Stupid question about DWs with panel-ready doors

needinfo1April 14, 2014

We've had a major mess at our house--freeze up when we were out of town. At this point we are still getting bids on fixing the heating and plumbing because those are the big things. But, I am thinking ahead to the dishwasher if it will need to be replaced. Some plumbers have said to plan for sure on replacing it, and others say to wait and see.

Right now we have a top-of-the-line Kitchenaid that is about ten years old; it just has the standard front panel. But, if we need a new dishwasher, I am contemplating putting a panel on the front. This would entail getting a cabinet maker to make a custom one to match our custom cabinets. Since I am still unsure if I even need to replace my dishwasher, and won't even know until all of the plumbing is back in service, I do not want to contact a carpenter now for a quote.

So, end of story and my question: Can dishwashers that are panel-ready also be used as a standard, metal-front panel dishwasher in case I find out that the cost of a custom panel is just too much? Or, do the panel-ready have to have a panel put in them no matter what? I'd like to start doing my research now just in case, and I don't know if I'd have to research two separate types of dishwashers or if just one could serve in either situation. Thanks.

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Sorry for the mess. I think "panel ready" means there is no panel at all, so you either have to add one to match your cabinets, or add a stainless or other front.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:04PM
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It probably depends on the maker. Every one I've seen comes without a front panel. You can use it. The works are enclosed enough, but it's machine cowling, not a finished panel. This is different from my panel ready warming drawer which came with a front panel and handle ready to be removed. My theory is that they don't sell enough panel ready for it to be worth running separate inventory, that it would cost more to do than the savings from the panels. So there might be some dishwashers like that.

Regarding research, panel ready dishwashers tend to run on the high end, mostly because it's a low demand item, due to the extra work and expense panelling is. Still, they're the same dishwashers as the same model that comes with a panel. Perhaps you should choose a major maker, like KitchenAid or Miele, and look at what's available at what price for panel ready, and how much you could save getting a standard finish like stainless would save you.

Small carpentry jobs can cost more than each piece of a larger job, but I'm guessing it would be a few hundred dollars plus materials from a good carpenter. Maybe a bit more if there's a minimum. Added to the higher end DW, it might not be for you with everything else that needs fixing. If it's insured at replacement cost, it might be worth a splurge. If you can salvage the old DW and at least give yourself some breathing room before you have to make yet another expensive decision, that would be best.

Other possibilities: You can buy ready made dishwasher panels from cabinet companies, especially for integrated models. They do require installation, however. You could see if one was close enough. You could also just use a nicely finished piece of plywood, and stain it as close to your cabinets as you can, paint it with chalkboard and/or magnet paint, or bright red, or, if you're talented, trompe l'oeil paint a kitchen matching drawer stack and handles. Or you could wrap your plywood with sheet stainless or copper or something else interesting.

You do need an installer who can fit and instal the custom panel no matter what. It requires being able to follow instructions, drill and use screws. They usually provide a template. Some appliance installers will attach a panel for you and many won't touch it, so it takes being a bit handy. Doing something like that, that you can do mostly yourself, and worrying about the carpenter down the road, is also a possibility if you think you'd be happy living with something different.

Best of luck with all your repairs. Sorry for rambling. :)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:12PM
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Thanks much for all of the advice so quickly. Yes, we have a lot of decisions to make right now (heat and water are our first priorities).

plllog--Those are some very interesting ideas. We have a period kitchen with a mix of original 1920s/1930s cabinets and custom cabinets made to match, so I can't imagine that I'd ever find any standard manufactured cabinetry that would be close. So, that idea is out.

I think we'll be in the situation where either the dishwasher doesn't need replacement and still runs (in which case we'll keep it until it dies a natural death) or where we will need to immediately buy a replacement. We've got replacement insurance, so I'd just be looking at a splurge upgrade from what they'd pay for a new dishwasher. And, I'd have to balance that money out with factoring in the extra other things we'll be upgrading and paying for over what the insurance will pay to fix things. We've decided that it is worth it to us to do certain upgrades and fixes since all of this work is being done anyway, so we know we'll be spending money.

So, bottom line, it sounds as though I probably should investigate and research a regular dishwasher and a panel-ready so I would be ready for either situation.

All the help is much appreciated.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:31PM
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Short version of what the rambling end of my last meant: If you have to buy the new dishwasher and are okay with the high end model, but not for the quality of carpenter to match your cabinets (and given your description, I'd up my guess to $500-1000, especailly if you want a faux framed cabinet, rather than just a panel that's the right color), you could put in a self-made covered plywood panel for the moment and get the carpenter in a year or two to do it up right. :)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 9:56PM
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I guess I never thought about a temporary fix and waiting a while. that is not such a bad idea. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:28AM
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I saw a cool dishwasher in This Old House magazine that the home owner had covered with that tin ceiling-like backsplash material. It looked really nice and sounded pretty easy. Maybe you could do that instead of worrying about a panel?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:06AM
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back40jen--An interesting concept. thanks for the idea. Right now I am contemplating all ideas.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 1:38PM
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Dear Need,
First of all, your question is NOT stupid; if it were you would have received and needed only one response. With all the helpful posts, I would call this a good question - and it was one for which I needed an answer, myself, a few months ago.

The cost of a "custom" panel might not be as expensive as one might think if you donâÂÂt look at it as a âÂÂcustom panelâÂÂ, but as a simple âÂÂcabinet door & drawer frontâÂÂ. If your cabinet maker gave you an estimate or design with basic details, look for a 24" base cabinet. The cabinet front is exactly what you need.

A cabinet is a simple box with no top and a âÂÂdoor & drawer frontâ which is built separately and attached to the front of the "box". If you can find a 24" base cabinet on your design or estimate, that would be the cost minus (probably) $100 for the box. The resulting panel could be even less if it has a drawer front with no âÂÂdrawer boxâ to build nor full-extension drawer slides to add.

The measurements would need to be modified slightly⦠The very top edge of the new face frame would/should be 1/4 lower than the top edges of the adjacent cabinet to allow it to swing out from under the lip of the countertop. Actually, the 1/4 inch gap may not be right - the gap should be exactly the size of the gap between the D/W door and the underside of the countertop lip - measured with the DW closed. That way, when you open it, the wood will be level with the D/W controls - but the most important thing is that the faux cabinetâÂÂs drawer (& door) should be aligned to the cabinets on either side.

I did my kitchen with stock cabinets so I just ordered an extra 24â base cabinet, took the front off and chucked the rest. Of course I had to screw the drawer front and the door front to the face frame - screwing from the back. With a custom cabinet you could have the cabinet maker do that part too and since you wouldnâÂÂt have the extra stuff I chucked, it should be cheaper - but that's logical and whatâÂÂs logical in DIY projects.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 4:22PM
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