Can I install a washer/dryer combo in my NYC apartment?
- You'll need to follow any wet-over-dry building rules and get the right permits
- Keep in mind buildings with old plumbing can't handle a washer/dryer in every unit
I want to install a washer/dryer combo in my co-op apartment. What do I need to know about the approval process, what kind of machines should I get, and how much will they cost?
A washer/dryer of your very own is on most owners’ wish lists. Carrying loads of laundry up and down from your building’s basement—or back and forth to the local laundromat—can get old quickly. However, if you’re thinking of forking over cash for a washer/dryer combo and getting it installed in your apartment, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
Before you start allocating closet space to house your new appliances, you’ll need to get your board or building management to give permission. That’s because some older plumbing systems aren’t equipped to handle the workload of washing machines in every apartment. In addition, there are “wet-over-dry” rules to keep in mind, as well as permit and safety issues.
Assuming you can get approval—itself a tall order—you’ll need to choose the right location and appliances for your situation and stay on the right side of New York City’s building codes.
The following expert guidance will help you determine your options.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post was published in November 2021. We are presenting it with updated information for November 2023.]
Check with your board or building
Many NYC buildings, whether they are rentals, co-ops, or condos, do not allow washer/dryers at all. Some co-ops and condos will only allow them on a case-by-case basis, while others have blanket policies. You should always get permission from your board or building management—if you don’t, consequences can range from having the machines removed to owing thousands of dollars to your neighbors if there’s a fire or flood linked to the installation.
There’s generally a logical reason why these appliances aren’t permitted. In older buildings, the waste pipes can be either too small or packed with sediment, or the building or specific apartment line may have existing drainage issues, so adding suds can cause backups that affect nearby apartments.
What’s more, if your washer malfunctions or overflows, it could cause damage to the floors below. This is why many buildings require a containment pan under the washing machine, along with an overflow sensor in the pan and an automatic shut-off valve.
Dryers can present their own hazards (more on this to follow). Should you get the coveted go-ahead, you’ll still need to be mindful of Department of Building compliance (more on that below).
Beware of wet-over-dry restrictions
Approval in hand, the next step is to figure out where the units can be installed. Most likely, they will need to be in or near a “wet space,” generally a kitchen or bathroom, to be close to the waste and supply pipes (aka the “stack”).
An adjacent closet is a common option, though you may not want to give up that precious storage space.
If you do have a closet in mind, make sure an installation there doesn’t flout wet-over-dry rules where any potential leaks would cause damage to a bedroom or living room (aka "dry" spaces) in the apartment below you. If all the units in your line share the same layout, this will be easy to predict, but not if you or your downstairs neighbors have made alterations. This is something on which the board or property manager will be able to advise you.
Complying with the DOB is key
When installing a new washing machine, the city’s Department of Buildings requires a master plumber to obtain a permit and do the work. Depending on the scope—say, if you’re altering a closet or the electrical or plumbing lines—you may need to get additional permits.
If you are using gas machines, you’ll need to tap into an existing legal gas line and provide adequate ventilation, which is why these models are typically put in a windowed bathroom or kitchen.
The DOB does allow the appliances to be installed in closets as long as the code requirements for ventilation are met (for example, by connecting to the building's mechanical system). The closet must also have a sprinkler head, in buildings where a full sprinkler system is required—BTW, it's the same for an electric dryer.
You’ll need a final DOB inspection for all gas and electric work to make sure it’s been done properly.
|Key considerations when adding a washer/dryer to a NYC apartment|
|Board or building approval|
|Where to put them|
|How much you'll spend|
Stacked vs. side-by-side units—and where to put them
Often, the most logical place for these appliances is in a second, full bath—say, replacing a tub with a shower stall and a stacked washer/dryer. Another option is to convert an entire half-bath into a laundry station.
Some owners consider installing washer/dryers in the kitchen. One plus is that the kitchen typically has a gas line, but space will also be a little tighter, and the height of many washer/dryer units is taller than a typical counter height.
Jennifer Morris, interior designer and founder of JMorris Design, says clients are increasingly looking to carve out drying space in their apartments. “Air drying clothes is so much better on the wear of clothes than a dryer. If you can make room for clothes to hang, then you can do a quick tumble to get them soft.”
An all-in-one washer/dryer is another space-saving option, though according to consumer reviews (and our own in-house experience), the dryer can take as much as three times longer than a regular dryer, meaning you’ll need to do smaller loads at a time—and forget about washing large items like comforters.
A lot of combo units are ventless, meaning you can install them anywhere there’s plumbing (such as in place of a dishwasher). Some units, however, do require vents. You’ll need to address lint build-up either way. If there isn’t a vent, the appliance may need regular wipe-downs and once every few years, you might have to take the unit apart and scrape the inner workings clean.
Going with gas or electric dryers
Appliances with Energy Star ratings are going to be the most efficient. According to the energy star guidance, gas dryers may cost less to operate but typically have a slightly higher initial price tag. Like most electric dryers, gas models need venting to the outside but they also require a dedicated gas line, which may not always be practical and could add to the cost of installation.
Electric dryers may be slightly cheaper to purchase initially, but can be more expensive to run.
If outside venting isn’t practical, you can buy ventless electric models. They won’t need a dedicated gas line, but keep in mind most standard-size electric models need a 240-volt outlet. That’s not always easy to facilitate in older buildings. Some of the more compact dryers on the market, however, need only a 120-volt wall outlet.
The pros and cons of high-efficiency machines
High-efficiency appliances generally use less water and call for specific detergents that produce fewer suds, making them easier on plumbing and the planet (look for “He” on the label). Indeed, they are the only models allowed by certain buildings.
Beware of a couple of potential downsides: Some owners complain of mildew problems after prolonged use. It's best to keep the washer door cracked open between uses to dry out the interior. The wash cycle is also longer than normal, trying the patience of many users, though the drying time will be shorter (thanks to the extra water extraction capabilities of these washers).
Why the lint filter needs to be cleaned—diligently
Lint build-up can be very dangerous—you’re combining heat and a flammable substance in close proximity. So you need to clean the lint filter with every use. This will typically be spelled out in the appliance's owner manual.
You may also want to have a professional inspect the exhaust areas and remove lint buildup every year or two. A dryer inspection typically costs about $100; cleaning will be an additional cost. It's a small investment that can avoid a much larger cost in the future, and an important step in protecting yourself and your neighbors.
If your appliance vents to the outside, be especially cautious about longer ducts with "elbows," which can increase the lint build-up. It’s possible the lint can harden or even get wet due to condensation. One solution is to add a booster fan at the midpoint or an exhaust fan at the end. You can also have a thin section of the duct cut out and a second, removable lint trap added to catch build-up. Hire a professional to advise you on what's warranted.
And consider buying a machine that's equipped to shut down in the event of a fire—many newer models have this safety feature.
How much you’ll spend
The cost of adding a stackable washer/dryer to a closet space could stretch to around $6,500. That includes the cost of running new plumbing and electrical lines to the space. However, there may be circumstances where you can cut some of that cost if you’re able to take advantage of existing lines, such as in a bathroom or kitchen.
Be prepared to spend around $1,300 to $1,800 or so for a stackable, apartment-size washer/dryer combo from manufacturers like Maytag, GE, or Frigidaire. Electrolux washers and dryers start at around $900 each; stacked combos range from $1,499 to $2,799. You can easily pay $3,000 and up for higher-end brands like Miele and Bosch.
Ventless washer/dryer combos, such as from LG (often the highest-rated option), start at around $1,500.
As with other home appliances, it’s always a good idea to purchase the highest quality models that fit your budget. Given the average lifespan for a washer/dryer is over 10 years, you’ll be spreading that investment over the long haul.
—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Tracey Kaler and Mimi O'Connor
Articles you may also like...
3 downsides of owning a washer and dryer in a NYC apartment If you haven’t had your own laundry machines before, you may be surprised by just how much maintenance is required. Specifically, you need to know how to prevent fires, flooding, and mold.
What is the ‘wet-over-dry’ rule and how does it affect a NYC renovation? The wet-over-dry rule is a NYC building’s way of preventing owners or tenant shareholders from putting in new wet areas, typically bathrooms or kitchens, directly above a dry area like a bedroom or living room. This way, there's less likelihood of major damage through flooding.
How do you make an illegally installed gas line in your NYC co-op legal and safe? An illegally installed gas line in your new NYC co-op poses a safety hazard. As such, you need to know what steps should be taken to make it legal.