Installing a Dishwasher in an Old House

After a few weeks of washing dishes by hand in a shallow sink with a small drain and a fashionable, but too-high faucet, it was clear that domestic tranquility would be served only by installing an automatic dishwasher. This was made doubly urgent because of the prospect of sharing the house for a few months with our son and his family. Hand-rinsing in luke-warm water would almost insure a winter of coughs, colds, and flu with six people in the house.

One of the attractions of the historic Stoehr house is that the house has been renovated, but not altered from the charm of the 1920s. The kitchen is not large and has the original hand-crafted cabinets. The only solution to an in-kitchen dishwasher would have been to remove the narrow cabinet next to the sink and install an 18-inch dishwasher. This would not only have not held enough dishes to be useful for more than two people, but integrating the dishwasher into the existing original plumbing would have been difficult, if not impossible. So, we looked to the next best location, which would permit a full-sized dishwasher and a more standard installation.

The utility room had been remodeled in the 1970s, adding a modern washer and dryer, which have been replaced recently, along with a laundry tub. In this photo, taken while the previous owners were still in residence, the original configuration can be seen. To the right is a coffee station, a use we have retained. It was logical, then, to extend the use of the space from laundry and mudroom to include function as a butler's pantry, with coffee service and cleanup, leaving the kitchen for food prep and cooking.

The laundry sink was also outdated and not functional--the hot water was only a dribble, the cold water shut-off valve was inoperative, and the settling of the house had left the back-mounted small drain high and dry, so that there was a constant wet puddle in the sink.

Here is the final solution, which took an entire week to implement. The sink cabinet was relocated four inches to the left to permit a full five-foot countertop, into which was set a new deep laundry sink, after cutting down the side of the cabinet to accommodate the drainer tray on the right side of the sink, which makes the sink wider than the cabinet. The rusted plumbing was replaced, along with the shutoff valves, adding a dual-output hot water valve to service the dishwasher. The original laundry sink cabinet was deeper than the standard 24" kitchen units, so the countertop was set out from the wall far enough to install the dishwasher drain air gap behind it and allow use and servicing of the electrical outlets and switches without cutting the backsplash. Moving the sink also leaves a full 12-inch space beside the dishwasher for storage of laundry products. This room will be off-limits to toddlers, so lower open shelving shouldn't be a problem. The deep sink is ideal for scraping dishes. We bought a fine strainer, but there is the option of installing a disposer unit in the future. The additional counter space is handy for small appliances like the automatic bread machine, which no longer has to share space with the espresso machine on the opposite wall. The only drawback is having to carry dishes back to the kitchen for storage, but some dishes are stored in the cabinets above the dishwasher, so it isn't completely out of the way.

Photo credits: top picture, Jeanne Blanton, Windermere Real Estate; bottom picture, Larye Parkins.