Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Close up of opened automatic stainless integrated dishwasher machine

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Which is right for you?

Comparing integrated and freestanding dishwashers based on their functionality, style and appearance, noise level, and more.

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Key Facts

  • An integrated dishwasher is built into your kitchen cabinetry for a seamless look that blends with your decor.
  • A freestanding dishwasher is a standalone appliance that can be placed anywhere in your house or kitchen.

Having a dishwasher is a game changer. Studies have shown that households equipped with a dishwasher use, on average, 50% less water and 28% less energy per cleaned item than those without. No wonder many homeowners are considering investing in one.

However, when it comes to purchasing, one of the major decisions you must make is whether to go for an integrated vs freestanding dishwasher. It sounds simple enough, but you actually have to consider the design of your kitchen and how you interact with your space every day.

That’s why this guide will help you understand the differences between these two types of dishwashers. Let’s find out which one is best suited for your lifestyle.

What is a fully integrated dishwasher? 

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: a close-up of a fully integrated dishwasher with washed dishes

A fully integrated dishwasher is an appliance designed to blend perfectly with your cabinetry. The controls are also tucked away inside the door. This makes the appliance virtually invisible when it’s closed.

Integrated appliances like these are perfect for folks who love a sleek and uncluttered kitchen look. When done right, you’ll only notice this dishwasher by its handle.

And because this dishwasher sits inside your cabinets, there are no visible sides. That means no gaps to clean or exposed edges to catch dust and debris.

What is a freestanding dishwasher? 

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: An open freestanding dishwasher in apartment

A freestanding dishwasher is your go-to if you want flexibility and convenience in your kitchen setup. Unlike its integrated counterpart, a standalone dishwasher doesn’t need to be hidden behind furniture.

You can spot it right away because you’ll see its controls on the outside. This type is ideal for renters or homeowners who like switching things up without fuss.

Whether redesigning your space or moving homes, just unplug it and take it with you. Plus, it can fit into any kitchen layout without custom cabinetry.

Freestanding vs integrated dishwasher: Which is a better investment?

Choosing the kind of dishwasher you get is more than just a matter of taste. But don’t worry. This guide will break down the difference between integrated and freestanding dishwashers in a way that’s easy to understand. It might seem like an overwhelming decision, but it all boils down to the following factors.

In terms of functionality

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Dishwasher washing dishes to show its functionality

Aside from offering the best look, integrated dishwashers are also more than capable of handling any dish load. They can even clean wine glasses with specific settings to prevent breakage and ensure a spotless finish.

Freestanding dishwashers, on the other hand, are all about flexibility and ease of access. You won’t have to open a cupboard door to adjust settings or check if the cycle’s done. Plus, these models often come with program options for both dishwasher powder and tablets.

However, freestanding dishwashers are generally more versatile in their internal configurations. They have adjustable racks and shelves that can accommodate large pots, pans, and awkwardly shaped items. This means you can customise the interior to suit your specific washing needs, whether you’re hosting a big dinner party or simply doing the daily dishes. 

Recommendation: Both dishwashers share the same core functions, but freestanding units are more customisable.

In terms of style and appearance

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Open dishwasher with clean utensils in it.

It’s clear that integrated models offer a simpler look by blending seamlessly with your kitchen. They’re the go-to choice if you’re aiming for a minimalist kitchen design where appliances don’t interrupt the flow of cabinetry.

On the flip side, freestanding dishwashers give you more freedom to showcase your appliance’s design. With various finishes and styles, they can complement or contrast with your kitchen’s aesthetic.

Now, semi-integrated dishwashers strike a middle ground. They do integrate with the kitchen layout, but they still display the appliance’s control panel. This option allows for a bit of the dishwasher’s personality to shine through without completely taking over the kitchen’s design theme. They’re perfect for those who appreciate the convenience of seeing the controls at a glance but still want the cohesive look of built-in appliances.

When we talk about dimensions, the standard dishwasher size fits both freestanding and integrated models. However, both styles also offer slimline dishwashers that are ideal for smaller kitchens or reduced spaces. 

Recommendation: When it comes down to it, your choice really depends on your kitchen’s layout and your personal style preferences.

In terms of noise level

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Charming woman covering her ears due to the noise level of her dishwasher

Everyone wants a quiet dishwasher, but there’s quite a bit to think about. Integrated models are often quieter, partly because they’re inside cabinets, which helps dampen the sound. On the other hand, freestanding dishwashers might not have the extra buffer, so they’re a little extra loud.

However, many manufacturers are now focusing on creating dishwashers that won’t interrupt your home life, whether it’s an integrated or freestanding unit. The key is to look for models specifically marketed as having low noise levels. These often have additional insulation and advanced motor technologies to reduce noise.

You can also take some measures to minimise dishwasher noise further. Placing your unit on a rubber mat can significantly reduce vibration sounds. Surrounding the dishwasher with insulation panels or installing it near sound-absorbing materials like curtains or carpeted floors can also help. If you’re not particularly good at DIY, you can easily hire pro handymen who can take care of these odd jobs for you. 

Recommendation: Choose integrated dishwashers if low noise levels are a top priority for you.

In terms of the installation process

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Two male installing a dishwasher in a someone's kitchen

Integrated dishwashers call for a bit more elbow grease than their freestanding counterparts. You’ll need to ensure they fit snugly into your kitchen cabinetry.

There are guides on installing dishwashers, but it can be a tricky task for those who aren’t as experienced with plumbing or carpentry work. It can also be a chore to look into how to take out a built-in dishwasher when it’s time to replace an older unit or move somewhere else.

Alternatively, freestanding dishwashers are pretty straightforward. They’re plug-and-play. Plus, they tend to be more budget-friendly and can easily be moved around if needed. 

Recommendation: A freestanding unit may be the better choice for convenience and easy installation.

In terms of energy efficiency

 Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: Close up of a person setting economy cycle on dishwasher

Dishwashers are energy efficient from the get-go. However, integrated ones have a slight edge due to better insulation. This extra layer helps them keep the heat in, making them more efficient during cycles.

Freestanding units might not be as snug with your cabinetry, which can lead to a bit more energy use over time. There are some models that have stepped up their game with eco-friendly features, though. They’re designed to use less water and power per cycle, which is great for your bills and the planet. 

Recommendation: For greater energy efficiency, it might be worth looking into models of both integrated and freestanding dishwashers that have received Energy Star certification

In terms of cost

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher: A family purchasing modern dishwasher in a hypermarket

While the purchase price of the dishwasher itself may seem comparable at first glance, the total cost of ownership can vary significantly between freestanding and integrated models. For instance, installation can go from £350 to £700 in the UK.

Freestanding dishwashers present a broad price range, from about £219 to £2,000. This includes everything from the most basic models suited for tighter budgets to high-end options packed with advanced features for those willing to invest more.

Integrated or built-in dishwashers have a pricing spectrum that stretches from £220 to £1,399. While the starting point is similar to that of freestanding models, the upper limit is notably lower. This can mean that there are fewer premium options. 

Recommendation: The starting price for both integrated and freestanding dishwashers is close, but the premium variants can have very different price tags.

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And, if you decide to invest in either an integrated or freestanding dishwasher, you can also find experts who can handle the installation for a completely hassle-free experience.

Integrated vs freestanding dishwasher

Integrated Dishwasher
Freestanding Dishwasher
Customisable to match the cabinetry, offers seamless look
Versatile placement options, easy access
Style and Appearance
Blends with kitchen cabinetry for a unified appearance
Visible and available in various styles
Noise Level
Generally quieter due to cabinetry buffering sound
Potentially louder due to no extra insulation
Installation Process
Requires precise integration with cabinetry, needs professional assembly
Easier to install, typically plug-and-play
Energy Efficiency
Slightly more energy-efficient due to better insulation
May use slightly more energy due to lack of insulation
Comparable initial costs, potential higher installation costs
Generally lower cost in both purchasing and installing

FAQs on integrated and freestanding dishwashers

Integrated dishwashers fit into the kitchen furniture, but they can be more expensive and offer fewer models than freestanding dishwashers.

A semi-integrated dishwasher is designed to be partially built into your kitchen cabinets, with the control panel remaining visible and accessible.

No, integrated dishwashers come in different sizes to fit various kitchen layouts but most commonly adhere to standard dimensions to fit under a countertop.

The better option between using a dishwasher or hand washing depends on several factors. For most people, using a dishwasher is generally more efficient and uses less water than hand washing. Dishwashers also tend to clean dishes more thoroughly. However, hand washing may be preferable for delicate items.

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