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Built-In or Freestanding Washing Machine

When you're buying a new washing machine you have a lot of choices to make. You might have a brand preference and your budget will probably play a part in your decision. If you live alone, a large drum is likely to be inefficient, if you have an active family and don't want to spend your whole life loading and emptying the washer a large capacity machine is a necessity.

There are decisions to be made about the features you need, fast spin, half loads, delicate washes and so on. Then again, if you don't appreciate feeling like you need a degree in computer programming just to get your laundry clean, there's a lot to be said for buying a more basic machine. Why pay for a whole load of features you won't use if all you achieve is a machine that has more to go wrong!

There's one decision which on first glance may appear to be purely cosmetic, namely should you buy a built-in or freestanding washing machine? In fact, this decision is about far more than appearances.

Types of built-in washing machines

There are three major choices. Integrated, semi-integrated or built-in:
  1. 1. Integrated - The appliance has a kitchen door fitted to it so that the washing machine is hidden. The bottom plinth panel is recessed so that your kitchen units plinth line remains unbroken.
  2. 2. Semi-integrated - There is a door fitted and the base is recessed but the control panel remains visible.
  3. 3. Built-in - The washing machine fits into your cupboard run and the plinth is recessed but there is no door in front of it.

All three of these options are specifically designed to fit into kitchens only The recess at the bottom to allow a plinth to be fitted means they're unstable if not contained within a run of cupboards.

Freestanding Washing Machines

As the name implies, freestanding appliances don't need to be fitted within a run of units. You can fit one in a kitchen if you want to, but equally, so long as they have a power and water supply you can equally easily accommodate free-standing washing machines in bathrooms or utility rooms.

Which is Best?

If your machine is going in your kitchen and a streamlined frontage is the most important factor to you, you'll want to opt for an integrated or semi-integrated washing machine. These units do however come with a number of disadvantages:

  • 1. More expensive to buy - Smaller numbers of any given model are produced and there are extra parts to manufacture. This adds to the cost without bringing any performance benefits.
  • 2. Reduced performance - Spin cycles are usually lower to reduce vibration as this can cause damage to the door and surrounding units.
  • 3. Limited choice - If you're installing a totally new kitchen you can plan it around your integrated appliances, but when you want to fit a built-in washing machine to an existing kitchen and need a machine that fits precisely into the space you have available your choices are reduced even further.
  • 4. Fitting and maintenance are more complicated - You'll need to make sure measurements are very accurate or you could end up with a machine that doesn't fit. The technician has to work within a limited space, this is more difficult, takes longer and is likely to cost more. Washing machine repairs and maintenance are also more costly because of the extra time involved in completing them.

The choice is always yours. There's no denying that integrated machines look great but if value for money is the most important thing to you, a freestanding washing machine is likely to serve you better.