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What Is a Semi-Integrated Dishwasher?

By Geisha A. Legazpi
Updated May 16, 2024
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A semi-integrated dishwasher is a class of electric dishwasher that occupies a niche between the stand-alone and fully integrated dishwasher types. When kitchen space is at a premium, the semi-integrated dishwasher offers the convenience of being built to go under countertops. Unlike fully integrated appliances, however, the operating controls and access panels in the semi-integrated dishwasher are always exposed to view.

For decades, semi-integrated or built-in appliances have been part of modern interior design. Whether in urbanized America, the Euro zone, bustling Asia, and any developing country for that matter, families embraced the convenience of every labor-saving kitchen appliance as it became affordable. Kitchens are traditionally busy places particularly at mealtime, and most appliances were pushed back against the walls to make room for cooking and family meals. Soon enough, home architects devised cubbyholes to keep bulky refrigerators, freezers, and ovens out of the way. Appliance makers themselves earned a premium for bodywork finish that matched or went well with stained wooden walls or laminate countertops.

Beginning the latter half of the 20th century and continuing until the first decade of this century, urban homeowners enjoyed a bonanza of integrated or semi-integrated appliances. Cramped condominium units, vacation homes, and rambling mansions in gated subdivisions all boasted a full complement of “necessities” for modern lifestyle. Semi-integrated dishwashers took their place beside built-in compactors and disposal bins, icemakers, microwaves, refrigerator/freezers, cooktop gas, double ovens, and warmer oven drawers.

The characteristic feature of the semi-integrated dishwasher is that the control panel is on top and typically near the front. This allows the user to conceal everything but the controls behind matching kitchen cabinetry. The front-loading design of most dishwasher models has allowed certain brands tuck the touch-sensitive controls just inside the swing-out door panel, so nothing shows at all.

Front access means the homeowner has a choice of installing the semi-integrated dishwasher “undercounter” style. That is, leave the metallic-finish front panel exposed and have the integrated dishwasher installed under the kitchen countertop. Aesthetics and good taste are still served with an unbroken finish for the kitchen counter.

Using a semi-integrated dishwasher, however, has some disadvantages. First, there is the acquisition cost of semi-integrated dishwashers; the more established and higher-capacity brands are generally much more expensive. Installation and maintenance add to the cost of owning and operating semi-integrated dishwashers. Putting one in does require skillful concealment of power lines, freshwater supply, and drainage pipes. Should the dishwasher malfunction, calling in an authorized serviceman or plumber is probably preferable to playing do-it-yourself handyman.

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