Updated On

April 8, 2024

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    A washing machine leak can result in thousands of dollars in damages — and that’s assuming you don’t get mold. Add that in, and you’re looking at a homeowners insurance claim totaling $10,000 or more.

    But what if I told you that it’s possible to avoid all that trouble and expense for a mere $150 or less? Behold the washing machine pan, a simple yet effective way to contain water leaks and prevent damage to your home. It’s also easy to install and maintain, so it’s worth doing for the peace of mind alone.

    Interested in learning more about this key laundry room solution? Here’s what you need to know about washing machine drain pans.

    What Are The Types of Washing Machine Pans?

    Put simply washing machine pans are trays that sit under your washing machine to catch leaks before they spread. Washing machine pans vary by material. You can get either metal or plastic pans from all the leading brands, including Oatey, Whirlpool, and Camco.

    Plastic Pans

    Plastic is a popular washing machine pan material because it’s lightweight and affordable. It’s not just ordinary plastic, either. These pans are made from high-impact injection molded polypropylene, making them reasonably durable overall.

    There is still a chance that the plastic could warp or crack, however, resulting in water leaking onto the floor if you don’t notice the damage in time. The risk of plastic washing machine pan materials cracking and warping increases with age. Plan to regularly inspect the pan for damage and replace it at the first sign of a problem.

    Metal Pans

    Metal eliminates the risk of cracks and is a much more robust washing machine pan material. You can get these pans made from stainless steel or galvanized steel. Both resist corrosion quite well, although galvanized metal has a zinc coating for additional protection against rust.

    Despite being so heavy-duty, metal pans can still warp, negating their effectiveness in preventing water damage. These pans are also up to three times more expensive than plastic. Since they last longer overall, metal could still end up offering better value, especially if properly maintained. 

    Plastic, stainless steel, and galvanized steel pans are all easy to install and maintain. There’s no one right answer on which to buy. It all comes down to your preferences and risk tolerance level.

    How To Find the Right Washing Machine Pan Size

    Washing machine drain pans are not a one-size-fits-all solution, either. You must properly measure your machine’s footprint and clearance space to find the right size. Here’s how to do that.

    1. Grab your tape measure, a pen, and scratch paper and head to the laundry room.
    2. Measure the width of your clothes washer by stretching the tape from the left to right sides and write that number down.
    3. Use your measuring tape to find the depth, which is from the front to the back of the machine. Write that figure down.
    4. Measure the clearance space around the washing machine’s front, back, and sides.
    5. Add the width measurement to both side clearances to find the max pan width.
    6. Add the depth measurement to the front and back clearances to find the max pan depth.

    For the best fit, get a pan slightly bigger than your washing machine’s dimensions yet smaller than the max width and depth figures. If you get a pan that extends all the way to the back wall, it could also protect your floor in the event of a washer drain overflow.

    Most washing machine pans don’t work for pedestals with storage drawers. The front wall prevents the drawer from pulling out, greatly limiting its utility. If you’re okay with making that compromise, measure around the pedestal to find the right pan size. Otherwise, consider using a specialty pan that’s much longer or lacks the front lip. 

    What Features of Washing Machine Pans Should You Keep in Mind?

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    Washing machine pans don’t just come in different materials and sizes. Their features also vary considerably. This ensures that there is a pan for virtually every washer model and type. The variations also help you find a pan that will work in your space.

    Number of Sides

    Most washing machine drain pans have four sides. There are three-sided pans, however, for washers with pedestals. The absence of the front wall allows you to use the pedestal drawer for storage. It also means that any water that leaks out will come flowing out of the front of the pan. Have a floor drain installed near the front of the washing machine for extra protection, but only if it makes sense for your home.

    Wall Height

    The wall height for washing machine pans ranges from one to four inches. The higher the walls, the more water the pan can contain. Lower walls have a minimalistic profile that you might consider more visually appealing. You can counter their lower capacity by getting one with a built-in drain.

    Drainage Capabilities

    You can get your washing machine tray with or without a built-in drain. Pans with a drain connect to a drain tube for automatic disposal of leaking water. A drawback of getting the drain model is that water leaks could go undetected longer than they would otherwise. But they do prevent you from having to drain the water manually.

    In addition to these features, some clothes washer drain pans come with noise- and vibration-absorbing pads. This helps protect the pans from damage and keeps the ruckus to a minimum when your washer gets off-balance.

    How Do You Install Washing Machine Pans?

    Washing machine pan installs require different steps depending on whether it has a drain. If your pan connects to a PVC drain tube, follow all the steps. If not, start at Step #9. Remember that you can always hire a plumber if you’re uncomfortable completing any steps.

    Tools and Materials

    • Washer pan
    • Power drill
    • 1-1/4” titanium step bit
    • Silicone caulk
    • Dolly
    • Carpenter’s level
    • Tape measure
    • Permanent marker
    • Safety goggles

    Steps to Installing Your Washer Pan

    1. Use a tape measure to find the drain tube’s location in relation to the walls beside and behind the washer.
    2. Take those measurements and mark where the drain tube will connect to the pan.
    3. Put on your safety goggles and flip the pan over to work from the bottom.
    4. Drill a 1-1/4” hole where you marked the pan using a power drill with a titanium step bit.
    5. Clean up the drain hole by flipping the pan over and drilling from the other direction, if needed.
    6. Apply silicone caulk between the PVC fitting and the floor to create a water-tight seal.
    7. Install the gasket on the fitting and place the pan down with the drain tube fitting poking through the hole.
    8. Add more silicone around the inner threads of the drain fitting and thread on the plastic nut until finger tight.
    9. Have a helper assist in putting the washer on a dolly and roll the washer up to the edge of the pan.
    10. Gently tip the regular or stainless steel washing machine into the pan and slide it into place.
    11. Use the carpenter’s level to check if the machine is level and adjust the feet if not.
    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    If you ever need to remove your washer from the pan, avoid breaking it by using two PVC pipes to roll the machine up and out. Slide the first PVC pipe under the front of the machine and gently work it to near the center. Place the other one in front of the pan and tip the front of the machine onto it. Carefully pull the washer toward you to free it from the pan and remove the PVC pipe.

    Do Washing Machine Pans Require Any Maintenance?

    Washing machine drip pans need very little maintenance to stay in good condition. You just need to visually inspect them for damage and use a wet rag to wipe out any debris.

    Consider doing monthly maintenance checks and cleaning to keep your pan in great condition. At the same time, do a little DIY washing machine maintenance to reduce the risk of leaks, such as:

    • Inspect the water supply hoses for cracks, bulges, and other signs of wear. If you notice any problems, replace them with a set of high-quality hoses. For the most protection against hose failure, use braided-steel hoses instead of rubber.
    • Check the water supply hose connections. Use tongue-and-groove pliers to tighten them if they feel loose.
    • Look at the drain hose to see if it’s properly secured to the washer and inserted into the drainpipe. Correct any issues you find, like loose clamps.
    • Thoroughly clean the detergent dispenser and filter in your washer. Remove both parts, submerge them in hot, soapy water, and scrub them with a soft toothbrush. Rinse and reinstall.
    • Confirm that your washer is level. If not, adjust the feet until the bubble in the carpenter’s level sits in the center.

    So, Is a Washing Machine Pan a Good Idea?

    A leaking washer can quickly cause costly water damage and mold growth. To avoid that, all you need is a properly installed washing machine pan. This plastic or metal tray can catch leaks or even direct the water down the drain, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.

    With the right tools and a little assistance from a trusted helper, you can install the pan yourself, too, saving you even more money. If you’d like to leave this job to the professionals, you just have to hire a plumber to complete the work for you. You may also want to call an appliance repairman to fix your machine or get in touch with your home appliance insurance company.

    Either way, you’ll be glad to have that little pan if your washer ever springs a leak. So, don’t delay for another moment. Complete this home improvement project and stop worrying about water leaks.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Marie Abendroth

    Marie Abendroth

    Marie Abendroth is a former home improvement professional who now focuses on writing articles that help people care for their homes like a boss. Her maintenance must-dos, DIY tricks, and other insider info promise to help make your home the envy of the neighborhood. Whenever she gets a free moment, she loves frolicking with her farm dogs, playing with RC cars, and relaxing in the garden.

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    photo of Andrew Dunn

    Andrew Dunn

    Senior Editor

    Andrew Dunn is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience reporting and editing for local and national publications, including The Charlotte Observer and Business North Carolina magazine. His work has been recognized numerous times by the N.C. Press Association and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He is also a former general contractor with experience with cabinetry, finish carpentry and general home improvement and repair. Andrew earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a certificate in business journalism. He lives in Charlotte, N.C.

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