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Need Help Sizing a Refrigerator Surrounding Cabinet

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Forum topic by JBrow posted 08-04-2016 04:54 PM 742 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


08-04-2016 04:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: refrigerator surround cabinet

My question is whether I have sized the opening of a refrigerator surrounding cabinet correctly.

I expect that one day the existing side by side refrigerator will conk out and have to be replaced. I would prefer to avoid the headache of having to modify the refrigerator surrounding cabinet because I built the cabinet opening be too small to accommodate a new refrigerator. Although my quick internet survey suggests that a replacement refrigerator would fit in the opening as I have sized it, I figure a little expert input would be a good thing to get.

Our existing side by side refrigerator is 35-1/2” wide X 28” deep (excluding thickness of the refer doors) X 69-1/2” high (to the top of the door hinges). The cabinet into which the refrigerator will set is now dimensioned at 36-1/2” wide X 33-1/2” deep X 70” high. Are these safe dimensions?

Additional Info. We are in the cabinet building phase of our kitchen remodel. I will begin working on cold wall cabinetry for placement in a corner of the kitchen. The centerpiece of the cold wall cabinetry is the refrigerator set into a wooden surround that in turn is flanked by upper and base cabinetry. The refrigerator surround will set diagonally in the corner with the side walls of the surround at 45 degrees to the walls making up the corner.

This will be a three phase build, where the refrigerator surround is the first to be built. The upper and base cabinets will be designed to integrate with the refer surround and come after the surround is installed.


17 replies so far

View mako1's profile

mako1

20 posts in 259 days


#1 posted 08-04-2016 06:18 PM

First off,we are woodworkers and not appliance salesmen so how would anyone here know if your new fridge blew up in 10 years if another would fit?I doubt an appliance salesman could tell you that.
I would suggest that you rethink your layout.I have never in my 60 years .14 of which was owning and operating a custom cabinet shop, ever seen a reefer placed diagonally acrossed a corner.
There are far more reasons for this than I care to list now.The biggest being the waste of space for the reefer and cabinets.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3942 posts in 1958 days


#2 posted 08-04-2016 06:41 PM

I have no idea if they are “safe”, but they are common; and I suspect you will be able to get a fridge of the same dimensions for sometime into the future. I can tell you that in my current house, as well as my daughter’s current house, our overhead cabinet doors won’t open because they hit the (new) refrigerator’s door hinge….someone didn’t give it that same thought process you are.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


#3 posted 08-05-2016 01:36 AM

mako1,

Thanks for the reply! I guess I was not so much asking for a predication of the future, but rather whether pros like yourself have arrived at standard dimensions for a cabinet opening into which a refrigerator sets. If there happens to be an industry standard, I would probably re-draw my shop drawings to match those cabinetry standards. Do you follow any industry standards and if so, what are the standard dimensions for refer surrounding cabinets? Do you provide some consulting to your clients on the size for a refrigerator cabinet, and if so, on what do you base your advice?

Regarding the diagonal layout of the kitchen, I am not particularly surprised that you have never built diagonally positioned cabinetry. And I agree that it is unlike any layout I have seen; having moved several times over the last 30 years and thus having looked at a lot of kitchens. The planning for our kitchen was several years in the making. In the end, placing the refrigerator at a diagonal made the most sense. But that was not the only diagonal introduced into the design. The slide in range is also placed diagonally, but thankfully there will be no cabinetry over the range; just an access panel. And then there is the breakfast bar which extends out from an outside corner at 15 degrees. Yep, the angles are a headache for sure, but make the most efficient use of space. I hate blind corner cabinetry.

You mentioned that there are many reasons to avoid diagonal placement of the refrigerator. Other than whether another arrangement could make more efficient use of the inside corner, I can only think of the time and complexity of the build of the flanking upper and base cabinets as counterpoints to the diagonal placement. I would image that this arrangement would be expensive to hire out, but I am building the cabinets myself so expense is not a consideration for me. But admittedly among the cold wall, hot wall, and wet wall, the cold wall the most complex and thus requires the most planning.

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JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


#4 posted 08-05-2016 01:57 AM

Fred Hargis,

Thanks for your comments. My thinking is in line with yours. The dimensions I am currently planning seem common among appliances. Since a residential appliance must fit through a 36” wide doorway, I assume manufacturers will continue to ensure at least width or depth as packaged in a container will not exceed 36”. But I got to thinking that there may be a cabinetry industry standard for cabinetry surrounding a refrigerator. If there is such a standard I thought I would play it safe and follow that standard, which I assume appliance manufacturers would consider when designing a new product line. Anyway I thought I would ask about these standards.

I do appreciate your word of caution concerning cabinet door clearance. I have yet to be confronted with this problem, one that I certainty want to avoid. A filler strip to move the cabinet and hence its door out of the way of any obstructions is probably the direction I will go. I just have not decided whether the filler strip would actually be a part of the face frame or whether I will chicken out and just follow tradition using a separate screw on filler strip. Either way I will keep your experience in mind when I develop shop drawings for the upper and lower cabinets. Thanks.

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

3668 posts in 1185 days


#5 posted 08-05-2016 03:01 AM

Refrigerator widths and to a lesser degree depths are standardized in a few different sizes. The height keeps going up for more capacity as over 90% of houses only have doors that are so big and appliances brought into the house are limited by that constraint.

View nightguy's profile

nightguy

213 posts in 127 days


#6 posted 08-05-2016 04:44 AM



Refrigerator widths and to a lesser degree depths are standardized in a few different sizes. The height keeps going up for more capacity as over 90% of houses only have doors that are so big and appliances brought into the house are limited by that constraint.

- bigblockyeti

As a home inspector and a general contractor, and remodeling business, all retired from, every house has a 36” wide door by code, even if it is a patio door. I agree, I have been called apon to remove/modify the upper cabinet for a new Frig. Give that upper cabinet a lower trim piece about 4-6” wide that can be changed/modified in the future without removeing the cabinet, Even redo of the flooring can affect that frig height.

View Dustin's profile

Dustin

143 posts in 205 days


#7 posted 08-05-2016 12:51 PM


As a home inspector and a general contractor, and remodeling business, all retired from, every house has a 36” wide door by code, even if it is a patio door. I agree, I have been called apon to remove/modify the upper cabinet for a new Frig. Give that upper cabinet a lower trim piece about 4-6” wide that can be changed/modified in the future without removeing the cabinet, Even redo of the flooring can affect that frig height.

- nightguy

This is a solid plan. I’m no expert, but I did have to replace our 25 yo fridge earlier this year, and wanted something bigger (21 cu ft is a little small for a 5 person family). The cabinets were original to the house, built in 1972, and the main constraint was the height. Luckily, the bottom of the face frame of the cabinets over the fridge gave me enough room to trim it out to accommodate the new model. But man, having a modifiable lower trim piece would have made this way easier. Of course, if you’re not planning on your capcity needs changing in the future, then it might be a moot point. I believe that 69.5” tall is sufficient for even some of the larger fridges on the market now.
Also, I actually like the diagonal idea, as reaching cabinets over our fridge is a pain, and the addtionaly air space behind will be ample clearance for heat to escape.

-- "Ladies, if your husband says he'll get to it, he'll get to it. No need to remind him about it every 6 months."

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

2145 posts in 1637 days


#8 posted 08-05-2016 12:59 PM

Depth is pretty much standardized to get through a 36” door. Widths are not although I thin you will find there are 3 or 4 more or less standard widths depending on door configuration. Heights are only constrained by how tall the manufacturer figures their average customer is.

I like the diagonal placement. You will need to figure in clearance for opening the door.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


#9 posted 08-05-2016 04:30 PM

bigblockyeti, nightguy, Dustin, and johnstoneb,

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to help me out. You collectively agree; that if there is a problem with my dimensions, it is most likely the height. Egress doorways being standard at 36” and given a maximum depth offered in my current plans at 33-1/2” seem likely to withstand the test of time. I am fairly confident that when the time comes I can find a new refer to fit in the width and depth dimensions afforded by the cabinet.

I had not thought about it until johnstoneb mentioned that manufacturers have an ergonomic constraint, that being the nominal size of probably women. Thinking about it, manufacturers would rather not upset customers by making their refrigerators so tall that a 5’6” woman cannot reach to the back of the top shelf in the refrigerator. As a result, I suspect that while refrigerator height can vary, the variation will not be much.

I like the idea of a filler strip that can be removed, modified and reattached to accommodate a refrigerator that might otherwise be a little too tall. Therefore, that is the direction I will go. But rather than allowing for the 4” – 6” suggested by nightguy, I will opt for the narrowing filler strip. I can easily modify my current plans to gain maximum floor to lower cabinet rail height of 71-1/2” – 72” (by reducing the width of the lower cookbook cabinet bottom rail to 1-1/2” -1”). The added benefit is that 5’6” wife will be able to reach for cookbooks that will be parked above the refrigerator a little easier.

nightguy cautioned about the potential effects of adding a new floor over the existing flooring on the height clearance. I am not too worried about losing height as a result of a flooring change. The subfloor is concrete and a ½” thick floating floor was installed. The flooring manufacturer recommended against installing appliances or cabinetry directly on the floating floor. I therefore installed ½” marine grade plywood wherever the appliances and cabinetry would set. As a result, any future flooring change can be done by either removing the plywood or installing flooring up to the plywood. Either way, I anticipate losing at most ¼” of height clearance should new flooring be installed throughout.

johnstoneb’s mentioned that consideration of door clearance is important. I think I have worked that out, but it remains something I need to keep in mind when building the flanking cabinets. The old kitchen was moved to a new area of the house. In order to keep a working kitchen, especially given speed (or actually the lack thereof) that I complete projects, we moved appliances and cabinets from the old kitchen into the new space, including placing the refrigerator in its permanent diagonal home. As long as I measured correctly and reflected those measurements accurately in my plans, the refer doors have plenty of room to open. Worried about the clearance issue, I elected to recess the refrigerator but leave the doors proud of the surrounding cabinet. It may look a little funny but there will be no issues accessing the refrigerator. Hopefully I can recess the frig completely without encumbering the refrigerator doors.

Again, thanks for the replies! They were all very helpful!

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

2145 posts in 1637 days


#10 posted 08-05-2016 06:03 PM

I was just in Home Depot for another project. I did go back and look at refrigerator dimensions. Your question made me curious. They had about a dozen or so Refrigerators and none of them were the same dimensions. The depth varied from 34” to 38” The height form 69” to 72”. Width was all over the place. After that I’m thinking their may be no actual industry standard at all.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View martyoc's profile

martyoc

26 posts in 382 days


#11 posted 08-05-2016 08:14 PM

Another consideration about using the refrigerator as you have planned it is how far the doors must open to fuully open or remove the condiment drawers. On ours, a Kitchen-aide, they must open somewhat more than 135 degrees which is the limit with your counter design. it is something that should be checked when you purchase the refrigerator.

-- Marty O'C

View JBrow's profile

JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


#12 posted 08-06-2016 01:54 AM

johnstoneb,

Thanks for checking and for the additional info. A few years ago, not sure how long ago, it seems manufacturers figured out that some consumers did not like the refrigerator sticking way out beyond the lip of the flanking countertops. Their solution was to reduce the refer depth, but in order to maintain a generous interior volume, they elected to make these shallow refers wider. This may explain the wild variability in in widths – just a guess. But I did do an on-line survey to see how much refer dimensions changed in the 10 years since buying our current refrigerator. I was able to find a number that offered similar dimensions to ours.

Industry standards; surprisingly I am coming around to agreeing with you – there seems to be no industry standards for size for various classes of refrigerators.

martyoc,

Your comment prompted me to look at just how open the doors need be to access the bins and shelves – and thanks. Our current Kenmore side by side refrigerator permits access to the bins and slide out shelves with the door open to 90 degrees, albeit a little awkward. Opening the door a little more is needed for convenient access. My plans are based on the refrigerator setting where it is now setting. In the current location there is plenty of interior access when the doors are open almost to the over-open stop integrated in the door hinges (probably around 135 degrees) without bumping into the existing flanking countertops. However, I would like to fully recess the refrigerator so that the doors are more or less flush with the front of refer surround cabinet. But in this position, I may have the problem you mentioned. In that event, we will just have to live with the doors sticking out beyond the surrounding cabinet a little more than we would like but what is called for in the plans.

For sure, the diagonal placement of the refrigerator set in a cabinet will introduce requirements for that replacement refrigerator down the road. The requirements include the behavior of the doors and access to the contents as well as height, width, and depth.

View nightguy's profile

nightguy

213 posts in 127 days


#13 posted 08-06-2016 02:00 AM


johnstoneb,

Thanks for checking and for the additional info. A few years ago, not sure how long ago, it seems manufacturers figured out that some consumers did not like the refrigerator sticking way out beyond the lip of the flanking countertops. Their solution was to reduce the refer depth, but in order to maintain a generous interior volume, they elected to make these shallow refers wider. This may explain the wild variability in in widths – just a guess. But I did do an on-line survey to see how much refer dimensions changed in the 10 years since buying our current refrigerator. I was able to find a number that offered similar dimensions to ours.

Industry standards; surprisingly I am coming around to agreeing with you – there seems to be no industry standards for size for various classes of refrigerators.

martyoc,

Your comment prompted me to look at just how open the doors need be to access the bins and shelves – and thanks. Our current Kenmore side by side refrigerator permits access to the bins and slide out shelves with the door open to 90 degrees, albeit a little awkward. Opening the door a little more is needed for convenient access. My plans are based on the refrigerator setting where it is now setting. In the current location there is plenty of interior access when the doors are open almost to the over-open stop integrated in the door hinges (probably around 135 degrees) without bumping into the existing flanking countertops. However, I would like to fully recess the refrigerator so that the doors are more or less flush with the front of refer surround cabinet. But in this position, I may have the problem you mentioned. In that event, we will just have to live with the doors sticking out beyond the surrounding cabinet a little more than we would like but what is called for in the plans.

For sure, the diagonal placement of the refrigerator set in a cabinet will introduce requirements for that replacement refrigerator down the road. The requirements include the behavior of the doors and access to the contents as well as height, width, and depth.

- JBrow

Why in the corner at a 45* anyway? Lots of wasted space and logistics.

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JBrow

818 posts in 385 days


#14 posted 08-06-2016 06:01 AM

nightguy,

Thanks for your interest. The kitchen remodel, finally to the point of building the cabinets, has been in through multiple iterations of planning for about the last 3 to 4 years, with most of the infrastructure completed last year. The placement of the refrigerator and range were considered for just about every possible location in a flat against wall configuration, until our last and final iteration.

Why angle the refer?

Aesthetics. The wife likes stuff angled. In fact there is almost nothing in the home that sets flat to the wall. And after seeing most homes with furnishings flat against the walls, I have to agree. Like introducing curves to a piece of furniture, it is just more pleasing to the eye.

Convenience. The location of the refrigerator is where two walls a little longer than 80” form an inside corner. Our preference is to have landing space on both sides of the refrigerator when putting things in or pulling things out of the refrigerator. I have lived in homes with refrigerators without counter space on both sides of the refrigerator and it does not work well, at least for me.

Appearance. The refrigerator is a full depth refrigerator. If placed flat against the wall, the refrigerator would project beyond the front edge of the adjoining countertop by 8” or so. I dislike that look. Replacing the existing refrigerator with a counter depth model could solve the problem, but a little cabinet space would be lost and access into the corner would be more difficult (if placed flat against the wall), since counter depth refrigerators tend to be wider.

Space. No doubt about it, some storage space is sacrificed. The area lost behind the diagonal refrigerator is about 560 square inches out of a total of 5500 square inches. If I stick with current plans and square up the base cabinets, another 600 square inches is lost. Since I currently plan to use all available corner space with the upper cabinets, the diagonal placement of the refrigerator, by my reckoning, represents is about 20% loss of space.

If the refrigerator were flat against one wall, use of square cabinetry in the corner could perhaps be a little more efficient. While there are some nice hardware solutions for dealing with access to the blind space, they are expensive, awkward at best, and eventually will fail. I have not seen many solutions for dealing with blind upper cabinets. Of course I could build angled corner cabinets, but then stuff gets pushed to the very back and it becomes difficult to unbury without crawling into the cabinet. We are just too old to do that.

I would probably be a little more concerned over the inefficient use of space if space were at a premium. But fortunately, there should be plenty of storage space in the completed kitchen. We have plenty now and the new cabinetry that will replace the old cabinets will increase the amount of available storage. Therefore, the sacrifice will not be felt very much, if at all.

Lastly, there is the countertop and its deep angled recesses. At some point the plan is to build appliance garages tucked into those recesses to give a couple of small appliances a home that is out of sight and utilize that space.

And regarding the logics…

Yeah I think I know what you mean. Although I have not yet drawn plans for the upper cabinets, they will be a complex build, dealing with the angles. The refrigerator has been setting in its new spot angled in the corner and flanked by upper and base cabinets for about a year. Access to the refrigerator is surprisingly easy and convenient and, even with the ugly million year cabinets on which side, it looks good, at least to my eye.

I am not sure you are all that interested, but if you are, I posted a rendering of the kitchen plan view as it will more or less appear when finished.

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

2145 posts in 1637 days


#15 posted 08-06-2016 02:59 PM

I like the idea of angled appliances. The space lost in the corners iawkward space to get into in most cabinets anyway.
You do have a quite a bit of distance between the range and refrigerator in this layout. Would an island possibly hexagonal fit in there giving you more prep space and fewer steps?

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

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