Integrated vs Freestanding Washing Machine – Pros & Cons

Integrated vs Freestanding washing machine

The great debate between integrated and freestanding washing machines!

I’m focusing on when you have to have your washing machine in your kitchen. The best solution, in my opinion, would be to have a separate area for your washing machine, such as in the laundry or utility room, and have a freestanding washing machine in there.

However, not everyone has that luxury, and more and more these days people have to put their washing machine in their kitchen.

This leads to the battle, integrated versus freestanding washing machine. In this post, I’ll explain the difference and look at the pros and cons so you will have all the information you need to know which is best for you. 

Integrated washing machines

Integrated (or built-in) washing machines fit in between your kitchen cabinets.  They are not actually in a complete cabinet like your oven might be.

They will have a cabinet door on the front of them so they blend in with the rest of your kitchen cabinets and look like a normal cupboard. The bottom and legs of the appliance are set back to allow your kitchen plinth to run along the base in front of the machine.

In order to fit in as if they were a cupboard, integrated washing machines are slightly thinner, shorter and shallower than freestanding washing machines.

This allows them to sit in-line with your cabinets with a matching door on the front of them and still have enough space at the back for any pipes and water connections.

Always check you have enough space for your waste water pipe. Alternatively, position it so it’s not directly behind the appliance.

However, the smaller size often means that integrated washing machines have a smaller load capacity. They also cost more than a freestanding washing machine and often have fewer functions.

There are also overall fewer integrated machines available on the market.

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Integrated washing machine
Integrated washing machine
Pros
  • Don’t see it (design freedom)
  • Doesn’t stick out between cabinets (sits flush in-line)
  • Often slightly quieter (because of the cabinet door)
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Less choice
  • Cabinet door may need replacing  (shake and moisture)
  • Will need expert fitting
  • Can’t bring it with you if you move

Top tip: The cabinet door that is fitted to the front of an integrated washing machine can usually be fitted to hinge on either side. However, almost all washing machines doors are hinged on the left-hand side.

Keep this in mind when designing your kitchen layout as you want to avoid having your cabinet hinges on the right and your machine hinges on the left (or vice versa). This will leave a narrow gap to access the machine.

Try and position your washing machine on the left side of a kitchen run and make the cabinet door left-side hinged as well to give you the maximum opening space to use your machine.

Integrated washing machine
Example of what not to do.
Doors hinged on opposite sides

Freestanding washing machines

Freestanding washing machines are more common and can be placed anywhere, as long as they can be connected to a drain and plugged into a regular power socket.

There is far more choice on the market for freestanding washing machines. At the time of writing this post, there are 253 freestanding versus 36 integrated washing machines available to buy on AO.com.

As well as more choice, freestanding washing machines can be much cheaper. You are also likely to get far more features and better build quality for the same price as a basic integrated machine.

You can also get a much larger capacity drum in a freestanding washing machine, as they are bigger in overall size. However, because they are bigger, they will stick out from your kitchen cabinets. This can spoil the look, especially if you want to have a modern sleek-looking kitchen.

Freestanding washing machine
Freestanding washing machine
Pros
  • Less expensive
  • More choice
  • Easier to replace (if you have to)
  • Can bring it with you if you move
Cons
  • Bigger (sticks out in the kitchen)
  • Spoil the look of the kitchen

Things to consider when buying a washing machine

Along with the price and size of the appliance, the other important factors to consider when buying a washing machine are:

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Drum capacity

This is measured in kg (kilograms) and will usually range from 4 – 13kg, depending on the model. The capacity is based on the number of kgs of dry clothes that will fit inside the machine. This is a maximum load size – some settings such as synthetics shouldn’t be filled to the max.

Don’t think bigger is always better. If you don’t fill the drum to its maximum for the particular setting, the washing cycle won’t be as effective. Bigger drums cost more to buy and run.

Don’t get confused with the size of the machine itself. The capacity is what’s important when you need to consider how much laundry you can fit in one load.

I’ve made this table to give a quick guide to what the drum capacity means in the real world. It shows the size of the drum and how many average-sized towels can fit in it.

Washing machine drum size chart

Decibels (dB) measure how loud an appliance is. When it comes to washing machines there are two numbers to consider: the noise level during a wash and the noise level during a spin cycle.

Noise level – spin and wash

The spin cycle noise level will always be louder, but keeping your eye on both of these numbers while shopping around will give you a much better idea of the overall noise you will get from the machine.

The higher the decibels (dB), the louder the noise is. Small differences in these numbers actually have a big effect. If something is 60dB then you would think that 30dB is half as loud. This is not the case. 50dB is half as loud as 60dB. If you went down to 30dB, that’s actually 1/8 as loud as 60dB.

So these numbers matter!

Here is a handy chart that explains the real-world equivalent of dB measurements:

Decibel chart
Decibel chart

Energy and performance ratings

Two things to consider here: the overall energy rating of the appliance and the performance rating of the wash and spin cycles.

The overall energy rating will give you a good idea of the running costs of the appliance. The performance ratings focus on particular aspects. Both are rated using the letter system, with A being the best. That means you can tell both efficiency and wash and spin ability of the machine from these ratings.

Special functions

All washing machines will come with a number of functions that control the type and temperature of the wash. However, with new technologies, there are more and more functions becoming available.

Some of these, such as speed washes or washes for sensitive skin, can be really useful. Others, such as WiFi app control, are less essential but might appeal to you.

Have a look at all the functions available on each model and make sure it has that particular setting or feature you are looking for.

FAQ:

Are integrated washing machines a standard size?

Pretty much. They are all designed to fit in a standard 600mm wide space and have a 600mm wide cabinet door attached to them, with a kitchen worktop above.

However, where they can differ a little (usually due to drum size) is how deep the appliance is. This can vary by a few centimetres, so make sure you have enough depth to fit the machine flush with the other cabinets.

The usual standard size is: 81-82cm high x 59.5-60cm wide x 52-58cm deep.

Do integrated washing machines need a cabinet?

No, they fit between cabinets or a cabinet and end panel. Integrated washing machines 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 for support.

They will need a cabinet door that gets attached to the front of the machine. This can be attached and hinged either direction. You then open this cabinet door to access the washing machine door and program buttons.

Can a freestanding washing machine be integrated?

Sort of. You can buy a freestanding appliance and enclose it in a bespoke cabinet and put a door in front of the machine to hide it away.  

In order to do this, however, you will need to make this cupboard deeper and wider than a standard cabinet. This is because freestanding washing machines are bigger than integrated.

If you want to keep a flush finish with the rest of your kitchen cabinets, you will need to make these deeper or pull them off the wall slightly to create a deeper gap.

You will also need a non-standard width door that is wider than the machine in order to cover it – something at least 700mm wide, or perhaps two doors 400mm wide.

You will need it more than just a little bit wider than the size of the machine (usually 600mm) as you have to take into consideration the size of the hinges as well.

It can be done, but it’s not the simplest thing. A good carpenter or kitchen designer will be able to help you with this task if you need it.

Can you replace an integrated washing machine with freestanding?

Yes, but there are some considerations.

Firstly you need to make sure that the space you have is big enough to fit a freestanding washing machine. 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 washing machine 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 mean that the finish could get damaged if any water, from for example mopping the floor, gets in.

When possible, you should protect this cut section by adding plinth returns that run from the cut back towards the wall, sealing in the freestanding appliance. If unsure, ask your builder or kitchen designer.

If you found this helpful, check out my Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips – from a Kitchen Designer.