A stacked front-load washer/dryer is a great space saver – particularly in a small home or condominium. The issues with stacked units becomes clear when one of the units inevitably breaks down. If the model is still being made you may be able to replace one of the units. However, more often than not, the exact model is no longer in production.
If repairing the broken unit that turns out to be too expensive/not possible and an exact replacement cannot be made, the homeowner will usually proceed to purchase the same brand and size washer or dryer on the assumption that it is backwards compatible stacking-wise. It makes logical sense – but your headaches have just begun…
Most appliance companies like Sears, Best Buy, HHGregg and Home Depot will only replace part of the set if the units are deemed “compatible”. Even if you pre-clear that the new model should be compatible with Sears or Home Depot the installer may refuse to touch the old units. For liability reasons they will often NOT re-stack mismatched units and if for some miracle they agree to stack they will want a new compatible stacking kit.
Some companies will not re-stack units at all. They will only install the stackable units if you purchase both units at the same time as a set. So, if you order one replacement unit, (and if you want to take advantage of their haul-away) you will have to unstack the broken unit yourself, get the new stackable unit delivered and then restack the unit yourself after you have accepted delivery (phew…) If you have to get a handyman to help you with this the cost and headaches will in many cases start to approach a new set at $1500-$2000.
What if you have a new stacked set delivered and installed from e.g. Home Depot or Best Buy and one of the appliances break down within the 1 year warranty period? This may shock you, but in many cases they will not come and make the warranty repair unless you have the units unstacked yourself beforehand. They will not unstack the set they delivered and installed that way less than a year before. In the warranty case you may have to hire a separate contractor (typical a 2 person job) to unstack the unit before they come and then again to put it back after they leave. If a part has to be ordered you may have to do this twice as most tenants don’t want a large washer or dryer sitting in the middle of their kitchen or living room while waiting for parts.
Moral of the story
Only buy stacked units if you need the space. Consider the unitized stacked type where the washer/dryer is one piece. Be prepared to deal with lots of logistics or to replace both units when one of them ultimately breaks 1-5-10 years down the road. A $600 repair may be worth it even if you could replace the unit for that amount if the repair person is ok with working on the stacked unit.