Referidgrators - counter depth vs built-in, why the 3K jump in cost?
A counter top depth fridge is not as deep as a standard depth fridge. Basicly they cost more, for less space. This keeps the fridge from sticking out past the depth of the counter. A typical GE SS counter top fridge runs several hundred more than the same size and series of a standard depth fridge.
Built ins are not interchangable with counter top depth. If you need a counter top depth then you surely do not have room for a built in. Built ins are physically much larger and have a compresser system that resembles a commercial reach in. A quick trip to any appliance store would make the differences very obvious.
If you are building or remodeling a very common option here is to have the cabinet maker utilize side panels and cut out the wall area behind the fridge. This allows a standard depth fridge to be set in and the side panels that match the cabinet make it appear like a built in but saves a considerable amount of money.
I was thinking about the idea of hollowing out a 'hidden' interior wall and while I can't say that I've never seen it in DIY situations I am not sure if is truly going to meet building codes. I can't say for sure it won't, because codes do vary, but I would have reservations about where the plumbing & electrical are concerned...
Typically there is no plumbing in the wall behind a fridge. (new construction).The water line for the ice maker still comes through the floor as normal. This configuration is becomming very common in my area but as you say codes vary by a huge amount. The electric plug IIR was off set in the side. The next time I see one I will take note of the electrical application. It's a very slick set up that gives the look of a built in but saves thousands and avoids the limited space and expense of the counter top depth fridge.
They may look the same, but there can be a lot difference in how they have to be put together quite differently. A built-in has a kind of "chassis" that allows the cabinetry to support it. A counter depth just rolls in and out.
SubZero is the "benchmark" in built-in with top mount compressors that are separate for fridge & freezer. Obviously this adds to the complexity/cost. If the competitor does not have these features it probably is going to be less expensive to build, but as the shear volume of built-in is a FRACTION of counter depths they will always cost more...
Personally in the right kitchen, like new construction or true luxury remodel, a built-in is the way to go for looks and convenience, but it is like any marriage. Cost is not the only trade-off. SubZero has a high repair rate. Some calls are probably traceable to picky owners, and SubZero generally is generous with replacements, but it is still something to be aware of...