Can you add In Suite Laundry to Units that Don’t Already Have it?

In Suite Laundry is one of prospective Buyers most desired features. Whether that’s because of a bad experience sharing Laundry with neighbors, years of trekking to a laundromat or the desire to buy yourself fancy machines for all types of fabrics (that would be mine!), in suite laundry is a luxury.

Unfortunately, not every condo building in East Van offers in suite laundry, and contrary to popular belief, not every condo building in East Van allows you to install in suite laundry.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that in suite laundry became a common feature in Vancouver condo units (around the same time that poor design of buildings eventually lead to “leaky condos”.. thankfully that issue can be corrected as well). Until then, condos were built with shared laundry rooms. These rooms are typically found on the parkade level of the building, but they can be found on the main floor, or on every floor (which is ideal if you can’t have in suite). These rooms often have a few of clothes washers and a few clothes dryers and a sink. The washers and dryers are often coin operated (and can be anywhere from 25 cents to $2.50 per load) or the building may have an automatic card machine allowing you to add money to a card so you don’t have to carry change. Given that you’re sharing the laundry, you have to be diligent in removing your clothes once the cycle has ended, which means setting a timer on your phone and making sure you’re home to do it!

Adding In Suite Laundry to a Condo

If you don’t like the sounds of sharing laundry, you’ll likely be interested in adding it to your unit. The ability to add in suite laundry depends on a few factors:

  • size of pipes and drain lines;
  • ability to vent the dryer;
  • having space for the machine near a plumbing source; and
  • getting strata permission

Size of the Pipes and Drain Lines

Some 1970s buildings were built with smaller piping and drain lines which wouldn’t have the capacity to handle the extra pressure that water from a washing machine would produce (especially if it’s occurring in multiple units at the same time). This could lead to backlogs and drainage issues, potentially causing flooding. The only way to know if your building could handle added washing machines is analysis by a plumbing engineer who would have to test the whole system. I’ve seen some condo buildings be proactive at get this analysis done for the benefit of the entire building, whereas other strata require that each owner have the system checked prior to installing laundry.

Ventilation for Dryers

Installing a clothes dryer can be just as tough as installing a clothes washer, as dryers need proper venting, which requires access through the exterior of the building. I don’t know one strata that would allow owners to cut a hole in the exterior of the building to add the proper venting, so assume it’s not possible. You’ll have to be okay with installing the ventless (European style) 2 in 1 machines. These machines do dry your clothes, but it can take a long time, especially if the fabrics are fairly thick. You will always have the option to use the shared dryers if you’re washing sheets or towels and need them especially dry.

Space for the Machine

One other consideration that some Buyers may forget about is the space needed to install the washer/dryer! Not only will you need enough closet space for the machine (which will be a 2 in 1, which is the size of a normal washing machine) but that space needs to be able to access the plumbing/drainage line, ideally through the bathroom shower. If you don’t have closet space for the machine, you won’t be able to install it.

Strata Permission

Finally, your Strata has the right to allow or deny the installation of in suite laundry. Given that washing machines do tap into the common plumbing system, you need strata approval in order to complete the renovation. If other units in the building have in suite laundry, that’s a good sign that you’ll be able to add your own machines, but you still need the specific approval from your Strata. The building may have hit it’s capacity with the number of in suite washer/dryers that can be added, and are no longer allowing them to be installed. Keep in mind, even if the strata gives you the permission to add the machine, if it proves to be a burden on the plumbing system, they can ask that you take it away in the future.

Keep in mind that if you add a washing machine without strata permission and the machine causes a flood damaging your unit and potentially other units, it will be your responsibility to pay for the damages. Your personal insurance may not cover the cost if you added the machines without Strata approval. That is not something I would want to risk.

Moral of the Story?

As a Buyer, you have to be okay with shared laundry if your building wasn’t originally built with the system. Getting in suite laundry approved and installed is a bonus.