How To Install a Washer and Dryer

*Local Fire Department response times may vary

When my roommate and I moved into our apartment, we inherited a washing machine. The former tenants couldn’t be bothered to move it. I thought this was incredibly lazy; I mean, who would just leave a perfectly functional washing machine behind?

Ed’s note: This is called “foreshadowing.”

The dryer had dizzied its last load several weeks before, and been hauled to the dump, so here we were with a new apartment, and one-half of an in-suite laundry solution.

Our first idea was to pretend we were back in university, and hang our clothes on those flimsy metal drying racks that you can pick up at Wal-Mart for seven bucks. This scheme quickly fizzled, as we realized that hanging several pounds of damp, scrunched-up laundry is even less fun when you are neither drunk nor skipping class.

Idea number two was to cart several saved-up loads of clean, wet clothes three blocks south to the laundromat and use their dryers. Alternatively, you could just start off there with dirty, dry clothes, and for roughly $15 you could wash about two weeks worth of clothing. Both of these options neutralized our free washer advantage, and were obviously unacceptable.

While my roommate managed to live with the combination of drying rack and laundromat, I was wringing my hands at the injustice. They say third time’s a charm, so I gave it one last shot: I bought a dryer.

Buying a dryer would not only liberate me from laundry hell, it would also open my eyes to a whole new universe of technology. Technically, dryers are gear. Domestic gear, but gear nonetheless. With their own jargon and standards, and a long list of superpowers from which to choose. For example, do you want Large, Extra-Large, or Super capacity? 4-, 6- or 8-cycles? Is four heat settings really enough? Can you get by without the variable-volume signal, wrinkle care or reversible door? As it turns out, the correct answers are Super, 8, and no, no, no.

The dryer arrived on a sunny Tuesday, and it brought two delivery men with it. Surprisingly, dryers are very light. So light that the scrawnier of the delivery men tossed it around like it was a large box of Cheerios. We got it up to the apartment, and when I showed him the storage/laundry room, he said, “Geez, that’s gonna be a tight fit. What you need is one o’ those compact, stackable units.”

Thanks. That’s helpful. Advice given as though he could have just wandered back to the truck, slung another unit under his arm and swapped the whole deal. But of course, this is not the case when the dryer that you have painstakingly chosen, and paid for, has been delivered and unwrapped.

Undaunted, I signed the delivery release, shooed him from my home, and did what every good gear-monger does: I read the manual. I read a dryer manual. Right up until the French section started. Then, using the knowledge I had gleaned, I reversed the door. This required a screwdriver, so I had officially crossed the line from mere “consumer” to the edifying rank of “fiddler.” Next, I pushed the hollow tin box into the laundry room, and snugged it up against the washing machine. Meet your new girlfriend. Keep it down, you two.

Next, I attached the dryer discharge hose, which looks like a condom for King Kong. Ribbed for his pleasure and everything. I would be laundering in no time. There. All set. Now to plug ‘er in…

Wait a sec… what the hell is that?

The manual calls it a 120V/240V plug. The guy on the phone at Home Depot called it a 220V plug. “But the manual says it’s a 120/240,” I said.

“Naw, that’s a 220 ya got there.”

“Wouldn’t the manual writers know what kind of plug they’re using?”

“It’s a 220,” he said.

“Fine,” I said. “I need an extension cord for my 220. It doesn’t reach the outlet.”

“Yeah, see, we don’t carry extension cords for 220s. They’re a certain length for fire-hazard reasons. It’s code.”

Code indeed. Lord knows I don’t want to create a fire hazard. Last thing I want is to have the fire department show up!

Ed’s Note: This is also foreshadowing.

So the only way my dryer will work is if it’s closer to the outlet. The only way to get it closer to the outlet is to put it where the washer is now. No problem!

Think of famous duos here. Like, say, Abbott and Costello. Or perhaps Laurel and Hardy. Or Wendy and Carnie Wilson (the skinny and fat sisters, respectively, from Wilson Philips). Am I being subtle enough? Dryers are very light, and washing machines are very heavy. Heavy enough to, say, make the idea of moving one, for any reason, including relocating to another apartment, patently ridiculous.

Ed’s Note: A friend has informed me that Carnie is no longer the fattest of the Wilson sisters, thanks to a recent fatsoplasty (actually called a “gastric bypass”) which was reported in People magazine.

I did a little research, and besides discovering a part called the pecker assembly, I found out why washers are so darn heavy: they have weights in them, sometimes just pieces of concrete, without which the machine would “go into orbit” during the final spin.

But I cannot let a little hard work deter me. I need to wash my clothes here. Yes, I am going to be washing my clothes before the sun sets on this day, come hell or high water.

Ed’s note: are you hearing the Jaw’s theme music yet?

I detach the gorilla safe, then pick up the dryer with a pair of tweezers and store it up on the bathroom shelf, out of the way. Next, I bull-grunt and metal-screech the washing machine out into the hallway. So far so good. Now I gently float the dryer into the washer’s old digs, within striking distance of the… ahem… 220 plug. In she goes. I reattach the mutant monkey rubber and turn the starter dial: hummmmm. That’s the soft sound of Bounty fresh, baby.

Next: reposition the washer. I have now broken a sweat, and the first shadows and curly hairs of plumber butt may be visible to the more discerning eye. Once in place, the washer is rubbing arms with the dryer, and all I have to do is reattach the hoses… ah yes, the hoses.

There are three hoses that allow a washing machine to do its thing: one cold intake hose, one hot intake hose, and one waste-water discharge hose. None of the three will reach the washer at its new longitude, somewhere North of the Tropic of My Dwindling Patience.

This time I go to Home Depot in person. Get a very knowledgeable hose-head who lines me up with two extended intake hoses, and a discharge hose extension with a looped end that will hang snugly in the wall pipe (where the water goes out into the world). I thank him, pay, and get the hell out of there.

Back at home. Screw on some intake hoses. Stuff the old discharge hose into the end of the new discharge extension hose, and dunk its looped beak firmly into the wall pipe. A little duct-tape where the two discharge hoses meet will be good enough until we can see if this jury-rigged setup will come through with the verdict we want (“Not Filthy, your honour”).

We are ready to rock. I put a first, trembling load into the washer. Add some detergent. Set the cycle, and… go!

My laundry room did an impersonation of a circa-60’s western movie character who, after seemingly avoiding hundreds of ricocheting bullets, has a drink of water. You know what I’m talking about. Immediately, leaks are springing from every place I’ve touched, and some I haven’t. I tighten all the hoses. Hmm. Seems to have fixed it. But just in case, I sit and watch ove
r this maiden load’s entire cycle, from fill to final spin. During the spin and water discharge, the duct-taped discharge joint leaked a bit, but nothing some newspaper didn’t soak up adequately.

Ed’s note: … do I need to draw you a picture here?

So that was that. Houston, we have laundry. Things move along spinningly for four days. Then one afternoon, my roommate is at work, and I am playing guitar, washing a load in the background. As I finish a song, I hear a familiar sound. In the background. Where the laundry is. The familiar sound is this:

A tub filling up with water.

But see, there’s no tub in the storage room.

I rush over, and before I can see the problem, I step in it: an inch of water pooled on the linoleum. The looped end of the discharge extension hose has blown itself out of the wall pipe

Ed’s Note: In engineer-speak, this is called “floating.”

and is gushing water like an open hydrant on a sunny day in Harlem. In a sixty-square-foot room. On the second floor of an old apartment building.

I turn off the washing machine and run into the bathroom, scooping up all the towels I can find. On the way back to the disaster I snag an entire issue of the Georgia Straight for good measure. On my knees, cursing, sopping, I notice that the towels seem to be doing the trick. There is a thin, slick layer of moisture, both on the floor and my forehead, but the towels have absorbed the worst of it, as evidenced by their weight as I pick a few up with the intention of putting them in the bathtub for temporary safekeeping.

Geez, that was horrible, wasn’t it? My pulse slows, and a sheepish grin slides across my face. Hey, it could’ve been worse.

It is at this point that the fire alarm goes off.

I don’t know why they say “goes off,” because nothing about this sound would make you think of “off.” This was most definitely “on.” And this is not a plastic, battery-powered, wave-a-dishtowel-to-stop-it alarm, but a huge, school-bell-sized contraption that is embedded in the wall behind a steel grate. There is no stopping it. And it is LOUD. LOUDLOUDLOUD. There are people turning their heads in Winnipeg. My roommate, at work in Richmond, might be hearing this very alarm right now, something she told me only a week ago that she hoped she would never have to do.

Now as far as I know, nothing is actually on fire. But my mind is racing: perhaps the water has dripped into my downstairs neighbour’s electrical system, and with a Simpson’s-esque twist, the leaking liquid has caused his collection of early Picasso charcoal sketches to burst spontaneously into flame.

(Meanwhile, this note has been in my to-do pile for two weeks: “Get insurance.” Aaaah-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Woo-boy, this is funny.)

I call my building manager’s home phone and pager. I open my door in case anybody wants to come see what’s going on. I carry the phone with me, willing it to ring. I have to talk to my building manager, explain that this is all just a false alarm. Reset the alarm. Surely the fire department doesn’t have to come. Surely they won’t come.

A fire truck pulls up outside my building.

Not just any fire truck. My fire truck. For Me. Immense and shiny, it’s a dreadful crimson hulk, hoses primed with guilt, crew stretching their hands and preparing their shaming fingers for wagging. A fire truck. A goddamned fire truck.

There is a small group of tenants gathered on the little patch of lawn, looking up at the building as though it is a family dog that has just growled at them. As the yellow-vinyl and helmet-clad heroes approach, I lean out my window and holler, “Apartment 203. It’s just a water leak, unless the apartment under me is on fire.”

Oh yes, that’s funny. It should give my neighbours a good chuckle. Oh that crazy new guy, they’ll say to each other. Where did I put my rifle?

In the end, the whole event was pretty simple: the fire chief came upstairs, I explained what happened, and he asked me to write my name and phone number down on a piece of paper. Just the back of an ordinary piece of paper, like one you have sitting around in your kitchen. Apparently with all the weightlifting and poker games, firemen don’t have time to produce or photocopy official forms. I like that.

The fire alarm shuts off, and I suddenly have a new appreciation for the absence of sound. My heart rate slows by half. A thick layer of hardened anxiety peels back from my brain, revealing the tender bacon fat underneath.

Ah. Calm.

Later in the afternoon, I am visited by two building engineers who inspect my setup. I ask if I did anything wrong. Not really, but I should have duct-taped the looped end of the discharge hose to the wall-pipe so that any sudden pressure change couldn’t blow it loose. Okay, fine. I have more duct tape. I can do that.

But now the other question: what happened to the apartment below me? It was enough water to short out the heat sensors and set off the fire alarm. Did it drip on his stereo? His sofa? The watercolour Terry Fox painted of his dead mother? How much is this disaster going to cost me?

I suck it up and head downstairs. Knock on the door. Young guy, about my age, answers. I introduce myself. “I’m the guy who leaked water into your apartment. I just wanted to apologize and see if I could help clean up or something.”

He gives me a blank look. Hold on; did I remember to say “water” back there?

“Didn’t you have a water leak in here?” I ask.

He turns to the living room. “Hey guys, did we have a water leak today?” I step into the foyer, and see a half dozen people in red-and-white face paint, wearing Team Canada jerseys. Oh yeah, the Olympic hockey game’s starting any minute now.

“Yeah,” somebody says, “just a little drip in the storage room. No big deal.”

The minor anxiety in the pig fat layer is peeled back, revealing the peaceful, chocolatey centre.

“There ya go,” the first guy says to me. “No problem.”

“That’s great, sorry to bother you.”

“Hey, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the hockey game, you can do whatever the hell you want, man.”

A few hours later, we lost to the Swedes.

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  1. #1 by David - November 9th, 2007 at 13:10

    Directed to the author: I have no idea if you’ll get this comment, but I feel compelled to tell you anyway that I absolutely loved reading about your experience. I was online looking for information on the installation of a 220v dryer – outlet. Not actually the dryer, but the outlet. I started scanning your writing and realized that I’d enjoy it more if I read it word for word – and I have. We’re about to install the outlet this weekend and while my father is a licensed electrician who lives more than 1,000 miles away, I’m hoping that my limited electrical experience from going on jobs with him as a kid and the DIY stuff I’ve done as an adult will help me through this adventure safely and that we won’t be seeing the same gleaming red monster with the firemen wagging their fingers in shame.

    David 🙂

  2. #2 by Joe - May 10th, 2008 at 13:49

    You sir are a testament to men everywhere. Screw the professionals!!! No experience. No idea what we’re doing. No problem! I tip my hat to you.

  3. #3 by Erin - April 19th, 2008 at 19:52

    That was very entertaining to read, on a slow day at work. Thank you.

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