Freestanding vs. built-in dishwasher: Close up of opened automatic stainless built-in dishwasher machine

Freestanding vs. built-in dishwasher: Which is right for you?

Comparing built-in and freestanding dishwashers based on their functionality, style and appearance, noise level, and more.

Hire an expert dishwasher

Last Updated on

Key Facts

  • A built-in dishwasher is integrated 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.


Dishwashers used to be a luxury item that only existed in the homes of the wealthy. Today, they've become an essential appliance for many households that there are now so many options available on the market.

Because of this, choosing the right dishwasher can be overwhelming. One of the main decisions to make is whether to go for a freestanding vs. built-in dishwasher. They might seem similar in function, but they actually have differences you'd only see once you go down the rabbit hole of comparing them.

That's what this guide is for. This article will discuss each dishwasher type on your behalf. All you have to do is read on and find out which one is the best fit for your household.

What is a built-in dishwasher? 

Freestanding vs built-in dishwasher - a close-up of a fully integrated dishwasher with washed dishes

A built-in dishwasher, sometimes also called 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.

Built-in 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? Freestanding vs built-in 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.

Built-in vs. freestanding 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 everything down in a way that’s easy to understand. What is the difference between built-in and freestanding dishwashers? Why are integrated models harder to install? These questions might seem overwhelming, but it all boils down to the following factors.


In terms of functionality

Freestanding vs built-in dishwasher - Dishwasher washing dishes to show its functionality

Aside from offering the best look, built-in 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 pods.

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 customize 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 customizable.


In terms of style and appearance

Freestanding vs built-in dishwasher - Open dishwasher with clean utensils in it

It’s clear that built-in 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-built-in 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 built-in models. However, both styles also offer slimline and portable 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

Freestanding vs built-in 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. Built-in 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 a built-in 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 minimize 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 built-in dishwashers if low noise levels are a top priority for you.


In terms of the installation process

Freestanding vs built-in dishwasher - Two male installing a dishwasher in a someone's kitchen

Built-in 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

Freestanding vs built-in dishwasher - Close up of a person setting economy cycle on dishwasher

Dishwashers are energy efficient from the get-go. However, built-in 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 built-in and freestanding dishwashers that have received Energy Star certification. 


In terms of cost

Freestanding vs built-in 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 built-in models. For instance, installation can go from $250 to $2,500 in the US.

Freestanding dishwashers present a broad price range, from about $270 to $1,500. 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 $650 to $2,600. The starting point is a lot higher than that of freestanding models, and the upper limit is notably higher as well. This is probably because of this type’s more advanced features. 


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

Streamline your daily chores – achieve hassle-free dish cleaning with Airtasker

Choosing between a freestanding and a built-in dishwasher involves considering your kitchen's layout, budget, and energy-saving preferences. But, believe it or not, there’s an easier way to tackle all your dirty dishes.

With Airtasker, you can effortlessly post a task and connect with experienced professionals who specialize in kitchen and dish cleaning services. They'll ensure your space is spotless without hassle and make your life a whole lot easier.

If you still prefer the peace of mind of having a dishwasher in your home,  the installation doesn't have to be another chore on your list. Taskers who can get your new appliance up and running in no time. 

Freestanding vs. built-in dishwasher


Built-in Dishwasher
Freestanding Dishwasher
Functionality
Customizable 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
Cost
Comparable initial costs, potential higher installation costs
Generally lower cost in both purchasing and installing

FAQs on freestanding and built-in dishwasher: Which is right for you?

Using a built-in or integrated dishwasher as a freestanding unit is not recommended. Since these models are designed to be enclosed within cabinets, they lack the finished sides and top that freestanding dishwashers have for standalone use.

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

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

Related articles

Related price pages

Find cleaning services, fast

Post a task