I found one of those things I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it until it was actually gone. That thing is a dishwasher.
The first half of my childhood, we didn’t have a dishwasher. We took turns washing the dishes by hand and putting them away. I enjoyed washing them, but it was more to spend time playing in the warm water than anything else. I think my parents caught on to what I was doing and took me off the rotation. It was a money saving effort.
Then my parents remodeled the kitchen and installed a dishwasher and things changed. We now rinsed dishes before putting them in a box that washed them. It was a big difference. But, as is the case with a house full of hard water, the dishes never seemed to come out as clean as you would like them to. There was always a film on things and it seemed to get a tiny bit thicker with every wash. But still, it was better than spending time washing dishes.
In college, I went back to having no dishwasher again. The dorms didn’t have a sink to wash dishes in, let alone a dishwasher. I think I washed my dishes in the bathroom sink of the dorms. Neither of my two college apartments had dishwashers either. It was a cause for concern. Because some people didn’t like washing their dishes in a timely manner and caused the passive aggressive angst common in early twentysomething roommates. I was the person who didn’t wash in a timely manner. Other roommates were too, but I definitely was on that list.
After college, I was in the Peace Corps. Neither Mama Natasha and Vlodja’s house, the brief stint in the apartment on Lisovovo Street nor my final resting place on Uspensko Troitska had dishwashers. Hell, the apartment on Lisovovo didn’t even have hot water but that’s a different story. Dishes piled up from time to time, but since I was the only one there it didn’t bother anyone else nor did it matter if I spent an hour washing things every now and then.
After Peace Corps, things started to change where having a dishwasher mattered more. I had my own place stateside and it was nice for what I could afford, but it didn’t have a dishwasher. I also had a girlfriend and I cooked for her more than I had cooked for anyone else. The dishes piled up. I was stuck in this situation where I wanted to wash the dishes so the apartment looked tidy and she thought I was a well-domesticated individual and the situation where we wanted to spend time together so time spent washing dishes wasn’t a productive choice.
When I moved in with Ellie, she had a dishwasher and life got better. We just put the dishes in and forgot about them. The place we moved next had a dishwasher too, even though it was on the fritz from time to time. It was better than nothing.
Then we bought our house. The house did not have a dishwasher nor did it have a logical place to put one. The sink was in an odd location and the cabinets around it were too narrow. We also didn’t want to give up the trash drawer right next to the sink. Having two cats and a dog makes it great to have the trash hidden away. Guess which of the three would be the most of a nuisance if the trash was available (hint: Marley)?
Since we didn’t know where to put the dishwasher and we just bought a house so we didn’t have the cash to hire someone to figure it out for us, we just decided to let it go for the time being and hand wash the dishes.
Dishes eat up so much time. Especially when two people are making the mess together. I try to be economical with my cooking utensils, but still. It’s terrible. Sometimes we’d have a pile of dishes waiting to be washed. Sometimes we’d have a pile waiting to be put away and sometimes we had both. Most of the time we had both. The pile waiting to be put away caused the pile waiting to be washed to grow to the point where we couldn’t wash all the dishes because we ran out of space to dry them.
And then a generous family member gifted us some money and we put it towards a dishwasher. We bought a Frigidaire 18 Built-In Dishwasher. We figured out where we’d put it, next to the refrigerator and around the corner from the sink. We just needed to figure out how to install it. As it turns out, there aren’t a whole lot of options for people who will install a new dishwasher for you in Madison, WI. We reached out to about ten different companies we found online and were recommended to us via neighbors on NextDoor and only a handful got back to us and all but one told us that the job was too small for them to take. The one who did get back to us gave us an estimate of $1000 to install it. That would triple the cost of the project for us. We said no thanks and did the only thing we knew how to do, called my dad.
My dad is happy to help with house projects if he has the time. He’s also a fantastic teacher, showing me what I need to do and letting me do it. He and I found a weekend that worked for the both of us and got to work.
There were a number of things that needed to be done in order to get the dishwasher up and running. Those things were:
Before my dad came over, I took a morning and tore out the old cabinet (which would have cost us $150 if we had that one guy do it). It really wasn’t hard. I only needed to remove a few screws and then finesse it from beneath the countertop. This step was much easier because we were removing an end cabinet. I can only imagine how much more work it would have taken if it was sandwiched between two. Having gotten the cabinet out, I cleaned the space behind and beneath the cabinet. There were decades worth of dirt and crumbs piled up. It was rather gross, but the shop vac Ellie and I found on the side of the road made quick work of it.
We threw the cabinet on the side of the road and for some reason, someone took it before the trash could. Weird.
To be honest, I expected this project to be a lot harder then it ended up being. When the cabinet came out, I learned the Lazy Susan had a rounded back instead of being flush with the wall. The water line and the drain hose could just sit on the floor behind this, instead of needing to drill holes for them. There was even a hole in the cabinet under the sink through which I could feed the hoses. That made the project a lot easier.
One of the main things I needed my dad to help me with was adding the circuit. We were lucky that the breaker box was right beneath where we were installing the new outlet. And partially because of that, this was one of the easiest steps of the process. We didn’t need to run wires all throughout the basement. Also, we drilled a hole to get the wire into the wall and fed it up to the hole in the wall where the outlet would be and it only took us two tries to get everything right. All in, the new circuit took us about twenty minutes.
Then came the hard part, attaching the hoses to hook it all up. This was made hard because the standard length of hose to connect to a dishwasher is six feet and we were dealing with close to eight feet. So we needed to couple two hoses together to make the run. Finding the right combination of clamps and couplers at the hardware store was not as easy as it should have been. I feel like we didn’t have a unique problem. Anyway, we figured it out eventually.
Hooking up the water to the existing line was fairly straightforward once we had the right fitting. But when we went to hook up the drain line, we were at a bit of a loss. My sink has a garbage disposal in it and my dad has never had one. So he didn’t know how to connect the dishwasher to the drain line. So we turned to YouTube and found a video explaining what we needed to do. There’s apparently a plastic piece that needs to be punched out on the side of the garbage disposal and you attach the drain hose to that fitting. To be honest, I was far from comfortable taking a screwdriver and a hammer to that little piece of plastic because at the time I wasn’t certain it would do what we needed it to do and that we would only destroy the garbage disposal. But we didn’t.
After that, it was a matter of balancing the dishwasher under the counter and stopping some leaks. All said and done, the project took about 6 hours and that includes two trips to the store. Well worth it, especially since the one estimate we received was $1000.
Now, Ellie and I have free time again. We spend a few minutes here and there loading and unloading the dishwasher. We have more time to focus on other things around the house.