it has to be plumbed in— both to the water supply and the drains. But providing you choose the site carefully and set about the work in a logical order, the job is not half as hard as it seems.

The work can be divided into four stages: positioning the machine; connecting up the cold water supply ; installing a branch discharge pipe to the drains; and electrical installation. This latter stage should only be attempted when you have acquired some electrical skills.

Choosing a site

Your first decision here is in which room to site the machine. In the UK, the choice is normally between the kitchen and bathroom, both of which have hot and cold water supplies and drainage outlets. In Canada, the usual site is in a basement utility room.

You have next to consider the type of machine, the space that will be needed around it, the existing layout of the room and the design and materials used in your plumbing system.

Of these, the plumbing system must inevitably take priority. It is no use choosing the ideal space-saving site only to find that you cannot then plumb in the machine without demolishing the house.

Drainage: In the UK, for a washing machine in a ground floor kitchen, the most suitable outlet for the discharge pipe is a back inlet gulley, separated from the main discharge stack and connected to the main drain by a branch underground. This is often easier to break into than the main stack and, as it is usually there to serve the kitchen sink discharge pipe, it is likely to be in the most convenient position already.

In older houses, the sink waste sometimes discharges out over the open

Check first!

In the UK, plumbing work is strictly controlled by local water authority by-laws. You must inform your water authority of your plans at least seven days before work starts. As well as giving practical advice, they will warn you against any possible infringement of their regulations. Work on the drainage system may needbuildingregulationsconsent. In Canada, you should check local building ordinances to make sure that the work you are undertaking complies with them. type of trapped gulley. You will probably be allowed to run the washing machine discharge pipe to here also, provided that the end of the pipe is below the grid.

If the pipe has to connect to the main stack, the latter will need a branch fitting. Though this is relatively easy to fit to a plastics stack, on the older, cast-iron or galvanized steel types the job is best left to an expert. Indeed, it is probably better to take the opportunity of replacing the stack with a new one. A connection to a hopper head may not be allowed.

Water supply: Breaking into the hot and cold water supply generally presents less of a problem, as the final connections to the machine are usually made with flexible hose. Nevertheless, the supply must be near enough to the site to allow you to keep pipe runs as short—and as uncomplicated—as possible.

In the UK a cold-only supply might come direct from the rising main , though some water authorities do not allow this.

A hot and cold fill machine is best supplied via the cold water storage cistern or tank. In this case, as with some showers, low water pressure is sometimes a problem on upper floors or in flats and bungalows. Manufacturers generally specify a minimum ‘head’ of water—that is, the distance from the base of the storage tank to the point where the supply enters the back of the washing machine—and you should bear this in mind when choosing a site for your machine. If you cannot meet the minimum head requirement, consult both the manufacturer and your local water authority.

Tn Canada, a machine will be connected direct to high pressure supplies.

The pipe run must be arranged so that the branches do not cross one another, with the stop valves easily accessible. When you are planning the run, consider the best place to fit tee pieces to the supply pipes; it may be better to have a slightly longer run in order to avoid disturbing existing fixtures and fittings.

Breaking into the supply

Having chosen your supply pipes, turn off the nearest stop valves and drain the pipes by opening the taps at the end of them. With cistern-fed supplies, if there are no local valves, look for a cold supply stop valve on the pipe running out of the base of the storage tank and a hot supply valve on the cold supply pipe running into the base of the hot water cylinder.

If you still have no luck, you must tie up the ball valve on the storage tank and drain down the system. It is sensible to turn off the boiler or heat source before you turn off any water services. If you are taking the cold supply from the rising main, turn off at the mains.

To break into the supply, you must either cut out sections of pipe large enough to take tee fittings or remove and replace existing fittings. Opt for whichever gives the simpler pipe run.

Using the former method, measure and mark the cut sections very carefully against the tee fittings. Be sure to allow for the extra pipe taken up by the joints. If there is a joint already near a cut section, it may be easier to loosen this, make one cut and remove the pipe altogether. You can then trim it to the new length required on the bench. Make the cuts with a fine toothed hacksaw, ensuring that the pipe ends are kept square.

Having prepared the pipe ends, fit the tee pieces as for compression or capillary joints depending on what type you are planning to use.

Connecting to the machine

Somewhere between the tee pieces and the washing machine inlets, stop valves must be fitted so that the supply can be disconnected at any time. Some manufacturers provide these with their machines while others leave the choice of valve entirely up to you. Suitable fixing points for valves are normally the wall or the side of a unit.

Mark the points clearly then measure back and fit pipe runs—using 15mm copper tube in the UK—between these and the tee pieces. Where necessary, support with wall brackets every 1.2m. Fit the valve holders to the ends of the pipe runs before you fix them to the wall.

Finally, screw the valves provided into the holders and secure the flexible connections to the machine. On no account should you attempt to shorten the flexible fittings supplied with the machine: these are designed specially to length in order to balance out irregularities in the water flow.

If you are fitting your own valves, simply fit these to the ends of your pipe runs and connect them to the flexible hoses. But as above, make sure that the valves are so positioned that the hoses do not cross or kink.

In both cases, test the pipework and all joints for leaks at this stage.

Plumbing for a Canadian system follows much the same lines, except that the supply pipes should be equipped with air chambers. These prevent water hammer in the high-pressure supplies, when the machine’s valves snap shut after filling. Air chambers for washing machines are usually one pipe size larger than the supply pipes, and about 600mm long.

Installing the discharge pipe

For the pipes themselves, follow the sizes and plastics type specified in the manufacturer’s handbook. Most often these will be 32mm CPVC with solvent wielded joints.

Connection to a back inlet gulley:

The simplest way to connect to a gulley is to run the pipe just below the surface of the grid. To do this, replace the grid with a plastics type, and cut a hole in it of the right size to take the pipe.

Alternatively, you may want to take this opportunity to replace an old gully with a modern plastics back inlet gully. To do this, start by digging away the soil around the gulley so that you expose the upper part. Remove the water in the trap beside it with a plunger.

Next, using a vitrified clay cutting tool, cut away enough of the pipe to accommodate your new PVC gulley fitting. Bear in mind as you mark up for the cut that the new gulley must finish above ground level and be far enough away from the wall to allow you to fit the discharge pipe. Before you sever the pipe completely, support the gulley from below to take the weight of the trap.

Remove the old gulley and fittings above the cut completely. Using a V.C. chamfering tool, chamfer the remaining cut end to accept a flexible V.C.-uPVC connection. Afterwards, fit the new uPVC section carefully and make sure that it is sited correctly in the gulley trench.

You can now assemble the rest of the gulley and fittings.

Connecting the discharge pipe to the back inlet may call for a little trial-and-error. Start by connecting the bend and short length of pipe PI , adjusting the length of PI so that P2 stands out from the wall the correct distance to accommodate pipe brackets. Then fit P3 and its bends, so that the fall of the pipe is between 18mm and 45mm per metre, and so that the lower bend is vertically over the bend connected to PI. Finally, cut and fix P2.

Now continue the pipe run through the wall following the same cutting and measuring sequence. Do not permanently solvent weld the joints until you have checked the run.

After the run has been fitted as far as the wall, fill in the spaoe between the gulley and the wall with a 1:3 mortar so that the concrete gulley frame is held firmly in place. Finally, solvent weld the gulley hopper joint and fill in the ground around the gulley with earth.

Connection to a stack: Aim to run the discharge pipe to an existing branch outlet. If this does not have a spare outlet, then you can either fit a new multiple connector in this position, or a boss adaptor to a length of plain stack pipe—whichever allows the discharge pipe to have sufficient fall. If you buy new components, make sure they are compatible with the existing ones—shapes and sizes vary slightly from brand to brand.

If you are connecting to an existing spare outlet, simply cut away the blanking plug and fit the new pipe in position. A boss adaptor is almost as easy to fit: consult manufacturer’s instructions. A new connector is a little more tricky: the old connector will probably have to be sawn off, and the new one may not be big enough to bridge the gap. You might have enough ‘slack’ in the stack to take up the gap, or you may need to fit a slightly longer piece of stack pipe.

In Canada: You can connect to existing drains in much the same way as described above. You can even connect to a basement floor drain, as long as this is connected to a sewer or septic tank. However, do make sure that you are complying with your local building ordinances—if you are in any doubt at all about how to connect to your drainage system, then get appropriate expert help.

Final connection

At this stage, you should have run the discharge pipe through the wall and almost to the site of the machine. The final connection is made with a ‘P’-trap and stand pipe fitted to the discharge pipe length. The height of the stand pipe will be specified in the machine’s handbook; in most cases, the outlet hose from the machine simply hooks into the top. This provides an anti-syphonage air break in the discharge piping.

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