What are the most common problems with washing machine installation and maintenance?

Friday, April 26, 2019

We test a washing machine briefly in a short cycle during a home inspection to verify its basic functions are alright, but most of our inspection is visual, and here’s some of the things we typically find wrong:

Lid switch not functional - Newer and more expensive washing machines automatically lock the lid when the tub is spinning, but many washers have a simple switch under the lid that stops the spin for safety when the lid is opened.

Drain hose run too long - Manufacturers recommend no more than a 4-foot extension to a basic drain hose. When the extensions get too long, organic debris collects in the trap of the hose and creates a foul smell over time. For more details, read What is the maximum length for a washing machine drain hose?

Drain diverted to ground - The washing machine drain water is classified as “gray water” because it likely to be contaminated with fecal matter from underwear or diapers that contains ecoli bacteria, so both the building code and local health department require that it be drained to a septic or sewer system. See our blog post Is it alright to disconnect the washing machine drain from the septic tank and divert it to the ground in the yard?
Corrosion at hose faucets - It can be galvanic corrosion or just simple rust but, either way, eventually the faucet handles freeze and leaks begin at the hose fitting.

No hot water faucet - Yes, we know some people only wash their clothes in cold water, but hot water service to the washing machine is required by the building code. Go to our blog Is a hot water faucet required at a washing machine? for more details.

Drain hose not secured to standpipe or hole in faucet box - If not secured, the surge of water at the beginning of a drain cycle can cause the hose to jump out of the standpipe or faucet box and flood the floor. Here’s examples of the wrong and right way to do it. Find out more at our blog post Is a washing machine drain hose required to be secured at the standpipe? 

Standpipe too tall or short - Washing machine manuals typically specify a minimum height of 39” for the entry of the drain hose into the standpipe or faucet box, and a maximum height of 96” (8 feet). The minimum height is intended to avoid backflow siphoning of the drain water into the machine, and the max is the tallest column of water that the drain pump is rated to handle. But no horizontal dimension is specified. Here’s the specs in a Whirlpool manual, shown below.

    For more on this, see our blog post What is the correct height for the washing machine drain standpipe or outlet box? 

    Standpipe sealed - Although it seems to make sense to seal the connection between the washing machine drain hose and the standpipe, like in the photo below, the plumbing code requires an air gap to avoid a vacuum-induced siphoning of the water out of the washing machine. Go to Is a washing machine drain hose required to be secured at the standpipe? 

Leaking onto floor - Sometimes it’s just a little puddle, but that’s still a problem.

Not on a dedicated electrical circuit - A washing machine uses enough amperage to require its own individual circuit and receptacle. When a washer is plugged into an extension cord running to a general-purpose wall receptacle, that’s a problem. See our blog post Which house appliances need a dedicated electrical circuit? for more on this. Also, the receptacle may be required to be GFCI-protected, base on where it is located. See Does a washing machine receptacle outlet require GFCI protection? for details.

    And, although it is not a defect, we encourage replacement of rubber washing machine hoses. To learn why, see our blog post Why are rubber washing machine hoses a safety risk?

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Here’s links to a collection of our blog posts about APPLIANCES: 

 What are the building code requirements for installing an appliance (furnace, air handler, water heater) in the attic?

 When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required? 

 Why does venting a clothes dryer into a garage, attic, or crawl space cause problems?

 Does a refrigerator water supply line require a shutoff valve behind it? 

 My spa tub stopped working. What's wrong?

 What is the maximum recommended height above the floor for an above-the-range microwave?

 Why would a home have natural gas appliaces but no gas meter? 

 Is a hot water faucet required at a washing machine?

 Can I remove a 240-volt range receptacle and hard-wire the range? 

 Can a dishwasher be wired to a kitchen counter small appliance receptacle circuit?

 Why is it bad to have a clothes dryer vent near an air conditioning condenser (outdoor unit)? 

 Do home inspectors test the appliances?

 What are the most common defects with over-the-range microwaves?

 Are a range and refrigerator required kitchen appliances for a house to pass FHA inspection? 

 What are the code requirements for an outdoor dryer vent cover?

 What is the maximum length for a clothes dryer vent? 

 Why are my ceiling fan blades drooping?

 How do you inspect a dryer vent? 

• Why is there a water hose connected to the back of the clothes dryer?

     Visit our APPLIANCES page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles. 

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