While it seems that the depth of a counter-depth refrigerator would be a simple, objective matter--as deep as a counter, right?--it is not.
Kitchen countertops can have subtle differences in depth. More importantly, appliance manufacturers have several ways of expressing the depth of their refrigerators. Sometimes these numbers vary by as much as a half-foot.
Dimensions In One Number
Total depth of counter-depth refrigerators is about 30" deep--which is about 5" deeper than most counters.
The box section only of a counter-depth refrigerator is about 24" to 25".
Average Counter Depth: Deceptive and Anything But Average
Average kitchen countertop depth comes in at 25". Occasionally, depth can go down as low as 24" or as high as 26.5".
Various factors may change depth:
- Base cabinets positioned at slightly different distances away from the wall.
- Backsplashes of various depths, influenced by material thickness, backer board, and thinset.
- Tile bullnose and trim (the leading edge of the countertop) of different thicknesses.
- Custom-made counters, especially older style tile countertops.
When you measure counter depth, start at the wall, not the backsplash.
What is Refrigerator Depth Anyway? (Good Question)
If kitchen counters measure about 25" deep, counter-depth refrigerators presumably will be 25".
The fluidity of counter-depth fridge measurements is illustrated with one example, the KitchenAid Counter-Depth Side by Side Refrigerator (KSBP25IN).
- 24" = Box itself, nothing else. No doors, no handles. No recommended 3/8" space behind the fridge to account for cooling operations, cord, or ice maker hose intake.
- 27.5" = Box with doors, plus 3/8" space in back.
- 30 1/8" = Box with doors, 3/8" space in back, and about 2 5/8" for handles.
While the refrigerator box is technically counter depth, all fridges need clearance in back, doors, and handles.
Thus, the true depth of this fridge is 30 1/8", counting everything. It is important to remember that you do need to account for door-swing, as it is impossible for doors to properly swing open if they meet the counters.
Manufacturers are not engaging in an industry-wide conspiracy of dishonesty. Rather, it is a matter of establishing a common frame of reference for what we mean by counter-depth.
In any case, these fridges are shallower than your average fridge, which can run several inches deeper.
Outside Dimensions: Higher and Wider
When you shave off measurements from one part of the refrigerator, you need to make it up elsewhere. Interior space usually gets made up with higher and wider fridges.
Be careful when placing counter-depth refrigerators below cabinets. Due to their often-excessive height (up to 72") they may not fit.
A typical configuration, this from a Samsung Stainless French Door model:
- Capacity: 23 cu. ft.
- Depth: 28.50 inches
- Width: 35.75 inches
- Height: 69.63 inches
1. Look For Dimensions Not Names
Dimensions, not the name, make it a counter-depth fridge.
You may search for counter-depth fridges and find one listed expressly as "counter-depth" and with a depth of 28.5".
Yet if you search for side-by-side or french-door style refrigerators, depth may still come in at around the same range--but cheaper and without the pricey "counter-depth" name.
2. Technical Specifications Important (Not Sales Brochures)
To find true dimensions, pull up the technical specification drawings for the refrigerator you intend to purchase.
KitchenAid, for instance, provides helpful Dimension Guides on its site for each of its freestanding refrigerators.
These are line drawings that indicate the various interpretations of dimension (as we discussed above), so that you can decide on dimensions yourself. Do not rely on the size specifications listed on a product's sales page
3. Total Capacity Ultimately Decides How Much Food It Holds
Pay close attention to capacity. Counter-depth fridges range in capacity from a measly 15 cu. ft. to 25 cu. ft.
While you may think you are getting a nice, space-saving counter-depth fridge, you are actually paying for it by slimming down in total capacity.
4. You Gain Something, You Lose Something
Most counter-depth refrigerator purchases involve a personal cost-benefit decision.
The cost: smaller capacity and higher prices. The benefit: a slim-line fridge that melts seamlessly in with your kitchen counters.