What Is a Built-In Dishwasher?

Alicia Sparks
Alicia Sparks
Built-in dishwashers are placed alongside kitchen cabinetry.
Built-in dishwashers are placed alongside kitchen cabinetry.

Unlike its freestanding and portable counterpart, a built-in dishwasher is one that is designed to act as an integrated, more permanent kitchen appliance. Both freestanding and built-in dishwashers present pros and cons. Though, due to the more permanent nature, space-saving features, and typically larger load capacity, a built-in dishwasher is the more common choice among homeowners. Built-in dishwashers are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles at most home improvement and renovation stores. Buyers might choose to install the dishwashers themselves, or they might hire professionals or make use of any installation services the store offers.

Basically, there are two types of dishwashers. The first is a freestanding dishwasher, which isn’t actually connected to the flow of other kitchen appliances and features. The second is a more permanent built-in dishwasher, which is connected to the flow of other kitchen accessories.

Both types of dishwashers present advantages and disadvantages. For example, a freestanding dishwasher is portable and generally less expensive than a built-in dishwasher, if only because there are next to no installation costs. Generally, the only installation-related concern is that of making sure there is enough space for the freestanding model to sit near an appropriate water and drainage source. Since freestanding models are available in a variety of different sizes, this isn’t often an issue. Therefore, portability and price make a freestanding dishwasher a popular choice for someone who rents a house or apartment that doesn’t already have an integrated dishwasher and who doesn’t want to invest money, labor, and permanent appliances in a temporary residence.

On the other hand, since it’s designed for installation under a counter, a built-in dishwasher takes up no kitchen floor space. A fully integrated dishwasher can blend in with the rest of the kitchen appliances and features. Although they’re also available in different sizes, these more permanent models are usually larger than portable versions. This means they can wash more dishes during a single cycle than can their freestanding counterparts, and potentially help the owner save money on energy and water costs. For these reasons, built-in dishwashers are popular choices for homeowners, especially those with families, who plan on living in their current houses for long periods of time.

Shopping for a built-in dishwasher is much like shopping for any other kitchen appliance. They’re available from most in-person and online stores that focus on home improvement and renovation. Since built-in models are available in such a wide array of sizes and styles, it’s easy for most buyers to find models that match their kitchen decors as well as fit their budgets. Built-in dishwashers include installation instructions, and many home improvement websites provide instructions for installing an undercounter dishwasher. Still, do-it-yourself installation might not be an option for everyone, and when this is the case buyers can look to professionals or even any installation services the store might provide.

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Discussion Comments


I live in an older home, and there just isn't room for a dishwasher of any kind in my kitchen. Since we rent, we can't get someone in to see if there's a space underneath a cabinet or something. Honestly, I'd be willing to buy the dishwasher if the landlady would pay to have it installed! It certainly would be an improvement over that one compartment sink we have now.

I used to see ads for countertop dishwashers, but haven't run across any in a long time. They must not have been very popular. Goodness knows, I'd love to have one!


I remember my aunt had a freestanding dishwasher and when it was running, of course you couldn't use the kitchen faucet. Compared to another aunt, who had a built in dishwasher, that looked downright primitive -- and this was in the early 1970s!

One problem with a built-in dishwasher is that you may not be able to diagnose problems very easily. If there's a leak, it might not be noticeable. Our parsonage dishwasher had a leak in it, and it ruined the kitchen floor, but they had to pull it all the way out to see where the leak was coming from.

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    • Built-in dishwashers are placed alongside kitchen cabinetry.
      By: mitev
      Built-in dishwashers are placed alongside kitchen cabinetry.