Built-in vs. Freestanding Dishwasher

What is a Built-in Dishwasher?

A built-in dishwasher is also known as an integrated dishwasher. A built-in dishwasher has a kitchen cabinet door attached to it. The door is attached to the front side of the dishwasher, and it looks like this dishwasher is built into the kitchen furniture. The cabinet door at the front hides your dishwasher and provides a sleek appearance to your kitchen.

Built-in dishwashers are of two types. One is fully integrated or fully built-in, while the second is semi-integrated or semi built-in.

Built-in dishwasher

The control panel of the fully integrated dishwasher is inside the top of the dishwasher’s door. So, when you shut down the door, you will not be able to see the control panel. Moreover, these kinds of dishwashers have a full-sized cabinet door that is attached to their front side.

A semi-integrated dishwasher has only a control panel to be left visible when the door is shut down. This dishwasher also has a large side cabinet door attached to the front side, exposing the control panel only. So, you can operate this dishwasher without opening the door.

What is a Freestanding Dishwasher?

A freestanding dishwasher has a finished door front, so you can place it anywhere. This dishwasher doesn’t need or have a kitchen cabinet door. Moreover, a freestanding dishwasher comes in different finishing options like black, white, and stainless steel.

A freestanding dishwasher doesn’t need any free cabinet space. You can flexibly keep your freestanding dishwasher anywhere in your kitchen.

Freestanding dishwasher

Comparison of the Built-in and Freestanding Dishwasher

Built-in and freestanding, both dishwashers are pretty well in their functioning. If you are planning to buy a new dishwasher then you must check the comparison between these two dishwashers. Although both dishwashers provide efficient cleaning but some features distinguish them from each other. The essential features for comparison for these dishwashers are given here.

Style and Design

A built-in or integrated dishwasher fits under your kitchen countertop or cabinets. This feature provides your kitchen with a neat and clean look because a cabinet door is attached to the front side of these dishwashers. Thus, it seems like the dishwasher is part of your kitchen furniture.

On the other hand, the freestanding dishwasher has a good finishing look from all sides. So, you can place it anywhere in your kitchen. Moreover, some of the freestanding dishwashers have a cabinet facing so that they can place and fit next to your kitchen cabinet.

Options and Features

The built-in dishwasher is more advanced than a freestanding dishwasher in terms of features. It has spray arms and special washing cycles. Besides this, an integrated or built-in dishwasher also has special sprays for hard-to-clean dishes.

built in dishwasher special cycle

Freestanding dishwashers also have amazing features but maybe not be as advanced as integrated dishwashers. Freestanding dishwasher has load sensing technology, multiple cycle options, and digital timers as well.

Capacity and Size

Integrated or built-in dishwashers usually have 12-14 place settings. These dishwashers are 24 inches wide. So, these dishwashers can clean a large number of dishes due to their large capacity. A built-in dishwasher is perfect for cleaning a large load for two or more people.

Freestanding or portable dishwashers are relatively smaller than integrated ones. These dishwashers are 18 inches wide and have 8 place settings. Thus, these dishwashers are ideal for small homes and have less dishwashing load.

Versatility and Convenience  

Built-in dishwashers are installed in kitchens, so these dishwashers will leave behind when you move. You can keep your portable and freestanding dishwasher with you if you are moving to another house.

A freestanding dishwasher provides extra storage space. You can keep cutting boards or similar things on its top. Moreover, your cabinet space will not be occupied by a portable dishwasher. But if you have a small kitchen, then a freestanding dishwasher will not be ideal as it will consume your kitchen space. These dishwashers take up your sink and connect to the valve. Although they have a bypass valve to run still, they are less convenient than built-in dishwashers.

On the contrary, built-in dishwashers are permanently integrated into the kitchen cabinet. Thus, they consume storage space for your kitchen cabinets. But as they are integrated into the cabinets, they don’t occupy your kitchen space. So, for small kitchens, built-in dishwashers are best. They are installed on the water supply so they can run if you are using a faucet or sink for other things.

Installation ease and cost

A portable or freestanding dishwasher is less expensive than a built-in dishwasher. Freestanding dishwasher doesn’t require special energy and cost for installation. It connects to your kitchen valve and drains directly into the kitchen sink drain.

A built-in dishwasher requires extra cost for installation. You have to pay for a plumber and connect wire lines separately. Besides this, if you don’t have a cabinet opening in your kitchen, modifications will cost you even more than the estimated installation fee.

Both freestanding and built-in dishwashers have energy-saving features and cycles that lower your bills.

Summary of Comparison


Built-in Dishwasher

Freestanding Dishwasher



Integrated into the kitchen cabinet and keep kitchen neat and clean

Finished from all sides and can place anywhere in your kitchen


12-14 place settings

8 place settings


Large size, 24 inches wide

Smaller in size, 18 inches wide

Special features

Spray arms, special spray for hard to clean dishes, multiple washing cycles, digital timer

Multiple washing cycles, load sensing technology, digital timer


Cannot move as they are pre-installed. Occupy less kitchen space. Less storage

You can change their place. Occupy kitchen space but frees cabinet space. Provide storage

Installation Cost

Require more installation cost for plumbing, wiring, and for modification in the cabinet

Doesn’t require any extra cost. Economical than built-in dishwashers

Installation Ease

Need more energy and time for installation

Doesn’t require energy and time of installation as they are portable

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does a built-in dishwasher need a whole cabinet for installation?

No, a built-in or integrated dishwasher doesn’t need an entire cabinet for its installation. Instead, it requires a sufficient opening where it can be installed easily according to its size. It should be near the kitchen sink for better installation.

2. Are built-in dishwashers smaller than freestanding?

Built-in dishwashers usually have more capacity than freestanding dishwashers. The height of the freestanding dishwasher will be more than an integrated one because later one has to fit under the kitchen countertop. Besides this, built-in dishwashers have more width than freestanding dishwashers.

3. Will a freestanding dishwasher fit in an integrated space?

A freestanding or portable dishwasher doesn’t need to fit into an integrated space. The freestanding dishwasher has more height than a built-in dishwasher. So, if the integrated place is designed according to a built-in dishwasher, it will be hard for a freestanding dishwasher to fit into that space.


  • Stephen Powers

    Appliance repair guy from Washington. I am majorly experienced in dishwashers, water filters and refrigerators, AMA on my twitter account.

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