If you are designing a new kitchen and want to achieve a modern and professional style, you may want to consider a panel ready dishwasher, also known as an overlay dishwasher. This style allows you to have your cabinetmaker design a panel for the front of your dishwasher which will match the doors on your kitchen cabinets and install a matching handle. These models are designed to hold the custom panel's weight and add a nice look to the kitchen. They may pair well with a panel ready refrigerator and help you achieve that integrated high-end look you desire.
There are many other factors to consider when researching a dishwasher, but if looks are a top concern, a panel ready model may be what you need. For more information to help you choose a new dishwasher, check out our dishwasher buying guide!
Who Makes Them? How Much Do They Cost?
These dishwashers are generally more expensive than regular dishwashers but they may be worth it if a unified kitchen style is important for you. Many top manufacturers, including Bosch, GE Profile, KitchenAid and Fisher & Paykel have panel ready models. Another high-end alternative is the integrated appliance style: similar to panel-ready models, these appliances are designed to sit flush with your cabinetry. Fisher & Paykel refrigerators and drawer dishwashers are an example of this seamless look.
We can assume that if you're considering a panel ready dishwasher that price is not as much of a concern. You can expect prices in the $1,000+ range, not including the cost of creating and installing the custom panel itself. When comparing models, you'll likely see that the panel ready models incur a small up-charge of about $100 compared to stainless steel or similar models. The great part about these high end dishwashers is you'll get lots of great features, like third racks, ultra quiet operation, built-in water softeners, and more. Additionally, these models have hidden top controls rather than front controls.
A panel ready dishwasher will blend right in with the rest of your cabinetry. One problem consumers typically run into is that the panel may stick out from the surrounding cabinetry. You can avoid this by paying careful attention to the depths of the panel ready dishwasher models you are considering, or consider a European brand like Bosch, whose EuroTub models have a shallower depth to accommodate the 3/4 of an inch or so required for the panel.
Panel Ready vs Stainless Steel
If you're deciding between a traditional built-in dishwasher (perhaps in classic stainless steel, new black stainless steel, or other new appliance colors) vs a panel ready model, you'll want to think about how you're going to clean the front of the appliance. Especially since the dishwasher is often adjacent to the sink, it's a prime target for drips and water spots. Some people find stainless steel or other metals just as easy to clean as a cabinet, while others can be frustrated by how easy it is to leave streaks or smudges behind rather than getting the polished mirror finish they desire. A panel can hide water spots and drips better than stainless steel, and won't require special cleaners to wipe down properly.
Although stainless steel is considered a classic appliance finish and a go-to for high-end kitchens, appliance manufacturers have started offering more colors and styles to the market. Stainless steel may not be timeless forever! Panels can be updated as your tastes change, and can provide a softer look as opposed to the industrial aesthetic of stainless steel.
The other benefit of panels is that you don't have to match appliance hardware and finishes across your entire kitchen appliance suite to get a seamless look. Different brands and models will have different hardware (namely the handles), and even the same colors may not be done exactly the same way between brands. One brand's stainless steel might have a more defined grain, another might have more silver tones than gray, and so on. Panels guarantee that your appliances will match!
Panel Ready Dishwasher Brands
High-end brands like Miele and Thermador are one option for panel ready dishwashers. When it comes to larger appliances like refrigerators, higher-end brands are more likely to have hidden hardware and hinges so that the appliance will sit flush with the surrounding cabinetry. However, when it comes to dishwashers you have a few great options from easily recognizable brands in both the full-size 24 inch wide models and the narrower 18 inch models. Here are a few examples of what different brands have to offer.
Bosch offers custom panel ready dishwasher models in both their 800 series and 300 series - the 800 series is their highest level series besides the Benchmark series, while the 300 series is a more mid-range offering. The panel ready model lineup includes 18-inch dishwashers like the Bosch SPV68U53UC. As we mentioned above, Bosch is a great option for panel ready dishwashers because the shallower-depth European Tub design ensures a seamless fit. And, of course, their dishwashers are quiet, reliable, and fully featured, too!
One of their top selling panel ready models is the Bosch SHV863WD3N. This 300-series model operates at 44 dBA (learn more about dishwasher decibel levels in our article), has an adjustable RackMatic upper rack, and the MyWay third rack with the industry's largest third rack loading capacity. This Energy Star rated model also has a stainless steel interior and Aqua Stop 24/7 leak protection. Programs include the Speed60 1-hour wash and dry for quick results when you need them! You can see on the product page that this model has a depth of 21 and 5/8 inches to ensure you have plenty of space for the custom panel.
Choosing a model from the 500 series or 800 series will give you features like advanced drying (800 series models come with a cool new drying system - read more about it in our Bosch dishwasher reviews) and even quieter operation.
KitchenAid offers a more limited range of panel ready models - as of this writing, only two of their dishwasher models are panel ready. These are standard depth models, around 24 and 3/4 inches deep, so keep that in mind if you are aiming for the integrated look. The KitchenAid KDTE204EPA is $1,099 while the KitchenAid KDTM504EPA is $1,599. As of this writing, both models are highly rated, although the less expensive model has proven to be more popular overall!
Ball bearing glides on the upper rack, a third rack for flatware, and 46 dBA operation (44 dBA for the more expensive model) are all expected higher-end features found in these models. The ProScrub option uses 40 targeted spray jets to eliminate stubborn messes like baked-on foods. The higher-end model expands this with the ProScrub Upper, which adds two concentrated spray zones in the upper rack for cleaning inside of deep, narrow items like vases or water bottles.
Click here to read over 4,130 real customer reviews of the KDTE204EPA!
Fisher & Paykel
An interesting option among panel ready dishwashers comes from Fisher & Paykel: their double drawer dishwashers will fill the same space as a typical 24-inch dishwasher and offer the same overall capacity, but you can do a half-load easily by running only one drawer. They updated their model lineup in 2018 to offer even more great features, like an option to knock to pause the cycle on certain models. You can find out more about these products in our article on drawer dishwashers.
We hope this helped you discover more information about panel ready dishwashers. Are you thinking of an entire matching kitchen suite, or just a panel ready dishwasher? Tell us about your struggles and triumphs! Please leave us a comment below. We'd love to hear from you!
Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in August of 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.