Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Dishwasher Installation

A month or so back, the Dishwasher in our place (a Whirlpool SHU5000-0) died suddenly. That particular model, it seems was originally manufactured in 1989, and parts for it are basically impossible to locate. So, after messing around trying to locate parts, I finally came to the decision that I had no choice but to buy a new one. So, Catherine and I drove up to Spokane to look at the Fred's Appliance ding-and-dent center to see if we could get a good deal on a unit. For around $300 (with $100 in rebates for it being Energy Star), we walked away with a unit that is larger, worlds quieter, and generally better than the unit that we replaced. It's an Estate unit, which was nearly identical to a Whirlpool (Estate is a Whirlpool brand) that cost about $200 more, so I think we did well. In fact, with a few simple hacks, I think I could make it identical, but I've been informed that dishwasher hacking is not in my future.

There are a few things that the otherwise very helpful sales guy at Fred's didn't talk to us about, and that was that we didn't get a blanket for the dishwasher, which can help with sound and which we'll probably need to buy later, and Dishwashers do not typically come with electrical cords, since some are hardwired into the house electrical evidently. We installed without the blanket, which may be okay since this unit is already so much quieter than our old one, and for the electrical cable, I built one with extension cord parts bought at the local hardware store, and it works fine.

Installing the unit was fairly straight forward. Holes had already been drilled in the cabinet, though I had to drill an extra one for the water line since the plug on my custom cable was dramatically larger than on the old cable. The original water line was bent copper, which I thought was probably only done twenty years ago, but according to the installation instructions for my new unit apparently isn't that unusual anymore, still I had to replace the line since the interface wasn't compatible, and went with a braided steel cable, which wasn't a problem because the size of dishwasher supply lines apparently hasn't changed over the last few decades.

We followed the instructions in the book pretty closely. Ran the water and drain lines, taping them to the ground and pushing the dishwasher over them, the water line having a 90° adapter. The electrical line was a bit short, so I tied twine it to it, and Catherine fed it through the cabinet hole while I pushed the dishwasher in. In retrospect, I wish we'd done the same with the water line, but more on that in a minute.

Hooking up the drain line to the waste disposal (or drain tee), and to the dishwasher simply involved a pair of compression clips included with the dishwasher. A good pair of pliers, and a bit of hand strength, is all that's needed to install those. What was the biggest challenge after the unit was standing up, was installing the water supply line. This was partially because the 90° adapter was brass, with a large rubber grommet that would slip loose, while the connection on the dishwasher was plastic. Installing that under very tight quarters was quite difficult. Next time, I'm going to attach the line to the washer, and pull it through the cabinet using twine. It will be easier and cause me less heartache, I'm sure.

There were two things I learned from this experience that are very important. If you have an opportunity to get the install guide easily, take it. They unboxed my unit at the store, and while I had the opportunity to pull out the instructions before it was wrapped in plastic to go in my truck, I didn't take it and they were sealed inside the washer, meaning my first trip to the hardware store for parts did not get me everything. Second, make sure you understand what you need. To properly install the electrical cable, I needed a strain relief that was not included on the parts list, because apparently I was expected to buy a $20 electrical cord kit from Whirlpool. Building my own cable was ~$5, including the strain relief. Also, if the hole your strain relief needs to fill is 7/8", a 3/8" strain relief is actually large enough, because they measure the size differently, luckily the guy at the hardware store was really helpful, but I still bought a few extra, with the intent to return them if they didn't fit.

In the end, this process ended up being significantly harder than I thought it would be. There are a few tricks I learned that will make future installations (if I have any) significantly easier. It may have taken a lot longer than it would have if we paid someone, but I figure we'd have had to pay a plumber enough that it was worth it, even if the kitchen being torn up did stress the cats out pretty bad.

Oh, one last note, the shutoff valves under our sink were rusted shut really badly. You should close them at least yearly, preferably every six months, to make sure that in an emergency you can shut them off easily. To get ours unstuck, I used PB Blaster, which smells bad and kind of goes against our tendency to try not using heavy solvents, but it works, and it works quickly, and frankly, I'm not sure any natural products would have solved my problem. I'm definitely planning to keep the shutoff valves turning more freely in the future.