Standard refrigerators are typically 32 to 36 inches deep or more, and since countertops are normally about 25 inches deep (24 inches for the base cabinet with a 1-inch overhang) this means that a standard refrigerator will stick out from adjoining countertops by 6 inches or more. In a kitchen where a built-in look is desired, this can interfere with the sleek lines.
What Is a Counter-Depth Refrigerator?
A "counter-depth" refrigerator is one that is designed to blend in with the lines of the surrounding cabinetry and countertops.
Dimensions of "Counter-Depth" Refrigerators
Refrigerators marketed as "counter-depth" are typically side-by-side models that are slightly shallower than standard refrigerators. They maintain ample interior space by also being slightly wider or taller than standard models. The basic box on these refrigerators is typically about 24 to 25 inches deep, but the overall depth (with doors included) varies slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. You also may see refrigerators with overall depths of 30 7/8 inches (LG), 28 7/8 inches (Samsung), or 31 1/4 inches (GE), all marketed as countertop-depth units.
If you are very particular about matching your refrigerator to the profile of the cabinetry and countertops, there are several issues to consider.
Choosing a Counter-Depth Refrigerator
When choosing a refrigerator to match the depth of cabinets and countertops, keep the following issues in mind:
- Kitchen countertops can have subtle differences in depth. Base cabinets are typically 24 inches deep, but sometimes they are set slightly forward from the wall to make room for backsplash treatments. And the countertop overhang may add as much as 2 inches on some decorative treatments. It is not uncommon for the front edge of a countertop to extend as much as 28 to 30 inches from the back wall. If the cabinetry or countertop has been custom-made, the overall depth can be less or more.
- So-called counter-depth refrigerators rarely match the countertops exactly. Typically, the overall depth when measured from back of the appliance to the front of the handles is about 30 inches. However, the depth of the refrigerator box itself—measured without the doors—is often about 24 to 25 inches, which does match the depth of standard cabinetry and countertops. This means that you can expect the refrigerator doors to extend forward from the front lip of standard countertops. This is necessary, since the doors need room to swing open on their hinges. But you also want to avoid having the refrigerator extend too far out from the adjoining counters.
- Appliance manufacturers have several ways of expressing the depth of their refrigerators. Sometimes these numbers vary by as much as 6 inches, since some manufacturers measure the appliance depth to the edge of the box without the doors, some measure to the front of the door, and others measure to the front of door handles and hardware. Make sure you understand what dimensions are being referenced by the measurements. Ideally, you should find several different depth measurements listed.
- Refrigerators may require a small gap between the back of the appliance and the wall. This will make the overall installed depth of the appliance slightly more than the actual dimensions.
- Built-up backsplashes can reduce the overall depth of the countertop. For example, if cement-board backer and thick ceramic tile have been installed as a backsplash between the countertop and the bottom of the wall cabinets, the overall depth of the countertop may as much as 1 inch less. If the wall behind the refrigerator has not been finished this way, you will need to account for this extra depth when choosing your refrigerator.
Most countertop-depth refrigerators will specify several depth dimensions, which you can interpret in whatever way fits your needs. For example, one KitchenAid counter-depth side by side refrigerator (model KSBP25IN) lists three different depth measurements:
- 24 inches: Box itself, nothing else. No doors, no handles. No recommended 1-inch space behind the fridge to account for cooling operations, cord, or ice maker hose intake.
- 27 1/2 inches: Box with doors, plus roughly a 1-inch space in back.
- 30 1/8 inches: Box with doors, plus roughly a 1-inch space in back, and about 2 5/8 inches for handles.
In a kitchen with standard 24-inch-deep base cabinets, covered with countertops with a 1-inch overhang, you can expect the doors on this refrigerator to extend past the front of the countertops by at least 2 1/2 inches—an appropriate amount to allow the doors to open freely.
To maintain the inner capacity, countertop-depth refrigerators must make up the shallower depth with larger dimensions elsewhere. This often means a wider, taller appliance. These refrigerators can be as much as 72 inches tall, which may interfere with the placement of wall cabinets above the appliance.
Use the specified dimensions to determine if the appliance is truly a counter-depth model for your situation. Some models marketed as "countertop depth" are considerably deeper and may not work in your kitchen. The best place to find the precise dimensions is in the technical specifications drawings for the appliance, not the sales brochure.
Pay close attention to capacity. Counter-depth fridges range in capacity from 15 cubic feet to 25 cubic feet. This capacity is what tells you the food-storage capability of the appliance. You may think you are getting a nice, space-saving counter-depth fridge but pay for it dearly by losing total storage capacity. While extra width and height can compensate for the loss in capacity, most counter-depth refrigerators are slightly smaller in capacity than comparable standard models.
A counter-depth refrigerator is a good choice where you want to preserve a built-in look in your kitchen by keeping the appliances in-line with the surrounding cabinetry. But you need to understand how manufacturers specify the appliance dimensions and make sure to choose a refrigerator that will create the effect you want. Counter-depth refrigerators are often wider and taller than standard appliances, but you can expect to lose some capacity—and pay a slightly higher price—to achieve the stylish built-in look.