A tale of three dishwashers

When we moved into this house, we knew needed a new dishwasher. The existing one was being “weird” (totally the technical term) and considering its advanced age, the sensible tack was replacement.

And this is where we learn that Canadians and the English are separated by a common language when it comes to the world of dishwashers.

In Canada, we are a simple people. And have simple dishwashers.

From what I recall, there are generally two types of full-size dishwasher:

1. Built-in Dishwashers. Meant to be installed under your counter. It will have a front panel of the manufacturer’s choosing (stainless steel being the common contemporary choice), and open sides & back as it’s going to be mounted under the counter and fixed to the cabinetry. It will be hard-wired into the electrical and plumbed in for water and drainage.

2. Portable Dishwashers. Not meant to be installed under your counter (or anywhere else). It has a front panel of the manufacturer’s choosing, as well as finished sides and back, as it generally sits as its own piece of furniture in a room. It will have a wall plug, flexible hoses for attaching it to your faucet and draining into the sink, and wheels to roll it to and fro – up to the sink when using, out of the way when not.

So with that structure embedded in our minds, we went to the appliance store.

Our busted English (actually German – but allowed to live here thanks to the EU) dishwasher had a front panel that matched the cabinetry. From our limited experience we knew that meant it was “Integrated” and we assumed Integrated = Built-in.

Which it kindof does. But also kindof doesn’t.

Lesson one: there are two kinds of “integrated.”

Fully integrated means the front panel (that matches your cabinetry) takes up the full front panel of the dishwasher, with the controls inside the top edge of the door.

Semi-integrated means the front panel takes up about 4/5 of the front panel of the dishwasher, with the controls taking up the other 1/5 of the front panel.

Neither flavour of integrated comes with its own front panel (remember, Canadian built-ins have whatever front the manufacturer put on it) – you are meant to take the panel from your existing dishwasher (assuming you are replacing an integrated model) and fit it to the new one.

We learned this the hard way, when the fully-integrated model we ordered showed up, and the installer took one look, said “You have semi-integrated. This won’t work.” And didn’t even take the new dishwasher off the delivery truck.

We were reluctant to get a new semi-integrated dishwasher, mostly because they aren’t actually that common, and about 3x the cost of a more typical fully-integrated dishwasher.

So we had a bit of a freak-out, and a bit of a panic, and a wildly misguided attempt to try to source just a front panel from a cabinet store.

And any English reader is right now wondering WTF is wrong with us, and why didn’t we just do the normal thing and get a freestanding dishwasher?

Lesson Two: freestanding != portable.

Turns out freestanding dishwashers in the UK can easily be shoved into the space your integrated dishwasher occupied, plumbed in the same way, and hardwired into the electricity (or plugged in, depending on whether you have an outlet in that location – it comes with instructions for cutting off the plug to attach the wires directly).

But when you start asking people in the appliance store questions about whether you can plumb/wire a freestanding dishwasher, and go on about wheels and sizing, etc. They tend to look at you like you’re a total nutter, and just back away slowly.

Eventually we grokked the dishwasher situation, and just selected the freestanding one that was available for next-day delivery and installation.

And lo, choirs of angels in heaven did sing, and we could stop hand-washing all our dishes, and all was right with the world again.

But God help us if/when the fridge goes…

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