Dishing the Dirt on Mudrooms
By: Steve Bonser
After one of the rainiest winters in memory, homeowners tired of using beach towels to soak up wet dirt dragged in on boots, shoes and sandals might want to consider adding a mudroom. No, a mudroom isn’t the place in spas where seekers of youth and beauty plunge into tubs full of spring water and volcanic ash. It’s an area set aside for the removal of footwear, coats, and wet clothing prior to entering the home.
Proponents of mudrooms aver that having a transition point from the outside to living areas makes it noticeably easier to keep carpets and furniture clean. You’ll often hear husbands and wives alike say they can’t imagine how they lived so long without one. (Just on paper alone, the mudroom concept is a dream come true with folks obsessed with organization and de-cluttering as well as the clean freaks among us).
Also on the plus side is the fact that the cost is relatively nominal in comparison to other remodel projects and its practicality is indisputable.
Often located at the secondary entrance from the back porch or off the garage, the mudroom typically has a tile or linoleum floor for easy cleanup and provides wall-mounted hooks for hanging clothing. An increasingly popular feature is the mudroom or entryway bench, a multi-purpose unit which provides a seating area with storage beneath and lockers or cubbies for each family member. Many offer a boxed open space beside the bench seat for vertical storage of umbrellas, canes, and other implements (no putters and baseball bats!)
To ensure compatibility with just about any décor, most mudroom bench ideas are ready-made offerings are in a traditional farmhouse or East Hampton style with white painted wood, recessed tongue and groove panels, and classic black iron or brass hardware. Some sport a varnished wood bench seat to add rustic charm.
There are two approaches to treating your family and visitors to the convenience of a mudroom bench: You may decide to make this a permanent addition to the room or as an in-situ unit which can be moved should you sell. There are a wide variety of plans for available online for the do-it-yourselfer and most carpenters and contractors find mudroom build-outs are a popular request.
Once you’ve decided a mudroom is the next must-have home project in your honey-do jar, here are the necessities for creating the ideal mudroom:
Do it yourself or contractor?
Depending on your available time and skill level, the mudroom seems like a natural do-it-yourself endeavor. Size up the scope of the project and pencil out what you feel comfortable taking on and where you want a pro involved. The good news is that unless you’re affecting the existing square footage of your home or doing anything to alter an exterior wall, its highly unlikely you’ll need a permit.
How many family members?
While it might seem a no-brainer that you’ll be able to accommodate any level of foot traffic and storage necessary, it’s important to provide at least as many wall hooks, lockers or cubbies, and footwear storage spots as members of your tribe. This would be considered a mudroom storage bench. Asking for input from the kids and being inclusive in the planning process is a great opportunity for teaching cooperation and compromise. (Perhaps the United Nations building in New York City should take on adding a mudroom!)
Make flooring part of your design statement.
You may have existing tile or vinyl which will meet the challenge of being wipeable and easy to mop. However, if you want to elevate the look of your mudroom (especially important if it’s located at the main entryway), consider ceramic or quarry tile, natural stone, or luxury vinyl tile. This new generation of vinyl called “LVT” has become increasingly popular due the wide choices of realistic-looking images and textures of wood, tile, and stone. Wood panel flooring and laminates which offer low resistance to water damage are definitely not recommended. Mudroom flooring must be hard-wearing, long lasting, and water-resistant.
Choose your hardware.
After determining the amenities of your mudroom and whether you’ll be including a mudroom bench, shop for hooks and drawer handles. The number of hooks you plan to install and their spacing will help you visualize the dimensions of the wall panels. Obviously you’ll want all of the hardware components to match and share complementary proportions.
Define the dimensions of cubbies or lockers.
With the back panel and hook arrangement settled, pencil out the sizing and number of personal storage spaces so you can establish the necessary width of the mudroom bench or installed panels. If space is at a premium, consider stacking cubbies with easier to reach units for the kids and higher, recessed lockers for adults.
Plan the bench and hinged seat.
The seating area provides the idea showcase for an impressive panel of unpainted, varnished wood. You’ll want a hardwood which has strong eye appeal and natural beauty. Although the better woods are expensive, you won’t need more than two-and-a-half or three linear feet, so it won’t bust your budget. Red oak, walnut, ash, cherry, and maple offer the ultimate in warmth and luxurious grain and finish. Under the hinged seat you may want to have a large, general storage area, create partitioned cubbies or have a footwear tray.
Consider a closet.
If you have a large family or just want more storage, adding a wardrobe or full closet can extend your mudroom possibilities. In addition to offering room for large objects (gardening tools, sports equipment, vacuums, winterwear), having closed off storage keeps the area clutter-free and hides from view items which would detract from the aesthetic.
Laundry room amenities:
Larger mudrooms off the garage or secondary entryway can serve a dual purpose by accommodating the washer and drier. In this case, your design might include countertops, wall-mounted cabinets with drawers and shelving, hanger racks, a clothes hamper, and a utility sink. To keep the temperature down when both machines are running and to disperse detergent odors, you may want to install a ceiling fan in your combo laundry-mudroom. The beauty of combining the two is the practicality of being able to toss wet clothing right into the washer and warming outwear in the drier or hanging to air dry.
If you’ve decided a mudroom, however elaborate or modest, is right for your home, conduct some research online, consult with your local contractor, and get started. Until the next rainy season!