Need to know
- Integrated dishwashers are designed to blend into your kitchen cabinetry and look like a cupboard
- They perform exactly the same as other dishwashers, but cost more to install
- This means the only advantage of integrated dishwashers is the way they look
For many of us, a dishwasher is a welcome sight – especially if you've ever had to spend your evenings hunched over the kitchen sink, cleaning cutlery and crockery by hand.
But what if you want something that not only takes care of this menial task, but also blends into your kitchen aesthetic? Well, then you might be interested in an integrated dishwasher – the discreet version of the kitchen classic that not only takes cleaning out of mind, but also out of sight.
This article unpacks these machines – what they do, how they're different from other varieties and whether they could be a good choice for you.
What are integrated dishwashers?
An integrated dishwasher is a dishwasher sold without any front, top or side panels and with the control panel hidden on the inside or at the top of the door.
Before they've been installed, they look industrial and unfinished, but they're designed that way so you can add your own panelling to match your kitchen cabinetry.
The controls on a fully integrated dishwasher are located on the inside of the door.
Once installed, an integrated dishwasher will blend in with the rest of your kitchen and look like any other cupboard.
CHOICE dishwasher expert Ashley Iredale says integrated units are made for consumers who don't want a dishwasher manufacturer messing up their carefully calibrated kitchen design.
"It's purely about aesthetics," he says. "Some people like a very minimalist, streamlined kitchen without the visual impact of a hulking great metal box in it."
How are they different from other dishwashers?
Manufacturers often make multiple different configurations of the same model of dishwasher and there are several possible forms they can take.
This means the only difference between integrated dishwashers and other varieties of the same model is the exterior features.
Some people like a very minimalist, streamlined kitchen without the visual impact of a hulking great metal box in itCHOICE kitchen expert Ashley Iredale
"Internally, they're identical," Iredale explains. "They have the same components, programs and the same performance, too."
There is a bit of disparity in price, though, with the average price of integrated models in our latest review ($2753) substantially higher than that of other models ($1453).
And even after you've paid for an integrated installation, you still have to shell out extra for the panelling to blend it into your kitchen.
Some manufacturers advise getting a tradesperson to design the panelling for you, while others offer pre-made cladding to go with integrated purchases, but in either case, it's an extra cost on top of a relatively expensive appliance.
What's the difference between a fully and semi integrated dishwasher?
A fully integrated dishwasher can completely blend into a kitchen, due to the fact that nearly all the obvious elements of a dishwasher, such as buttons and screens, are hidden from view.
The controls on a semi integrated dishwasher, however, are visible. They are located on the outside, at the top of the machine's door, with space for kitchen-coordinated panelling below.
This makes them similar to other standard dishwasher models and, according to Iredale, easier to use.
"In my mind, this is a better option – it's still discreet, but gives you more easily accessible controls and a time remaining display," he explains.
How do you use an integrated dishwasher?
The cunning controls and discreet design raise the question of how you actually use a fully integrated dishwasher or even know whether it's running or not.
To prepare one of these models to run a cycle, you'll have to open it a little to consult the small controls on the inside of the top of the door.
There is a bit of disparity in price, with the average price of integrated models in our latest review substantially higher than that of other models
"While not exactly onerous, it's still more fiddly than if the controls were on the outside," Iredale says.
Then, as Iredale explains, you'll have to keep an eye on the floor to know if you're about to cause a splash by opening your machine mid-cycle.
"Instead of seeing on the machine itself when the cycle's done, or how long it has to go, an integrated dishwasher may shine a light on the floor for a visual indication of cycle completion."
Integrated dishwashers can look like cupboards, so be aware of any indicators that one is running before opening it. Source: ikea.com.au
How well do integrated dishwashers perform?
As Iredale explains, the internal components of any given integrated dishwasher will be identical to the freestanding or built-in version.
"The performance is exactly the same – they're the same dishwasher after all, just in a different package," he says.
So if you're tossing up between the integrated or freestanding versions of the same dishwasher because you're wondering which will wash your plates better, you're wasting your time.
Who is an integrated dishwasher good for?
The fact that they perform identically to their conventional counterparts means integrated dishwashers will only appeal to people pursuing a specific kitchen vision.
"If you're remodelling and you like a minimalist aesthetic, then a fully integrated dishwasher will help you achieve this," Iredale says, adding that the extra costs of bespoke cladding makes it a more appealing option for those with extra money to spend.
"The extra trim panel comes at a cost, so if you're more budget-conscious you'd probably opt for a conventional dishwasher to keep costs down," he explains.
"Integrated units work just the same as any other dishwasher when it comes down to it, so it's really a matter of personal preference."
Can you replace an integrated dishwasher with another model?
Save for the disruption of your kitchen aesthetic, replacing an integrated machine with a different type of dishwasher should be pretty straightforward.
One thing to be aware of, though, is that your new model might be too tall to fit in the space left by your integrated unit, especially if you're choosing a freestanding configuration.
"Check the height of the cavity and make sure your replacement dishwasher will fit," Iredale advises. "Freestanding dishwashers are typically 85cm tall, but you can generally remove the worktop to bring it down to 80cm or opt for a built under model that doesn't have a worktop."
Can any dishwasher be integrated?
Iredale says you shouldn't try turning your existing dishwasher into an integrated model, warning that fiddling with the front panelling can play havoc with the door's spring tension and make the appliance hard to open and close.
"If the door's too light then, firstly, it won't stay open when you're loading or unloading the dishwasher and secondly, it could spring shut with too much speed and force," he clarifies.
"Conversely, if there's not enough spring tension, then the door could open too rapidly and could be difficult to close again."
Pros and cons of integrated dishwashers
- can be customised to blend into kitchen cabinetry
- performs identically to conventional dishwashers.
- more expensive than other types of dishwasher
- requires extra spending on panelling
- the door on a fully integrated dishwasher must be kept open when using the controls.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.