by Ed Miller
A couple of years back the owners of a 1950s ranch house hired
our design-build company to remodel a narrow laundry room. It
was a challenging space — 5 feet wide by 12 feet long
with doors at each end and another to the exterior. The room
served as a pass-through between the family room and the master
bedroom and contained a washer, a dryer, a sink, a toilet, and
a water heater.
The clients wanted the new laundry to have all the function of
the old one, with the addition of a large shower and a second
sink. Had we been able to greatly expand the size of the room,
the job would have been simple, but the budget — plus the
clients’ stated desire to minimize their “carbon
footprint” expansion — meant we couldn’t add
We considered several ways to increase the size of the room,
including eliminating a fireplace and stealing space from the
bathroom on the other side of the wall. In the end, we
convinced the clients to push out the exterior wall and replace
the exterior door and window with a single large slider.
The Building Shell
We avoided costly changes to the roof and the foundation by
cantilevering the new floor area 2 feet, which kept it under
the existing roof overhang. This gave us another 24 square feet
to work with — not a huge increase, but enough to make
the layout work (see Figure 1). The clients decided that as
long as we were bumping out the laundry, we might as well do
the same to the adjacent bedroom too.
Figure 1. The homeowners wanted to add a
shower and a second sink to their already crowded laundry room.
By cantilevering the floor and keeping the new exterior wall
within the existing overhang, the author gained 24 square feet
without expensive structural changes. Stacking the washer and
dryer and replacing the water heater with a tankless model also
helped open up floor space (top). The roof load is supported by
an LVL header in line with the original wall
The crawlspace under the house was low and damp, so to gain
access for sistering to the existing 2x10 joists we removed the
subfloor and worked from above. The new joists project 2 feet
beyond the mudsills and run 6 feet back into the building. To
support the roof load, we installed a triple LVL header in line
with the original wall, hiding it within a soffit over the new
floor area. This nearly eliminated the roof load on the
exterior wall, which protects the new tile by reducing
deflection in the cantilevered floor.
Since the bottom of the cantilevered floor is only 3 inches
above grade, we framed it with pressure-treated wood and
replaced the soil below with a thick layer of drainage stone.
The clients’ long-term goal is to remove the house from
the flood elevation of a nearby stream by lifting it 4 feet and
raising the area around it, so the bay will eventually rest on
Exterior finish. We substituted
fiber-cement siding for the original brick veneer and used Azek
cellular PVC (877/275-2935,
azek.com) for the trim
boards. The lower edge of the water table is just a couple of
inches above grade, but we weren’t concerned, because
cellular PVC won’t rot (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Valuable inches were gained by
substituting fiber-cement siding for the original 5-inch brick
veneer. The water table — which comes to within a couple
of inches of grade — is made from cellular PVC, which
won’t rot or absorb water.
Insulation. In our part of the
country, cantilevered floors are typically cold. To keep this
one warm and prevent the plumbing from freezing, we insulated
the lower portion of the joist bays with a double layer of
2-inch rigid foam — sealed at the joints with canned
spray foam and topped with R-19 batts.
We framed the walls with 2x4 studs and OSB sheathing and
insulated with R-13 batts covered with a poly vapor retarder.
On top of the poly, we nailed 2-inch rips of 2-by lumber to the
edges of the studs to provide a conditioned space through which
we could run plumbing.
Except for the vanities on both sides of the slider, all the
fixtures are against the interior wall. Opposite the slider, we
built a 40-inch-by-34-inch shower. To the right of that we
framed a niche for a wall-hung toilet, using 2x6s for the back
wall to accommodate the in-wall tank. The toilet projects only
24 inches into the room; a conventional model would have
prevented the entry door from opening a full 90 degrees.
To the left of the shower we built a narrow storage closet and
a space to stack a washer and dryer. A removable wood panel in
the soffit above provides access for connecting and cleaning
the dryer vent (Figure 3).
Figure 3. A washer and dryer stack in a
niche at the end of the room. The wood panel above the
appliances can be removed to access and clean the dryer
Plumbing and Hvac
Since the existing galvanized supply lines were badly
deteriorated, we replaced them with PEX tubing, which is more
resistant to hard water and less apt to split if it freezes. We
also replaced and relocated the drains but kept the existing
vent penetrations. To supplement the existing forced-air heat,
we installed electric radiant heating under the limestone floor
Tankless water heater. The previous
water heater — a conventional model — took up a lot
of space, so we replaced it with a high-efficiency tankless
unit that fits in a shallow cabinet beside the toilet (Figure
4). Combustion air enters through a louvered door.
Figure 4. The original water heater was
replaced with a tankless model, which sits in a shallow cabinet
beside the wall-hung toilet. The cabinet door just clears the
top of the fixture and is louvered to admit combustion
The house is on well water, which in this area is
exceptionally hard. Because hard water will cause scales to
form on the heat exchanger of a tankless heater, greatly
lowering its efficiency, we installed a whole-house water
softener in a nearby closet.
Vanity sinks. The custom wall-hung
vanities, made from prefinished maple plywood, contribute an
open feeling without breaking the bank. The depth of the
cabinets was so limited and the sinks chosen by the homeowners
so large that the faucets had to be located at one corner
Figure 5. Wall-hung vanities create an
open feeling and allow the in-floor heating to run all the way
to the exterior wall — decreasing any chance that the
plumbing in the cantilever will freeze.
The supply lines and drains run through the conditioned space
behind the drywall and close to the subfloor in the joist bays.
With foam insulation below and radiant floor heat above,
there’s little danger that the plumbing will freeze. The
homeowners have been through two colder-than-normal winters
without any problems.
To avoid piercing the roof with additional vents, we installed
air-admittance valves (AAV) in each of the cabinets. Because
our plumbing code is about to change, it may not be possible to
use AAVs for this application in the future.
Ed Miller owns E. Miller &
Associates, a design-build remodeling company in Cedarburg,