custom made dishwasher panel placed on a standard dishwasher converted into a paneled dishwasher

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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standard top control stainless steel dishwasher
My always dirty looking stainless steel dishwasher and the beginnings of my island glow up toe kick

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

Well, at least that’s my opinion. In our last house we inherited a paneled dishwasher (which I painted and you can read about it here). I didn’t realize how much I’d miss.

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.

refacing my kitchen island with 3m peel and stick wood veneer was a great update to my painted kitchen island
I needed more contrast in my plain jane Ikea kitchen, so I refaced my kitchen island cabinets with peel and stick wood veneer from Rockler

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.

I began to wonder what would happen if the dishwasher handle broke.

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.

the front panel removed from my standard stainless steel dishwasher reveals the screws that attach the handle to my dishwasher.
This is what the front panel looks like when it’s removed from the dishwasher. Those two black circles are the screws and washers that attach the door handle to the panel.

What you will need

  1. Dishwasher with buttons/controls on the top of the door
  2. Drill
  3. Drill bits that match the screws in your dishwasher panel
  4. Self tapping metal lath screws 1/2 or 3/4″ long
  5. Metal washers
  6. Cabinet door or panel
  7. Cabinet pull(s) (my cup pulls) (my handles) (my diy backplate tutorial)
  8. Optional – Heavy duty double sided foam tape
  9. Optional – A friend
  10. Optional – blue painters tape to mark handle holes
close up view of star shaped screw head holding the dishwasher panel together
Close up view of star shaped screw head holding the dishwasher panel together. Remove these to expose the handle screws.

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.
circuit board of the dishwasher
This is the circuit board, it’s also where the buttons were located.

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.

the dishwasher circuit board is connected to the dishwasher with a few cables.
Here’s the guts of the dishwasher panel. This is the part that create the seal. The circuit panel sits in a slot between the sealed portion and the front panel. i didn’t have to disconnect any of the electrical components to create this conversion.

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.

slot where the circuit panel slides in to on the standard stainless steel dishwasher front
My hand is right where the circuit board slides into, you can also see the holes for the handle on either side.
holes where the dishwasher handle attached
This is a close up of one of the holes that the dishwasher handle attached to the front panel

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.

side profile of the dishwasher pushed back flush with the cabinet frame
You can see that the dishwasher is flush with the front of the cabinet frame. Now, when I attach my panel it will be flush with the other cabinet doors.

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.

Upclose picture of the dishwasher legs and their adjustments.
The white legs are for the front and can be raised and lowered with channel locks (adjustable wrench). The back legs were easily adjusted by that circle hole in the middle with a Phillip head screw driver.

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.

1/2" plywood panel with liens painted black where the faux drawers will attach to create the illusion of space and depth
I painted black lines where my faux drawers would fall and the edges of the 1/4″ to create the illusion of depth and space.

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.

the 1/2" plywood with 1/4" assembled to make my faux dishwasher panel
Heres the assembled panel just before I added the wood veneer. You can see the black paint between the “drawers” to create the illusion of depth and space.

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.

diy faux dishwasher panel conversion for my standard stainless steel dishwasher.
Here is the dishwasher panel with the wood veneer applied on most of the 1/4″. It’s still missing on the left stile and needs to be trimmed on the right stile.

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.

stained diy dishwasher panel ready to attach to the stainless steel dishwasher front.
Here’s the panel I made for the dishwasher next to the panel I made for the trash can cabinet on the right.

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.
self tapping metal screws can pierce through the metal panel on the dishwasher
See the how the tip is shaped on these screws? That’s helps it pierce through metal and make it’s own hole without predrilling.

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.

the handle holes helped hold the panel in place while I lined it up with the other doors and took my measurements for adding a dishwasher panel to my standard dishwasher
I used blue tape and a sharpie to mark where the holes were on the dishwasher panel Then, I put the tape on my wood panel to roughly line up where I wanted to hang my panel. Although helpful, in the end I mostly relied on my tape measure and measurements more than the blue painters tape and hole markings.
close up of my tape measure and space between the counter top and the cabinet door
Here’s a close up of the distance between the top of the stainless steel dishwasher door front and the cabinet door front, I wanted my panel to line up with the cabinet door.
I wrote the measurements for where the holes lined up on the stainless steel panel and transferred that to my diy dishwasher panel I made from plywood for my standard dishwasher panel conversion
If you look closely you can see my measurements written in pencil. This helped me transfer the blue tape as closely as I could to the wood panel I made, I was careful to write the measurements for the right hole on the left side and the left measurements on the rights side so that when I put the tape on the back of my panel the holes would line up (basically it would reverse). If your dishwasher is perfectly centered in the space between your cabinets the measurements should be exactly the same.
blue tape with the measurements and markings from the stainless steel panel attached to the diy faux dishwasher panel to line up the initial screws for joining the two together
Using the measurements from the dishwasher panel I placed the tape on the new wood panel I made. You can see the screws to the pulls in place. If I turned it around you’d see the pulls attached.

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.

these heavy duty washers are what held the handle in place, I reused them to attach my panel to the stainless steel front.
These washers were so heavy duty I decided to use them to attach the panel to the stainless steel front.

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.

double check to make sure the dishwasher still works after replacing the circuit board.
I checked to make sure the dishwasher still turned on after returning the circuit board to its slot.

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.

custom made dishwasher panel placed on a standard dishwasher converted into a paneled dishwasher
If you followed my stories you may have seen that I added a faux toe kick under this diy standard dishwasher to paneled dishwasher conversion. That will be another tutorial in this island glow up series.

Then, I sat back and stared at my magical thing for at least an hour.

Final thoughts and maybe some FAQ’s

  1. The door doesn’t fall open, the spring still supports the added weight and can be opened half way and just sit there.
  2. If you removed the drywall and still need a little more depth you can make your panel out of 1/2″ or 1/4″.
  3. 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.

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