I added a panel to a standard stainless steel dishwasher and it was shockingly simple. Jump straight to the tutorial and ignore all my mumbo jumbo.
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This is our dishwasher. It’s a great brand, Thermador, has a top button panel, and was completely free, well kinda. It came with the house. It’s installed in our kitchen island, right next to the sink.
Once you have a paneled dishwasher you never want another type again
We’ve been here almost five years now and not one single day has the front ever looked clean. The drips show, food shows, theres a couple scratches and without a lot of work it looks dull and blah. Also, I lean more traditional and this modern stainless steel thing was killing my vibe.
The snow ball effect
We had that little flood thing back in January. Fast forward to now and I need to replace the baseboards around our island. I just couldn’t bring myself to put the old ones back on. They were off the shelf Ikea. In the four years we have had them they aged about ten. Plus, I so badly wanted to give this island a glow up. I decided to turn my painted island into a wood stained island. With wood veneer, wood baseboards and new door fronts it could be transformed. But the dishwasher was going to stick out like a sore thumb.
The evolution of an idea: how to convert my dishwasher
I began to wonder what would happen if the dishwasher handle broke. I thought about grabbing a sawzall and chopping it off and then gluing a cabinet door to the front…but glue didn’t sound sturdy enough for something we pull on every single day. I looked up my manual online and saw how the handle was attached and then the wheels started turning.
You see, the handle can be replaced or in my case removed forever. It’s attached to the front panel with two screws. By removing the front sheet metal panel, sliding out the circuit board, you can remove those two screws. It sounds way more complicated than it actually is.
What you will need
- Dishwasher with buttons/controls on the top of the door
- Drill bits that match the screws in your dishwasher panel
- Self tapping metal lath screws 1/2 or 3/4″ long
- Metal washers
- Cabinet door or panel
- Cabinet pull(s) (my cup pulls) (my handles) (my diy backplate tutorial)
- Optional – Heavy duty double sided foam tape
- Optional – A friend
- Optional – blue painters tape to mark handle holes
How to remove the front panel on your dishwasher
Open the door and look at the inside perimeter of the door. It should have a bunch of screws holding the inside part (where the soap dispenser is) to the outside part. Mine were attached with a star shaped screw head. Those aren’t permanent, they look a little like rivets, but they aren’t. If you ever need a circuit board replaced or a *handle* you’d need to be able to unscrew these.
I grabbed my drill, and tried a bunch of different size star shaped bits until I found the right size. Then, I (without any sort of plan) started unscrewing them. Like some manic freak. When I get like this I actually hear crazed laughter in my head.
There were three different sizes of screws. I noted where these went and set them aside.
Don't be like me. Plan to support the weight of the front panel when you remove it. Grab a stack of books or some folded up towels. Basically, you need about 5" of something that the front panel can rest on while you remove the circuit board.
Once the panel was unscrewed, the only thing holding it to the dishwasher any more was the circuit board.
The circuit board was attached with a cable to the part of the dishwasher that seals (the soap dispenser part). It was held in place by sliding in to a slot on the front panel. It was not screwed in, it just slid right out and right back in. Some dishwashers do have their circuit boards screwed in place. You will have to adapt this to your own dishwasher. I did not have to remove or unhook any electrical components.
I carefully slid the circuit board from its holder/slot on the front panel. That completely released the front panel from the dishwasher.
I was left with a broken looking dishwasher and a panel that roughly resembled the inside of a car door.
Move the dishwasher further back
I unscrewed the two screws holding my dishwasher to the countertop. Your screws may be on the sides, mine were on the top. I moved my dishwasher back 3/4″ and then reattached my dishwasher to the counter. This is key, most people have a little bit of dead space behind their dishwasher. That’s because kitchen base cabinets are 24 deep, most dishwashers are between 24-24 5/8″ deep.
Once you push the dishwasher back, the front should be flush with the front of your cabinet frame – not including the cabinet door. When you attach your new panel the front will sit flush with your cabinet doors. If your dishwasher is 24 1/2″ deep, you can add a little more room behind your dishwasher by removing the 1/2″ of drywall behind it. I’m not saying you should remove the drywall, but if I did, I’d add a piece of sheet metal on the exposed studs if they are on an exterior wall.
If you haven’t build your kitchen yet, great, buy an inexpensive dishwasher with the top controls. Then, you can account for the space you need when framing your island or installing your cabinets.
Raise or lower the legs on your dishwasher so that the door is as high as your cabinet doors.
Build your panel
This is going to be a separate tutorial because you could just use a 24″ cabinet door. However, this is the cliff notes of what I did.
I wanted my panel to look like four drawers instead of one big 24″ door. I needed it to be solid though, not four drawers joined together. I bought a 2 x 4 sheet of 1/2″ plywood. Then, I cut it to 24″x 29 7/8″ (that’s how tall my kitchen cabinet doors are). I also bought a 2 x 4 sheet of 1/4″ plywood. Using my table saw, I cut 3 – 24″ x 4 7/8″ strips and 4 – 2 1/4″ strips.
I measured and marked where these strips would go to create my “drawers”. I used black paint I had lying around and painted lines where the “drawers” would have space between them.
Then, I used wood glue and 5/8″ brad nails and nailed my strips to my 1/2″. If you want your “drawers” painted you can finish and paint them now. I wanted mine stained. I edge banded the panel with heat press edge banding. Then I covered the faces of my “drawers” with the same peel and stick veneer I covered my island with.
I stained the panels and then added the pulls using the screws that came with the pulls. I didn’t do this but you could counter sink your screws. This helps if you’re worried about depth and your panel sitting past your cabinet doors.
Attaching your panel to the dishwasher
Having a friend at this point would be nice. Also having some heavy duty double sided foam tape would have also been nice. I didn’t have any help or tape.
*** If you were smart and bought that double sided foam tape start here. If not, jump here. Place about four or five strips of tape across the front of your stainless steel panel. Join the steel panel back to the dishwasher with a few of the screws. You don't need to put it back together completely, just enough to attach the front. Four screws should do it - two at the top and two on the bottom. Close the dishwasher. Align your wood panel over the steel panel exactly where you want it permanently, and press it firmly against it so that it sticks to the foam tape. This tape is not enough. You still need to attach it with screws. Open your dishwasher back up, remove the steel panel from the frame (again). Place your panel on the ground, protecting the finished side with a blanket or rug. Then using 6 - 3/4" self tapping metal lath screws and washers drill through the stainless steel panel into the wood panel. Now go here.
Place your panel on the ground, protecting the finished side with a blanket or rug. Place the stainless steel front onto your panel, roughly where you think it will line up.
Using the holes where the handle used to be, join your wood panel onto the stainless steel panel. Keep this a little loose so you can move the wood panel around on the steel panel. If your holes are large like mine, use washers to cover the holes with your screws. I had 3/4″ long screws, I used the washers that came with the dishwasher to keep the screw from going all the way through my panel.
I lifted my panel in to place and shifted the front wood panel around until it lined up exactly where I wanted it to be. I carefully brought my panel back to the ground without disrupting it (this is the hardest part). Then I used 6 – 3/4″ self tapping metal lath screws and washers and drilled through the stainless steel panel into my wood panel. I also tightened the two screws in the old handle holes.
Put it back together
Using supports (this time) I placed my panel in front of the dishwasher. I brought the inside panel down to the front panel and slid the circuit board back in to place.
Then, I reattached the inner panel to the outside front panel using the same screws I removed before. You know, those star screws, making sure I put them back where they all went.
Then, I sat back and stared at my magical thing for at least an hour.
Final thoughts and maybe some FAQ’s
- The door doesn’t fall open, the spring still supports the added weight and can be opened half way and just sit there.
- If you removed the drywall and still need a little more depth you can make your panel out of 1/2″ or 1/4″.
- Absolutely not removing drywall and have barely any space: go super simple. Veneer your stainless steel with the 3m self sticking wood veneer. Foam tape or glue 1/4″ plywood to the front. Screw your pulls using a metal drill bit to make your pull holes. Then attach the pulls with washers and the screws that come with the pull. Whatever you need to do to make it happen, I’m here for it.
Have questions, want to comment, post it below.