In a room where appliances, electrical fittings and water occupy the same space, it’s crucial to make utility room safety a priority of the design

Harvey Jones Laundry Room with pink cupboard space, washing machine and tumble dryer

Linear units in Little Greene’s Confetti, Harvey Jones (


Having a room or area dedicated to doing the laundry or keeping foodstuffs that is separate, while accessible, from the kitchen, has many benefits. Everything you need is close at hand and easy to keep well-organised, any related clutter is kept out of sight of the kitchen and it provides a way to keep dirty laundry away from cooking ingredients. But careful thought and planning is needed to reduce the risk of accidents, from choosing the right flooring to following the rules on electrical safety and designing a workable layout.

Floor safety

Non-slip flooring is a must. Always look for surface finishes recommended for use in areas that may get wet. Durable engineered timber and non-slip tumbled or riven stone finishes are good options. Large-format porcelain tiles, with a textures surface, have fewer grout lines making them easier to clean, while textured luxury vinyl or linoleum is also soft underfoot.

 Wood flooring in utility room

Kahrs Oak Chevron Light Grey engineered wood flooring, Carpetright (

Layout matters

Design the layout to minimise the risk of open doors and drawers causing an obstruction, which brings with it the danger of walking into something causing you to fall or drop what you’re carrying. In particular, plan for at least a metre between units in a U-shaped layout.

 Blue utility room with sink and clear glass doors

Bespoke kitchen with compact walk-in pantry and metal-framed glass partition, Blakes London (

Electrical regulations

Certain electrical work has to be notified to the local building control department so that it meets safety standards. Seek advice from your kitchen fitter or electrician before any work begins. An NICEIC or ELECSA registered contractor can self-certify the work and, if necessary, notify the local building control department.

 Laundry room with cupboard storage and sink,

English Revivial Shaker utility room, from Mereway (

Laundry basics

Allow around a metre of free space in front of washing and drying machines for loading and unloading safely. If the room is particularly small, consider putting the drier on top of the washing machine, but invest in the machine manufacturer’s stacking kit for safety. 

 Harvey Jones Laundry Room with pink cupboard space, washing machine and tumble dryer

Linear units in Little Greene’s Confetti, Harvey Jones (

Avoid cross contamination

It is important to keep dirty laundry separate from stored foods and the cooking area. One way to do this is to invest in a built-in laundry chutes, which delivers clothes directly to the utility area. Specialist companies offer full installation and DIY kits are available for retrofitting.

 Hush Pete Helme Photography laundry room

This laundry chute leads from the bedroom above, project by William Green Architects ( Handpainted cabinets and worksurfaces, Hush Kitchens (

Easy access

Fitting a sliding or pocket door at the entrance to the room saves a lot of floorspace in a small room or when creating a separate area off the kitchen. Good lighting is crucial for carrying out tasks safely and having a glazed door will bring light into a windowless space. Another idea is to install recessed ceiling spotlights that come on automatically whenever the door is opened.

 Mowlem Manhattan utility room with sliding glass doors and island kitchen,

Bespoke Manhattan kitchen with Caesarstone quartz worksurfaces and walk-in pantry with ribbed glass panels and central sliding door, Mowlem & Co (

Food hygiene

Keep foodstuffs fresh and free from mould by storing them in a cool, dry place. Unless you have an air conditioning system, site a pantry on a well-ventilated external north- or east-facing wall within easy reach of the kitchen. Reach high shelves safely by investing in a sturdy step-ladder.

 Humphrey Munson utility room with ladder and shelf storage

Longford Pantry with Caesarstone quartz worksurfaces and oak mini ladder, Humphrey Munson (

Safety first

Expert advice on creating a safe space from Max de Rosee and Claire Sa, directors of architectural practice De Rosee Sa (

  • Unless a property is listed, permitted development (PD) allows you to make internal alterations to your home without planning permission. But you will still need to comply with Building Regulations for any structural, electrical and drainage works. For more information visit the Planning Portal (
  • Good air circulation is vital and also a regulatory requirement when constructing a new utility room. Consider fitting a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) as part of a whole house renovation, which will provide fresh, filtered air in every room. Otherwise, an externally vented extractor fan will help avoid damp or mould caused by heat and moisture. Installing airbricks and trickle vents also decreases the chance of issues with damp and mould arising.

  • If external ventilation is not an option in an existing utility room an electronic dehumidifier will help extract excess moisture from the air. Opting for a condenser dryer can also help, as it does not require venting.

  • For safety, electrical sockets should be installed at a minimum distance of 300mm from a sink or drainer, and never placed directly under a sink or near pipework.

  • It is worth considering installing a gully in laundry areas, as a drain in the floor provides a route out for water from a leaking machine and avoids costly repairs.

  • If you plan to have a boiler or cylinder in the utility room, make sure that there is adequate space around it for future maintenance. Always install a carbon monoxide detector for peace of mind.

  • Utility and laundry rooms can be noisy. Opt for appliances that carry Quiet Mark ( accreditation, as they will have the lowest decibel rating and run quietly.

For more home improvement inspiration, read Grand Designs magazine online for free 

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