Integrated vs Freestanding Dishwashers – Everything You Need To Know
Whether integrated or freestanding, a dishwasher is a must-have appliance for any modern kitchen.
A 2018 study found that 49% of UK households have a dishwasher, while a 2012 study showed a staggering two-thirds of US households included a dishwasher.
With more and more people looking to include a dishwasher in their kitchen, and with so many choices on the market, finding the right one can be challenging. And one of the biggest questions is what type of dishwasher you should get – integrated or freestanding?
In this post, I’ll explain the difference between an integrated and freestanding dishwasher, explore pros and cons and share what to look out for when buying a new dishwasher.
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What Is An Integrated Dishwasher?
An integrated dishwasher has a kitchen cabinet door attached to the front of the appliance. This makes it look like it’s built into the kitchen furniture and ‘hides’ the appliance.
Integrated dishwashers, and integrated appliances in general, give a sleek appearance to any kitchen. They are often used in modern kitchens to help create that seamless and uninterrupted look.
There are two types of integrated dishwashers: fully or semi-integrated.
What is A fully integrated dishwasher?
A fully integrated dishwasher has a full-sized kitchen cabinet door attached to the front of the appliance, completely hiding the machine. The control panel is accessed at the top of the dishwasher once opened, forming the top edge of the door.
What is A semi-integrated dishwasher?
A semi-integrated dishwasher has a slightly shorter kitchen cabinet door attached to the front, leaving a strip exposed at the top. This is where the control panel and appliance handle are located. You do not have to have the door open to operate a semi-integrated dishwasher.
Both fully integrated and semi-integrated dishwashers are available in a standard 600mm width and a slimline 450mm width.
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Advantages of Integrated Dishwashers
- Sleek and seamless look
- Quieter (the cabinet door helps dampen noise)
Disadvantages of Integrated Dishwashers
- Need to remove/re-attach the cabinet door if you ever change the appliance.
- Typically more expensive
- Can’t take it with you if you move house
What Is A Freestanding Dishwasher?
A freestanding dishwasher comes with a finished door front as part of the appliance. These appliances do not need a kitchen cabinet door attaching to the front of them.
Freestanding dishwashers are available in different finish options such as white, black and stainless steel.
As with integrated dishwashers, they are available in a standard 600mm and a slimline 450mm width.
Advantages Of Freestanding Dishwashers
- Easier to install and replace
- Generally more affordable
- Can bring it with you if you move house (especially good for renters)
Disadvantages Of Freestanding Dishwashers
- Interrupts sleek kitchen design
- Typically noisier
What To Look For When Buying A Dishwasher
A dishwasher’s capacity is measured in ‘place settings’. One ‘place setting’ is made up of ten items. Generally, this is considered to be a dinner plate, side plate, saucer, bowl, coffee cup, drinking glass, knife, fork and two teaspoons.
Most full-sized dishwashers can hold between 12 and 15 place settings. Slimline dishwashers typically hold between 9 and 11.
Depending on the size of your household, you may want to look for dishwashers with a larger capacity. This also goes for smaller households – if you don’t think you’ll fill the dishwasher before you need to run it, you may want to opt for a slimline model.
The ability to customise the internal configuration of a dishwasher can be very helpful.
Check whether the upper rack can be moved up or down to help give more space for larger pans at the bottom or taller wine glasses at the top. Having flexible items like removable cutlery baskets means you can fit in larger pans and dishes. And prongs that can be laid flat or stood up help to allow different sized items to fit or be held in place.
Check the A rating or look at the estimated annual running costs to help compare the energy rating of different models. The higher the A rating, the less energy the machine uses to operate. Dishwashers with newer technology and water-saving features will help keep energy costs down.
As a general rule, full-sized dishwashers are more efficient than slimline models simply because they can wash more in one go. Similarly, it will always be more efficient if you fill your dishwasher to get the most out of each cycle.
This will be measured in decibels (dB) and will usually tell you the noise level on the maximum setting. The type, make and model of the dishwasher will all impact the noise level, so check and make sure it’s not super noisy if this is important to you.
In general, integrated dishwashers are quieter than freestanding ones, which may be a consideration if you have an open planned kitchen-living space.
All dishwashers should include a few standard settings, including a basic wash, heavy soil and a quick or light wash.
Higher spec machines may offer more complex features and include sensors to determine and adjust the power, temperature and amount of water used for each load.
Many models also include ‘eco modes’ to help save water and electricity, which can be great. However, just remember that “more efficient” sadly doesn’t mean “cleans best”. So while you may save on energy, you might not get the best results.
Look through the different settings a dishwasher has to make sure it includes any special function you may want.
– FAQs –
Are Integrated Dishwashers A Standard Size?
Yes, for the most part.
Integrated dishwashers come in a standard full-size of 600mm or a slimline size of 450mm wide.
The depth and height can vary slightly depending on the model, but most dishwashers are 820mm high and 550mm deep. There are a few XL models (850mm tall) available on the market, too.
Top Tip: Looking for something completely different? Fisher and Paykel offer a dishdrawer dishwasher, sometimes just called dishdrawers. Available in either a single or double drawer model, these machines pull out like drawers rather than have a full-fronted door. They come integrated or freestanding, but all models are a standard width of 600mm. Another option to consider!
Do Integrated Dishwashers Need A Cabinet?
No, they fit between cabinets or end panels.
Integrated dishwashers don’t actually sit inside a cabinet, like a single oven or integrated fridge does. They sit on the floor but need to be between cabinets or end panels for support. They will also need a cabinet door that gets attached to the front of the appliance.
Can A Freestanding Dishwasher Be Integrated?
No, you can’t fix a cabinet door onto the outside of a freestanding dishwasher.
Freestanding dishwashers come with a door already fitted and moulded onto the machine which can’t be replaced by a cabinet door.
Can You Replace An Integrated Dishwasher With A Freestanding Dishwasher?
Yes, but there are some considerations.
Firstly you need to make sure that the space you have is big enough to fit a freestanding dishwasher. It should be fine, as most machines are a similar size, but check the width, height and depth to make sure.
Most likely, however, the freestanding dishwasher will stick out further than the old integrated one. Keep in mind it probably won’t sit flush with any cabinet doors next to it.
The other consideration to make is regarding the plinth. Integrated machines are set back at the base to allow the kitchen plinth to run along the bottom of them seamlessly and make it look like a normal cabinet.
However, if you place a freestanding machine in that gap, you will have to cut the plinth in this section as they aren’t set back at the base.
This shouldn’t be difficult, but it will leave cut edges around the freestanding machine. Depending on the material of the plinth, this could open it up to damage from water or other spills.
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If you’re looking for a new dishwasher, you’re not alone. These machines are now a must-have appliance in every kitchen. The debate between integrated and freestanding dishwashers, however, is less clear cut.
Whether you’re looking for a budget buy or a sleek kitchen look, ease of use or quiet comfort, there’s a dishwasher out there for you. Keep in mind these handy tips and tricks and your journey to freedom from dish duty will be seamless!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.