What every homeowner needs to know about upgrading a dishwasher

The dishwasher is a vital part to having a fully-functional kitchen — here’s what to do if yours needs an upgrade

Kitchens are often the center of a home since its the prime spot to eat, socialize and connect. So, its easy to imagine that a less-than-welcoming kitchen can break a deal — or at least shave a few thousand off a buyer’s bid.

Luckily, most sellers can avoid that situation by investing in new finishes and appliances, with one of the easier swaps being a new dishwasher.

Here are the options for making an upgrade:

The easy way: Hire a professional

If you already have the proper dishwasher lines for inflow and outflow and prefer using a professional, the upgrade process is simple.

Standard dishwashers are 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 35 inches high, so double-check the measurements in your home.

If the measurements match up, you’ll have a plethora of options to choose from. If not, there are 18-inch wide dishwashers to fit a narrow space and 30- to 42-inch wide dishwashers to accommodate larger kitchens.

Once you’ve chosen the proper option, most big-box stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s offer free or low-cost installation, depending on the purchase price.

The ‘somewhat’ easy way: Do-it-yourself with existing lines

For do-it-yourself renovator, the process is going to be a little tougher because you’ll need a basic knowledge of how your sink, garbage disposal and dishwasher work in tandem.

Once again, the upgrade process will begin with you properly measuring the existing space and choosing the appropriate option.

Before making the switch, turn off your home’s water and electricity supply. Most electricity breakers are in the garage, and the knob to shut off water supply will be under the sink.

Secondly, you’ll remove the front cover at the bottom of the dishwasher to expose the wiring. An explainer by This Old House suggests using a voltage meter to test the wires before separating them and removing the electrical box.

Next, you’ll access and disconnect the water supply and water drainage lines from under the sink. Lastly, open your dishwasher door, remove the screws fixing your washer to the counter above, and slowly wiggle your dishwasher out.

To install the dishwasher, you’ll follow many of the same steps — just in reverse. With the water and power still off, you’ll need to attach your dishwasher’s drain line to an inlet in the garbage disposal. Make sure the line is secure by using a clamp.

The next step is screwing the new dishwasher to the countertop, reconnecting the wires of the same color in the electrical box and securing the wires with wire nuts and electrical tape.

Don’t forget to tighten the copper wire around the round, green screw to “ground” the dishwasher’s electrical flow.

Lastly, you’ll reattach the water supply line from the sink to the dishwasher — and voila, you’re done.

The hard way: Do-it-yourself without existing lines

For homeowners who live in a home constructed before dishwashers were in vogue, you’ll need to create a space for a dishwasher and install a sink with a garbage disposal, if you haven’t done so already.

Once again, the upgrade process will begin with measuring the available space beside your sink. You’ll need to be able to create a slot that’s at least the size of a standard dishwasher, but once again, there are wider and narrower options based on how much space you have.

In a previous Inman article, renovators Bill and Kevin Burnett broke the process down, which includes researching local building codes and getting the proper permits to reconfigure your home’s drainage system.

The duo suggests using the existing drawer banks beside the sink as a guide of where to place a washer. To convert the drawers to a dishwasher space, simply remove the drawers, and use an electrical saw to cut away the cross rails and the bottom of the drawer.

When it comes to the water supply valve, there’s already one below the sink. Simply replace it with a new angle stop valve that will connect both the sink and dishwasher to the hot water supply.

For the drainage, you can install a sink with a garbage disposal and follow the steps listed above. Otherwise, the Burnetts suggests rerouting the waste line underneath the sink by swapping the straight tailpiece that feeds into the p-trap for a tailpiece that’s shaped like a “Y” and securing the drain line to that.

Lastly, to supply power, it’s important to note that some local codes prohibit dishwashers and garbage disposals from being on the same circuit. In this case, it’s probably best to call in an electrician to ensure everything is done safely and correctly. But if you have previous electrical experience, the Burnetts offered these directions:

“To be safe, we use 12-gauge wire run to a duplex plug and protected by a 20-amp circuit breaker. If the electrical box is surface-mounted, use armored cable to run the line,” they wrote.

“This is the only part of the job that may not be appropriate for your do-it-yourself project. It depends on your experience and your level of comfort working with electrical wiring.”

Email Marian McPherson.