Why the details matter in a home inspection

illustration of washing machine leaking onto floor

Washing machine overflow trays cost around $30. Without this safety tray, a minor leak can become a major flood, especially if the laundry area is over a living space.

Leaks from a washing machine can do extensive damage. Even a small amount of water seeping under the flooring can lead to significant destruction to the framing and drywall, a lot of which is hidden. By the time the damage is visible, repairs will be messy and expensive.

Even though these trays are not required in some jurisdictions, we always report on whether there is one present, and its condition. Ideally, this pan will be connected to a pipe leading to the exterior, or into a floor drain in the basement.

Stacked washer-dryer with cracked pan  Washing machine overflow pan with crack

A missing or broken safety pan is not just a thirty-dollar repair, though. In the case of this stacked unit in a closet, replacing the pan will require multiple steps, each of which can cause its own problems:

  1.  The water supply to the washer is turned off (let’s hope the valve isn’t rusted and inoperable)
  2. The stacked unit is lifted up and out of its location (not a one-person job; these things weigh up to 300 pounds; and be careful of scraping the walls or floor during the process)
  3. Water hoses and the dryer vent are disconnected (hopefully without spilling too much water or dryer lint onto the floor)
  4. The old broken pan is removed (quick; now’s your chance to clean that floor!)
  5. The floor drain location is carefully marked in the new pan (measure twice, cut once — no do-overs!)
  6. If there is no drain installed, you can either have one put in, or hope that all your leaks are minor enough not to exceed the pan’s capacity.
  7. With the pan in place, make sure the hole you made matches where the drain pipe is (if it’s not, you’ll have to start over with a new pan)
  8. Attach the drain fitting according to the manufacturer’s directions (which is typically, “put the washer and nut over the threaded pipe and tighten carefully”)
  9. Reconnect the hoses and dryer vent (is there enough slack?)
  10. Now comes the fun part: The washer/dryer stack needs to be lifted carefully up and over the lip of the tray (just dragging it over will crack the tray, and you’ll have to start over again)
  11. Don’t put the stack down until it is clear of the lip on all sides.
  12. Turn the water supply back on and check everything for leaks.

Don’t be surprised if a plumber charges you $300 or more in labor to install this inexpensive part. This is why we sweat the small stuff: it may look like a simple repair, but most often it’s not, and if it’s not done correctly, the consequences could be enormous.

Our home inspection reports include these seemingly minor issues not because we want to confuse our clients or frustrate real estate agents. We report on them because minor repairs are often dismissed by home buyers, and it’s our job to make sure they are aware of the consequences of deferring these things.

Buying a house, or want to know about the “minor repairs” in your current house? Give us a call at (301) 208-8289 or click on the Contact Us button.

–Welmoed Sisson, ACI