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What is a Built-in Dishwasher?

Built-in dishwashers are defined by being permanently installed into the existing structure of a kitchen. Many find that they contribute to a kitchen’s aesthetic in addition to offering features designed to help make the post meal cleanup easier to handle.

Do you need help deciding if a built-in dishwasher is right for your kitchen? This article will compare freestanding vs. built-in dishwashers and explore the key things to consider such as the different types, the pros and cons, and more.

The Types of Dishwashers and How They Differ

The most common dishwasher in Canada is a 24” width built-in dishwasher. Built-in dishwashers also come in an 18” width, which is great for small spaces or for those that live alone or don’t like to cook.

Built-in dishwashers are available in many colours, features, and styles. Select models have a panel-ready option, allowing you to match your cabinetry to the dishwasher panel.

Most dishwashers feature two racks while other models have three racks to potentially increase your loading capacity.


Most models available are non-flush which means the dishwasher will protrude roughly 1/2" (1 cm) from your cabinetry.

There are two types of freestanding dishwashers - countertop and portable.

A countertop dishwasher on a white kitchen counter.

Countertop dishwashers are an ideal choice for homes with small kitchens due to their compact design. Most models receive water from the kitchen faucet and drain through the kitchen sink. These models are available in different sizes but are usually the same size as a countertop microwave.

Please note that Whirlpool does not offer any countertop models.

A kitchen with a Whirlpool dishwasher and a Whirlpool oven. They are surrounded by grey cabinets and drawers.

Portable dishwashers are helpful for kitchens that lack the necessary space for a built-in or countertop dishwasher. Many portable dishwashers can be easily moved into and out of the kitchen as needed. Similar to a countertop dishwasher, portable dishwashers usually get their water from a hook-up to a kitchen faucet and drain it into a kitchen sink.

Browse Whirlpool’s line of portable dishwashers here.

The layout of many kitchens can accommodate a built-in dishwasher. However, if you are looking for a smaller or more flexible option, a portable or countertop dishwasher could be for you.

Benefits of a Built-in Dishwasher

Let’s review some of the benefits of a built-in dishwasher so you can make an informed decision:

  • Built-in dishwashers are the choice of most Canadians so you will have many styles, configurations, and colours to choose from.
  • Built-in dishwashers generally offer more capacity vs. portable or countertop dishwashers.
  • Built-in dishwashers can help you achieve a uniform look with the ability to fit under counters and between cabinets.
  • Some built-in dishwashers are panel-ready and can seamlessly match existing cabinets.
A Whirlpool panel-ready dishwasher with the door ajar. Next to it are two white drawers and in the background is a Whirlpool beverage centre.

The Cons of a Built-in Dishwasher

  • One con of built-in dishwashers is that they require permanent plumbing installation, which can be a hassle, and may be a more costly option as most will have to hire a plumber to perform the installation.
  • Built-in dishwashers are generally larger and may be a challenge for small spaces.
  • Once built-in dishwashers are installed, they are not easily moved.
  • Lastly, unlike portable or countertop dishwashers, built-in dishwashers usually feature unfinished sides so they are best installed between two cabinets.

The Difference Between Semi-Integrated and Fully-Integrated Built-in Dishwashers

Someone pressing a button on a Whirlpool semi-integrated dishwasher.

Semi-Integrated Dishwashers:
These models have controls that are built into the front of the door panel so they are visible even when the door is closed. They are also called front control dishwashers and sometimes offer an exterior light to signal progress in the cycle.

A Whirlpool fully-integrated dishwasher with the door ajar.

Fully-Integrated Dishwashers:
These models feature controls that are built into the top lip of the door so they are not visible when the door is closed. Immediate feedback is provided via status lights with an exterior cycle indicator

Built-in Dishwashers: Are They All the Same Size?

Most built-in residential dishwashers are available in two sizes: 18" (46 cm) or 24" (61 cm). The most popular size is 24” wide.

A width of 18” can work well for kitchens with limited space or if you find that you run the dishwasher less frequently. For large households, big families or those who heavily rely on a dishwasher, a width of 24” tends to be less popular.

Learn how to measure your Whirlpool® dishwasher size here.


Always measure the space where you intend to install your dishwasher prior to making your purchase.

Built-in Dishwashers FAQ

Here are some of the more common questions often asked by people considering a built-in dishwasher.

Do built-in dishwashers require a cabinet?
Usually, built-in dishwashers can be installed under counters and between cabinets to achieve a seamless look. You could also go for panel-ready, to match your dishwasher to your cabinets.

Are built-in dishwashers hardwired?
Yes, built-in dishwashers are hardwired.

It’s imperative to confirm that your home’s electrical output has every installation requirement, including a grounded electrical outlet and a dedicated 15 amp circuit.


Never use an adapter or an extension cord.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions before beginning any task.

Whirlpool® dishwashers are designed to make clean-up easier, freeing you up to spend your valuable time enjoying meals with family and good friends.

An opened Whirlpool dishwasher with the top rack pulled out. On the rack are bowls, mugs, glasses, cutlery and utensils.

Owners can enjoy more capacity with our 3rd rack dishwasher.

Inside a Whirlpool dishwasher. On the rack are plates, mugs, glass bowls and glasses.

There’s also the Total Coverage spray arm with twice the jets to tackle challenging messes1.

The control panel on a Whirlpool dishwasher. The sensor light is on. The other control are "Heavy", "Normal", "Light" and "1-Hour Wash". There are two buttons underneath: ""Cycles" and "Delays"

Achieve ideal washing and drying with the Sensor Cycle. This feature can adjust settings based on soil level and load size.

1) Compared to Whirlpool® dishwasher without TotalCoverage spray arm.

Ready to Shop for a Built-in Dishwasher?

If you feel like a built-it dishwasher is right for you, then it might be time to take that final step toward adding one to your kitchen.

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