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Unless the manufacturer states otherwise, a gap between the dishwasher and countertop is not mandatory. However, it is advisable to have a ½ – ¾" gap between the dishwasher and your countertop allowing for proper airflow.
Dishwashers have quickly become a standard household appliance for many people. So much so that when kitchen cabinets are built, an enclosed space for a dishwasher is already planned for. Manufacturers produce dishwashers with standard sizes but understanding how the appliance works and what suitable space is needed around it is important.
Let’s have a look at why the gap is necessary for optimal dishwasher activity and how to make that gap less of an eyesore in your kitchen.
What Does the Manufacturer Say?
When installing a new dishwasher into a cabinet space in your kitchen, it is quite standard to have a “clearance” or gap situated between the top of your dishwasher and the bottom of your countertop.
Most dishwashing manufacturers actually advise people to have this gap in their instructions for installation, although, not all will mention a clearance space in their installation specs.
Why Would the Gap Be Necessary?
One of the main elements involved with the dishwashing process is heat. Whether it is water being heated to effectively wash all your Sunday lunch dishes or heating the air inside to dry your dishes, there is a build-up of heat in and around the dishwasher within the small and partially enclosed space under your countertop.
If there is no clearance, the build-up of heat could cause the circulation motor (which collects water and distributes it to the spray arms) to overheat because airflow will be restricted and will damage the appliance.
You may be asking why is the gap needed at the top of the dishwasher and not on the sides? It may be more effective for heated air to escape the enclosed space in this case because hot air rises. Also, by adjusting the feet of your dishwasher, it makes it easier to adjust the appliance to its desired height.
Issues With Gap Between Dishwasher and Counter
Although this clearance is necessary, it is also an open invitation for the accumulation of dust around your appliance. And believe me, removing a dishwasher to clean its partially enclosed space can be tricky, especially if you need to re-connect electrical and plumbing systems.
If your kitchen is made up of wooden cabinetry, steam that escapes from opening your dishwasher or from the vent on its door can collect within the clearance space and cause a steam burn. This creates a white film on your wooden furniture leading to damaged cabinetry that may need replacing in the future.
You can read more about how moisture can cause issues in my article on Reasons Why Having No Ventilation in a Bathroom is Terrible.
Although most modern dishwashers don’t make much noise, some older models may and can be heard more prominently when there are gaps around the appliance.
How Much Space Between Countertop and Dishwasher?
The clearance required between a dishwasher and countertop may vary with the different brands of a dishwasher. The standard dimensions of a dishwasher are about 30 to 42″ wide, 24″ deep and 35″ high (oversized dishwasher) and 18″ wide, 24″ deep, and 35″ high (compact sized dishwasher).
The standard height of kitchen cabinets is approximately 34.5″ (excluding the 1.5″ countertop) on top of your finished floor. It may be better to install a dishwasher once the floor is done and the extra inches are taken into consideration.
Overall, the standard clearance size is about ½ – ¾ inches. Floors may need to be removed or appliance feet adjusted to create this gap.
How to Hide Gap Between Dishwasher and Countertop
Raising Your Dishwasher
If you want to close the clearance or gap and your dishwasher feet have already reached their maximum height, you may want to look into raising your appliance instead. Like a lady who turns to heeled shoes, you can also give your dishwasher a boost by adding a sheet of plywood underneath the appliance.
The thickness of the plywood depends on the current gap height and the length and width depend on the base size of the dishwasher. If your dishwasher is equipped with a toe kick (space under the dishwasher for your toes) a new panel for that toe kick will need to be installed considering the height added.
Plywood is a very durable material that can cost from $5 to $55 for a 4×8 sheet depending on the thickness. Your ideal thickness and price can be found here. If you know the measurements you need, you can get Home Depot to cut the plywood to size.
Create a Frame
You would need to remove the dishwashing machine and create a wooden frame around the appliance and needs to be attached to the cabinet’s sides and not the dishwasher. The thickness of the wood needs to be the same as the gaps around the dishwasher.
This may be better suited if a new dishwashing machine is much smaller than the previous one and gaps are present on both sides and the top.
Dishwasher Filler Strips
Installing dishwasher filler strips involves measuring the gap and cutting a piece of wood accordingly (or getting Home Depot to do it as mentioned previously). The piece of wood is painted, preferably the same color as the surrounding cabinetry. The dishwasher is removed, and the wood panel is placed underneath the countertop and on top of the dishwasher where it is secured with L-brackets (brackets attached to the appliance which are screwed into the countertop).
There aren’t too many videos that focus on specifically installing filler strips in the dishwasher and countertop gap, but there are some that show the basics of how filler strips are installed in cabinet gaps, like the one below.
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