Planning Guide: Mudrooms

Every house needs a clean, well-organized spot where family and friends can hang their coats, stash their boots, and neatly rest all of their bags, hats, scarves and backpacks. Yes, everyone needs a mudroom—and with careful planning, you can create one that's not just a staging area, but a true command central.

Photo: cynthialynn.com

As the main staging area for arrivals and departures, the mudroom is a much-relied-upon space. If your floor plan doesn’t include a mudroom, you can create one by screening or walling in a section of an existing room, by finishing an attached porch, or by building a small addition. However you go about it, once you have a mudroom, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without one!

LOCATION
Whether you start from scratch or convert an existing room—or part of it—into a mudroom, choose a location that is frequently used by your family to get in and out of the house. Kitchens or pantries with entry doors to the exterior are ideally suited to incorporate a mudroom. Garages are also excellent candidates. Utility or laundry rooms with an outside entrance make good mudrooms as well—you can wash and dry the wet, dirty clothes on the spot! The same is true of basements that are equipped with plumbing and have entry doors to the exterior.

Farmhouse mudroom

Photo: pocketfullofblue.blogspot.com

FLOORING
Because the main function of a mudroom is to keep mud and snow away from the rest of the house, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting the floor dirty—there will be plenty of dirt. So you’ll need to select a durable flooring that is easy to clean.

Tiles make hard-wearing and decorative floors, but for safety reasons choose nonslip styles. Vinyl tile and linoleum flooring is durable and washable too, but make sure that the color and pattern you pick will hide dirt and stains easily. Another good option is concrete. Its easy maintenance makes it perfect for mudroom floors, and when stained, colored, or painted, it can be a very attractive flooring material.

Related: How to Stain Concrete

Whatever you choose as your flooring surface, be sure to place fiber mats or absorbent rugs near the entryway to catch water and dirt before they get tracked through the house. It’s a good idea to install a boot scraper just outside the entrance to your mudroom, so dirt and mud won’t even make it over the threshold.

If you have the budget and your home allows for it, consider installing a drain in the center of the room and angling the floor slightly so that water and slushy, melting snow can drain away and you can easily wash out the room as often as required. If it’s not practical to place a drain in the center of the room, consider putting it in a corner where you can set a mesh rack above it for wet boots and shoes. If a drain is not possible, a sturdy rubber mat with sidewalls should do the trick.

Mudroom  Decor

Photo: bhg.com

EXTRA STORAGE
As any homeowner knows, you can never have enough storage; this is especially true in your mudroom. Because it’s the main pickup and drop-off spot in the house, the mudroom needs to accommodate coats, scarves, boots, cycling helmets, and backpacks—thereby stopping these items from littering entryways, hallways, and bedrooms.

One way to eliminate clutter is to install cabinets fitted with pegs, shelves, and drawers. Assign a specific storage space to each family member. Make them all responsible for putting away their own coats, shoes, and other items they use every day. If the budget allows, include upper cabinets in the plan. They’re great for stashing out-of-season items.

It’s also a good idea to include a storage bench in the mudroom. It’s not only convenient for removing wet shoes, but it also provides a space below where those shoes can be stowed. (And if the bench is sturdy enough, you can use it to reach those handy upper cabinets!) Again, if you are going store your shoes in cubbyholes beneath the bench, use plastic trays or mats cut to size to make cleanup easier.

QUICK EXIT AND ENTRY
Mudrooms can help create a hassle-free start to the day and a relaxing homecoming in the evening—if they’re well organized. As you’re planning, make sure there’s a place for everything. For example, set up decorative bowls or pegs for car keys and keep a notepad by the door for reminders, or even put up a cork board, whiteboard, or chalkboard where family members can leave notes. Set up a charging station for your electronic devices (if your mudroom is heated) so that you won’t forget your phone in the morning. Use pegs or a vintage coat rack to hang dog leashes, shopping bags, and coats so they’re easy to grab quickly. One more practical addition: a mirror to ensure that you leave the house looking well turned out.

WARM WELCOME
Your guests, family members, and even pets will appreciate coming in from the freezing outdoors to a warm and cozy mudroom. To keep the space toasty, you may need to rely on a space heater or heat lamp (which can also help dry damp clothes), or you can connect the room to the home’s central heating or hardwire an electric baseboard system. If you have a pet, once the room is sufficiently heated, you could consider putting a pet bed in a corner and making the room your companion’s special retreat.

In addition to adequate heating, it’s essential to have proper ventilation in a mudroom to keep the air fresh (there are likely to be a lot of shoes here after all!) and to prevent the growth of mildew and mold. If there are no windows in the room that you can open for fresh air, a bathroom-type exhaust fan can do the trick.

CONTROL ROOM
For frequent travelers who worry about bedbugs or dedicated hikers who are concerned about ticks, the mudroom can be a great place to “decontaminate” when you return home. If you have a washer and dryer in the room, simply unpack or undress in the mudroom and start up a laundry cycle. (Keep some robes and slippers in the room to help with this process!) If your laundry facilities aren’t close by, keep plenty of heavy-duty plastic bags on hand to transport clothing from the mudroom to your laundry room.

One final selling point: If you suffer from allergies, a mudroom can be effective in minimizing the amount of outdoor allergens like dust, pollen, and mold that enter the house on your clothing.

CHEERFUL DECOR

Even though it has the word “mud” in its name, your mudroom does not need to be drab. You can paint the walls in bright colors and use color-coded storage units and decorative baskets, making the room lively while still keeping things stored neatly and out of sight. Paint a wall with chalkboard paint and you’ll also have an attractive and useful means of keeping your busy family organized. Installing pendant or recessed lighting instead of fluorescent will make the room feel more like home than a storage area—and, after all, it’s both!