Common Mistakes Homeowners Make with Dishwashers and How to Avoid Them
Most homes these days have a dishwasher installed in the kitchen. Having a dishwasher in your home can be a true time-saver and a convenient addition to your daily routine. However, improper installation and usage can lead to frustrating issues and even costly repairs. Unfortunately, as a Home Inspector, Jo finds improperly installed dishwashers regularly during inspections. There are 5 major mistakes homeowners often make when installing and using their dishwasher. By learning about proper installation and regular routine maintenance, you can ensure smooth and efficient dishwasher operation while prolonging the unit’s lifespan.
Properly Securing the Dishwasher to the Counter and Cabinetry: Cost $5-$25
The most common mistake homeowners make when installing a new dishwasher is not properly securing the unit to the counter and cabinetry. Although it may feel nit-picky for the home inspector to comment on some slight movement of the dishwasher, poorly connected dishwashers can result in excessive movement, noise, and even potential damage to the dishwasher and surrounding areas. To avoid this issue:
- Often homeowners neglect to use the sides of the dishwasher to secure it to the cabinetry and only secure it using the small strips provided for mounting to the countertops. Sometimes only mounting to the counter is sufficient, often it is not enough to reduce movement.
- Many homeowners skip securing the unit to the counters due to caution and concern about fastening to granite, stone or some other hard surface. Follow the link for a hard surface dishwasher counter mount kit at your local big box store. 2nd link
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securing the dishwasher to the counter or cabinets.
- Use appropriate brackets or mounting hardware to ensure a secure and stable installation.
- Properly securing the dishwasher will prevent movement during operation, reducing noise and the risk of damage.
Removing and Washing the Dishwasher Filter: Cost $0
One common mistake homeowners make is neglecting the dishwasher filter. Over time, food particles and debris can accumulate, leading to clogs, unpleasant odors, and reduced cleaning efficiency. If your dishwasher has begun to leave food particles or excess water at the bottom of the tub after a cycle is run, a clogged filter is often the culprit. To avoid these issues, follow these steps to remove and wash the dishwasher filter:
- Consult your dishwasher’s manual to locate the filter.
- Gently remove the filter and rinse it under running water to remove loose debris.
- If necessary, use a soft brush or toothbrush to clean any stubborn residue.
- Ensure the filter is completely clean or any particles before reinserting it into the dishwasher.
- Regularly cleaning the filter, at least once a month, will keep your dishwasher running smoothly and help maintain clean dishes.
Installing the Discharge Drain with a High Loop: Cost $5-$30
This is one of the most common mistakes made when installing a dishwasher that Inspector Jo finds in brand New houses and older homes alike. Improper installation of the discharge drain can lead to wastewater backing up into the dishwasher, causing foul smells and potential contamination. In some states you may see the use of an “air admittance valve” instead, either under the counter or on the top of the counter as a solution for back siphoning of the discharge, however this is NOT ALLOWED in the state of Illinois. Follow these steps to install a high loop for your discharge drain:
- Locate the discharge hose, which is usually connected to the back of the dishwasher.
- Create a loop in the hose that is higher than the sink drain or garbage disposal inlet.
- Secure the loop using a zip tie or a clip to ensure it remains in place.
- A plastic bracket can be purchased for under $20 at big box stores to help ensure and proper and secure install of the high loop. Follow the link to see the online listing
- This high loop acts as a barrier, preventing wastewater from flowing back into the dishwasher, ensuring proper drainage and preventing contamination.
Avoiding Connection to the Garbage Disposal: Cost $10-$30
Most modern garbage disposals will come with a convenient connection for the dishwashers’s discharge drain, which can be tempting to use. However, this connection is NOT ALLOWED in the state of Illinois. It may seem convenient to connect the dishwasher’s discharge drain to the garbage disposal, but it can lead to serious problems. Here’s why you should avoid this common mistake:
- Garbage disposals are not designed to handle the volume of water discharged by a dishwasher, leading to clogs and potential damage.
- Food particles from the garbage disposal can get stuck in the dishwasher’s drain, causing blockages and unpleasant odors.
- Often homeowners will notice lots of backed up food particles in the sink after the dishwasher is run, indicating poor drainage due to the garbage disposal and dishwasher being full of particles and food.
- Instead, connect the dishwasher discharge drain directly to a dedicated drain line or the sink’s drain pipe.
- If you already have 2 sink drains this is a relatively simple repair with pieces that can be bought at big box hardware stores. If you have a single drain sink and a garbage disposal, a second drain line should be installed under the sink to accommodate for the dishwasher discharge. Link to purchase a new drain tail piece
Providing a Dedicated HOT Water Valve Connection for the Dishwasher: Cost $10-$25
Sharing the hot water connection with other appliances like the kitchen faucet can lead to inconsistent water temperatures and inadequate cleaning performance. To avoid this problem, ensure your dishwasher has a dedicated hot water valve connection:
- ALWAYS use HOT water to connect a dishwasher. Dishwashers are often equipped with heating elements for water, but a HOT water only connection is still required to properly clean the items during a wash cycle.
- Install a separate hot water valve specifically for the dishwasher, if one is not already in place. The easiest way to install a valve is the Sharkbite – Push to connect – valves and connections. Inspector Jo recommends using a 1/2 turn or 1/4 turn valve instead of the older 360 degree valves to reduce confusion and create strong lasting connections.
- This dedicated connection ensures a consistent supply of hot water, allowing your dishwasher to effectively clean your dishes.
- A separate valve connection will also ensure that you can still use your faucets hot water if the dishwasher is broken, or in need or repair as well.
By avoiding these five common mistakes you can ensure optimal dishwasher performance and prevent unnecessary repairs.
Remember to consult your dishwasher’s manual for specific instructions tailored to your model (For example some units require the use of salts or regular tub cleaning). Proper maintenance and installation practices will keep your dishwasher running smoothly, allowing you to enjoy clean, sparkling dishes hassle-free.
A little knowledge and care go a long way in maximizing the efficiency and lifespan of your dishwasher!
Inspector Jo Home Inspections
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Inspector Jo wants to empower fellow home owners to feel confident doing simple at home repairs that may come up during a home inspection report, or throughout the lifetime of a home…