Look!: Dirk's Dishwasher-to-Cabinet Project

Look!: Dirk's Dishwasher-to-Cabinet Project

Nov 5, 2007

More storage. Seattle reader Dirk wrote to us about his Dishwasher-to-Cabinet Project, in which he reclaimed the space taken up by a functional, but unused dishwasher...

Goals of the project:
Replace the dishwasher with a cabinet, blend it in reasonably well, and yet allow the process to be easily reversed in case a future owner wants a dishwasher. I achieved all of this with a few hand tools and a visit to IKEA.

I know there are people who already use their dishwasher for storage, but there are several things that make me uncomfortable with the idea. The first is that the shelving in a dishwasher makes it less versatile than a standard cabinet. The second is that a dishwasher is water tight (it needs to be) which promotes mold and mildew unless it's left open to air out (or regularly used). Finally, unless the dishwasher is disconnected, there's a good chance that a hapless visitor is going to start it up before realizing there's a sack of rice or maybe even a manuscript in there.

Space, particular storage space is a valuable commodity in a studio apartment. A dishwasher, with a typical footprint of 24" by 24" consumes the floor area of a decent coat closed (albeit a short one), and at about $500 a square foot here in the Seattle area, a dishwasher takes up about $2,000 worth of real estate.

Finally – and this is the clincher – I never used my dishwasher. So I was determined to replace it with something that is of use. For a few weeks I pondered the possibilities:

After disconnecting the plumbing and wiring and then pulling out the pre-existing dishwasher, I was left with an empty space that measured slightly more than 24"W x 24"D x 34"H (common dimensions). The floor and walls in the area were unfinished. The electrical wiring exited the wall less than 2" above the floor. Whatever I did, I wanted to leave and work around the wiring so that I could reverse the project if needed. Plumbing wasn't a problem, since the valves and drain were under the sink and the hoses easily disconnected from them.

By inserting not much more than an elevated box, it would be perfect for a cat litterbox area: it's spacious enough for the tray, slightly elevated off the floor, contained on three sides to control stray litter, and it's out of the way of foot traffic. But I don't have a cat.

It would also make a great area for a wine rack, but I don't care for wine that much, certainly not enough to warrant stocking an entire rack.

Eventually I settled on just using it for more cabinet space. Who couldn't use that? It's not too hard to make a simple wooden box to fit the dimensions, but IKEA makes it even easier. They actually stock a ready made kitchen cabinet that is 24' wide by 24' deep and 30" high. A set of four adjustable legs adds slightly more than 4" to the height. Since the distance between the underside of my countertop and tile is slightly less than 34", I needed to trim a bit from the legs. But other than that, the cabinet fit the opening about as well as…a dishwasher.

I added a birch door to blend in with the existing cabinetry, but I can see the possibility of using different colors/materials: your existing dishwasher probably looks nothing like your cabinets, so that ought to give you some license for creativity. Maybe you'll find a door is optional? (I may add a piece of wood trim to the top.)

The pre-existing wiring for the dishwasher exits the wall at a height less than two inches and so there is plenty of space to coil it in the space between the cabinet and floor. For safety, I capped the wiring ends so no copper is exposed and disconnected the other end at the electrical service panel. The key here is that, with wiring still in place, the project can be reversed – if a new owner wanted a dishwasher.

By the way, I hand wash my dishes and always have: it just works best for my schedule. I recently bought a dishrack made by SimpleHuman. I found a model that was sized just right and I like the way the entire unit, including drain tray, is raised off the counter to help avoid trapped water.

Granted, when I told some friends I was going to remove my dishwasher, they reacted as if I was removing the sink: I guess they actually use their dishwasher. Realtors also think it's a bad idea. But I plan to live in my place, not sell it right away. And if/when I do sell, the cabinet can be removed in a matter of minutes, a task no more complicated than replacing an existing dishwasher.

Thanks, Dirk!

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