How to Complete Your Dream Kitchen with Specialty Appliances

A fantastic open-plan kitchen with a top-notch clean finish all over, including the walls, surfaces and floors.

Adding specialty appliances to your kitchen, like the GE Slate ones shown in this model, can be the perfect finishing touch for your brand new home. Photo courtesy of GE.

You’ve been working closely with your new home builder and move-in day is quickly approaching as your building team completes the finishing touches. For many, one of the focal points of any new home is the kitchen area. It can serve as a centralized gathering point for large families, and is always a great place to get the party started if you love to entertain. Thankfully, since you’ve opted to purchase a new home, as you finish building our your perfect kitchen, you will not be challenged by older, out of warranty, less efficient appliances and can select the exact models to fit your needs and lifestyle.

What to Know About
Specialty Appliances

By now, you’ve probably selected the heart of your kitchen, which is usually a cooking center and a refrigerator/freezer unit that offers ample storage room for you and your family. Now comes the fun part: Selecting specialized appliances to finish decking out your new kitchen! These appliances might include a wine or beverage cooler, built-in ice maker, dishwasher, or vent hood.

Here are some key things to consider with specialty appliances before finalizing your new kitchen:

Tip: Design built-in counter spaces for industry standard dimensions.

To begin, most built-in appliance manufactures follow fairly standard guidelines related to product dimensions. You’ll need to be aware of those dimensions as you work with your builder to create the under-counter spaces within your kitchen.

While product dimensions will vary by brand, a general guideline is as follows:

• Width: 15 or 24 inches
• Height: 32 to 34 inches
• Depth: 23 to 25 inches

Selecting your special appliances: Must-know details

Beverage Coolers
This specialty appliance is ideal for homeowners who require additional storage for cans and bottles, and want to avoid cluttering their main fridge. A beverage cooler will usually offer temperature controls similar to a typical refrigerator, and include a glass door with solid door design options available, too. Most beverage coolers will list their “can capacity” to give you an idea of their storage size. If you plan on storing bottles or larger cans, look for units that offer adjustable shelving options.

Wine Coolers
A perfect addition to your kitchen if you love to entertain or collect wines! Under-counter units will typically store around 48 bottles (four cases) if you choose a 24-inch-wide model. Temperature ranges will vary by brand and unit, so be sure to match the temp range you are seeking with the type of wine you wish to store -- red, white or sparkling. Dual-temperature zone units are available should you wish to run two independent temperature zones to store red and white wines within the same unit. Some manufacturers offer under-counter units which include two separate temperature zones, which allow you to store wine and other beverages. These units typically have a French door-like design to separate the independent storage areas.

Ice Makers
While most modern kitchen fridge/freezer units offer ice production, the amount of ice produced may not be sufficient -- or the type desired. In these instances, an under-counter ice maker is an excellent addition to your new kitchen. Modern ice makers offer a variety of ice options including, cloudy, clear, shaved, crushed, and may include various cube shapes, too.

Ice makers will list their production and storage capacity maximums in pounds, so pay attention to these numbers when selecting a unit to ensure you purchase a unit capable of meeting your needs. The production number equals how much ice a unit is capable of producing in a 24-hour period. The storage number is the maximum amount of ice that may be stored within the internal storage container at any given time.

Important note about ice maker installation: All full-size, under-counter ice makers will require a permanent water connection and drain line. With this in mind, consult your builder to ensure your built-in ice maker will have access to both necessities. If your drain option is too far away from the built-in ice maker, an additional condensate pump may be required to help move the exiting water the additional distance to the drain.

Dishwashers
As you might imagine, a dishwasher is typically located under-counter next to your main sink area, as it will require access to your hot and cold water lines and your drain system. Except for a few specialized models, the majority will fall into the 24-inch-wide built-in category. Unless you have odd-sized dishes, or require specialized washing cycles such as a low water pressure China cycle, most brand name dishwasher models are very similar when it comes to operation and cleaning power.

However, one feature that is becoming increasingly more important to new home owners is decibel/audio levels. If you are seeking a quiet model, look for a dishwasher rated at 45 decibels or less. Models with additional drying cycles are available, too, if you are battling water spots.

Vent Hoods
There are so many vent hood models and variations to choose from, so pick a style that best fits your design theme while keeping the following vent hood specifics in mind. Vent hood models with either circulate air to the outside of your home or filter it and reintroduce back into your kitchen. “Over-the-range microwaves” that double as a vent hood are a great option if you want easy access to your microwave while cooking.

You’ll also need to select a vent system that can keep up with the British thermal units (BTU) your cooking center is producing underneath it. A vent hood’s ability to handle air flow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Start with your cooking centers maximum BTU output during operation (most cooktops will list this information) and divide that number by 100. For example, if your cooktops maximum BTU output is 50,000, your vent hood should offer a CFM rating of 500 or higher.

A quick word regarding visual appearance

Most appliances are available in the standard exterior colors of white, black, and stainless steel wraps. Some high-end brands will offer what is called “custom panel” options, which allows the homeowner to slide in a custom color or pattern of their choice over the front of a solid door unit. While most stainless steel appearances should be fairly uniform, many homeowners swear by the practice of purchasing as many different appliances from one specific brand to help ensure a consistent stainless steel tint throughout their kitchen.

Summary of important points

  • Always design your built-in, under-counter spaces to fit appliance industry standard height, width and depth guidelines, not for one specific model.
  • Make certain your home builder understands exactly where you intend to locate specialty appliances within your kitchen to ensure proper access to electrical outlets, water feeds, and drains.
  • In addition to the usual product review sites such as Consumer Reports, user-generated product reviews may be easily found on Amazon.com and even YouTube for more common models.
  • Pay attention to the manufacturer’s service warranty details as not all of them include “In home service” and many of these appliances are extremely difficult to transport to a local service center should one exist in your area.
  • Most major brand appliances offer easy online access to a unit’s spec sheet and owner’s manual. Take time to review all specs and requirements of a given appliance before purchasing to help avoid possible return costs and installation delays.
B. Ford spent more than a decade in the specialty appliance retail industry, and now devotes his time to freelance print and video content creation. 

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