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Counter depth refrigerator...yes or no?

In the planning stages of a kitchen remodel for my smallish kitchen (currently 10x9). Unfortunately my less-than-a-year-old Samsung French door refrigerator is not counter depth.

Reading the threads, it seems that counter depths have smaller capacity. Living in the country, I keep the refrigerator and freezer well-stocked to avoid long drives to buy groceries.

Will I be disappointed in a counter depth refrigerator?

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  1. Buy a counter-depth fridge, either with or without a freezer (that depends on what you store) and keep an auxiliary freezer in the garage/pantry/mudroom, etc.

    2 Replies
    1. re: E_M

      exactly. Counter depth units *are* noticably smaller. I have an extra freezer in the garage.

      1. re: DGresh

        On the bright side, you won't lose food in the far recesses of the fridge anymore. No more science projects. No more unloading the fridge to get to the back to see if your leftovers are in there, somewhere. Ergo, no standing in front of the fridge with the door open for several minutes on end. So the space is actually working more efficiently.

    2. We got a counter depth refrigerator. We replaced the existing non-counter depth refrigerator and now the kitchen feels like a ballroom. Two people can walk passed each other now between the new refrigerator and counter when before we couldn't. Bad news is there is a noticeable lack of space inside and no freezer. So we have to strategically place stuff in the frig and bought a 7 sq ft freezer putting it in the basement. The added floor space is worth it to us.

      1. My sister bought one by mistake...didn't realize that it was designed that way. She is rather disappointed in it. There is a significant lack of space.....making placing platters etc in the fridge a nightmare. It makes things difficult if you like to entertain.
        We just recently purchased a new refrigerator and during the shopping phase....if we encountered a "counter depth"....we quickly shut the door and moved on.

        1. We've had a counterdepth side-by-side Fridge/Freezer for about 5 years, which replaced a full-size side-by-side. It is definitely smaller. Whether it will suit your needs depends on the size of your family and what you use your freezer for. I shop once/week but it's just me and my husband at home. It's more than adequate for us.

          We are very organized about how things are stored in the freezer but it is used almost exclusively for raw meats and fish, breads, a few bags of frozen vegetables, and a container or 2 of ice cream -- i.e., we generally do not freeze cooked food for eating later, and we avoid frozen convenience foods. The freezer compartment is plenty large for our uses: At any given moment I probably have 5 lbs of ground chuck, a few lbs of sausages, 10 lbs of chicken parts (boneless breasts & bone-in parts), one whole chicken, some steaks, chops, a lb. or 2 of fish, and 2 lbs of frozen shrimp, plus 2 dozen bagels, sandwich rolls, a loaf or 2 of sliced bread, a sleeve of English muffins, and miscellaneous odds and ends from baguettes.

          We also have small under-counter fridge in the wet bar of our basement rec room, which we installed for the purpose of keeping soft drinks and beer handy downstairs. When we are entertaining or have houseguests, I often use it as an auxiliary fridge if the kitchen fridge is full.

          As to the suggestions to go with a counter-depth fridge and auxiliary freezer, I would not recommend that unless there are space constraints in your kitchen that preclude a full-size fridge. You will use more energy with the c-d fridge & separate freezer than if you just install a full-size fridge.

          1. Definitely a counter-depth one for aesthetics and for making the kitchen feel larger. I seem to fit more than I thought into my Sub Zero built in fridge; it's just a matter of how you load the fridge up! I also have my "old" fridge/freezer in my basement, and mostly use it for overflow during the holidays. There's always food/drinks in it, but I think that if I didn't have it, I could still get by -- and I'm an avid cook, so there's always food in the freezer for a rainy day.

            Just another thought.....I've been to several friends' kitchens who have spent loads of money on the redo, and then they have an eye sore of a fridge sticking out. It just takes away the beauty and sleekness of the kitchen.

            1 Reply
            1. re: CookingBabs

              When we redid our kitchen we moved the old side by side to the basement. It was great for the overflow from the CSA and especially for holidays. But about 6 months ago the basement one failed, and I decided to try living without it. It takes a bit of thought, and it helps that one of our milk-drinkers just went off to college. But we are doing ok. Doing without an extra freezer is not an option though. I make a lot of pasta sauce, pesto, etc.

            2. I felt the counter depth frigs were too small for my needs. One of the ways to make a deep frig fit into a space is by boxing it in so it's a focal point. You can also pull your cabinets away from the wall and have extra deep counters to lessen the difference, something I've done for many of my kitchen remodels.

              26 Replies
              1. re: escondido123

                Agreed that, if the space permits, going with extra deep counters, or leaving space between their backs and the walls is a better way to get that flush, "built-in" look of the refrigerator adjacent to the counters, rather than buying a c-d refrigerator.

                In our oiginal, kitchen remodel 20+ years ago, we went with the pulled-out counters and the full-depth fridge. But, after 15+ years, that fridge failed and we needed to replace it. In the meantime, refrigerators had gotten taller by a few inches and we also have cabinets above the refrigerator (again, part of that built-in look). The only refrigerator that fit the hole left by our old one was a compact, so that is the only reason why we bought it.

                1. re: masha

                  Space permits is a big one- I've been in few kitchens that can afford to give up that much floor space for a look. Usually the refrigerator is at the end of a counter where it doesn't matter that much anyway. As to extra deep counters, sounds seductive, but the backs of them and the correspondingly deep cabinets could easily become black holes. Not to mention the extra cost of non standard sizes- my counter at home cost about twice what it would have because my base cabinets are 22" rather than 24". at least with an extra deep, you'd have some choice of sinks.

                  1. re: oldunc

                    We have the full sized fridge with pantry cupboards on either side so the front is even. The shelves are pull-outs so nothing gets lost. Fabulous use of space.

                    1. re: CanadaGirl

                      Are the pull-out shelves on rollers so that they move easily?

                      Our circa-2002 GE Profile fridge has just one shelf that is a "slide out" type (not rollers, it's just the way the bottom is made). The others are all the regular fixed type. Actually in hindsight I wish we'd selected a model with more shelves and less bins. This one has 2 deep bins (a fruit/veggie one and the other which is supposedly a thermocooling one or some such nonsense; a fan blows cooler air directly into it, when turned on) and these deep bins waste a lot of space. We use fresh produce within 36 hours of buying it, so no need for longterm storage -- I'd much rather have more actual shelves in that space which between the 2 bins takes up the entire bottom 1/3 of the fridge.

                      What brand is yours?

                      1. re: skyline

                        I was referring to the pullouts in the cupboards. But, my fridge does have pullouts also. The frame of the shelves is static but the glass shelves are on rollers and slide in and out quite easily. The only shelf that doesnt slide is the one on the bottom over the crispers. My fridge is a Maytag Plus, and I love it, but it's about 10 years old.

                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                          Pantry pullouts are very useful in many ways, but have their drawbacks too, naturally. For one, they're expensive, not surprisingly, and you have to have enough room to operate them. Also, cleaning backs of cupboards becomes a problem. The main drawback I see, though, is that they have a limited life. Like many things in construction, 15-25 year warranties sound like a lot, but it's not really that long. At about the time you're really comfortable in your house and kitchen, you can suddenly be faced with replacing a bunch of worn out hardware, and likely needing to find either a cabinetmaker who will make house calls or a handyman with some real skills to do the work- neither is easy or cheap. If you really need the cabinet space, and you have the floor space and the money, fine, but just to have your refrigerator in line, pretty extreme.

                          1. re: oldunc

                            Very interesting, oldunc. I have been fixated on having pull-outs for the bottom cabinets and didn't think in the longer term.

                            And, yes, they are expensive...the cabinetmaker is charging $100 for each one!

                            1. re: Discerning1

                              The expense far outweighs the convience of pull outs. They will make your kitchen a dream to work in and live with.

                              1. re: JEN10

                                I too vote for drawers instead of doors. The typical kitchen gets redone about every 10-15 years so I think they will last well long enough...and the slides can be replaced if necessary.

                            2. re: oldunc

                              Obviously anything with moving parts is more likely to break than something without, but I don't see how a quality pullout would be more likely to break than a regular drawer, as the hardware on my regular drawers looks the same as the hardware on my pullouts. Am I missing something?

                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                Your drawer slides are very likely to give out at some point. There are different mechanisms for sliding, turnarounds and other cabinet hardware; all of it is subject to wear. The better grades are usually good for many years of use, and can be a great addition in a kitchen. What I have seen, and expect to become more common, is people finding themselves needing to undertake a bunch of repairs at once, often at a time in their life when taking on a project like this has become a bit overwhelming. Replacing hardware can be pretty simple if you can find an exact duplicate, a large if after a decade or more, but is usually much easier to do at the point of construction or at installation, when things are more exposed. I didn't really intend to try to discourage people from using these products, merely to point out that heavy reliance on them is taking on a significant maintenance responsibility.

                              2. re: oldunc

                                The sliding shelves in our lower cabinets are more than 20 years old and they work as well as they did the day they were installed. Durability may depend on the quality of cabinetry; just like anything else, there are a wide range of product prices & qualities available. Ours are Woodmode.

                          2. re: CanadaGirl

                            If you decide to do pull outs, place the shelves with varying spaces between them. In other words, we had four pull outs installed about 12 inches apart. When I saw the potential wasted space I asked them to install a fifth drawer but to install the drawer above where the canned goods were very close to the canned goods drawer. And then varied the other distances so I got five drawers instead of four drawers. I don't know if I explained that very well!

                            1. re: dmjordan

                              Also good to take your tallest pot and make sure one of the shelves has enough space above it for it to fit..

                          3. re: oldunc

                            You don't have to have extra deep cabinets for extra deep counters. You pull the cabinets away from the wall, usually about 6-8 inches, and then top them with an extra "wide" counter. When you get to the end of a row of cabinets and you have a side panel that shows, you just have an extra large one made. (Obviously this extra depth does not make the frig flush with cabinets, but it does make the contrast less.) Having that extra depth gives you room for small appliances without losing counter space--we have done it for each of our last three kitchens and it's great.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              As someone who has probably done more repairs than installations, I have a real horror of places that you can't get to; bad things (mold, moisture problems, rodents etc.) happen there too often and go unnoticed too long. I would also be extremely leery of giving up the floor space without gaining anything, though some of the McMansions so popular during the housing boom did have excess floor space.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                This is what we've had for 22 years now and it works fine.

                                1. re: masha

                                  And they may last your life, may not. If you're satisfied with that as a reasonable lifetime for a home, fine- I'm pretty old school. I'm also strongly of form as a consequence of function as a basic design principle, and thus would find the lines of a kitchen synthetically altered to match a refrigerator depth- arbitrary with respect to cabinet depths- to be a bit uncomfortable aesthetically. If you never have to replace them, consider yourself fortunate. Many people do.

                                  1. re: oldunc

                                    Old school is fine, but it doesn't allow for things to change. As I have posted before, few kitchens go more than a dozen years without remodeling, but if you count your work as needing to be right for decades, then you need to go with what feels right to you.

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      Nonsense. Being old school simply means that new school, if there is such a thing, has failed to offer improvement, or even equivalency, to standing practice.. The new ideas offered here are, apparently, the reclassification of the private home as a temporary structure and the abandonment of basic aesthetic and construction principles for the dictates of ephemeral and purposeless fashion. The huge majority of kitchens go more than 12 years without remodeling, and the vast majority of remodels do not include swapping out the cabinetry. You are apparently hanging out with a crowd with too much money and too little to occupy them. And yes, it would bother me to be doing intrinsically temporary work, life is too short. I have, however, installed as many drawer slides as the next guy- my shop is full of them. Any home offers a vast number of things that need to be maintained regularly, and a large number that aren't; I simply feel that installing equipment that is likely to require maintenance or replacement in a relatively short time should come with that information along with the sales pitch.

                                      1. re: oldunc

                                        Goodness, I certainly wish I had too much money and too little to do--and my crowd is rather small to even be called a crowd. I'm a frugal New Englander who has renovated houses from the 18th, 19th and 20th century, I do know a little about aesthetics and construction principles. I do not see how installing deep counters is bad and I've had no problems with them. As to drawer slides, I've used European ones that do quite well and if they do need to be replaced at some point, well I consider that the cost of convenience. No kitchen design is perfect and we all make different decisions. I'm glad you've found the ones that work for you.(As to remodeling kitchens every 12 years, that's what I've been told by realtors when discussing how personal to make one's design choices in a kitchen. I was told with the changes in style over time it could be assumed that after 12 years there will be choices made that will now seem dated and the new owner will want to change.)

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          As to the rest of this, I think we've both covered our viewpoints. As to the twelve years, we are recently escaped from a phase where the American public was somehow persuaded that the road to wealth was to pay grotesquely inflated prices for housing- and to borrow immense sums of money at ruinous interest rates to do it. As a consequence, people were spending money rather uncritically in the last decade or two on any sort of home related project, from largely purposeless remodels to industrial type gardening projects which will eventually require a great deal of effort to undo. As far as this being anything but a minor blip on history, I really doubt it. In areas with a lot of new housing and fluid job markets, it may have held for a time; as a matter of history, general application, and likely future events, it's wildly unlikely.

                                          1. re: oldunc

                                            We've remodeled every kitchen in homes we've purchased because they were not set up for people who really cooked. We've always paid cash for the work and were frugal where it made sense, extravagant where it made us happy. We are retired, have no debt, live frugally in general, but will spend money on our everyday passion--cooking and eating well. Having a kitchen that works well--whatever that means to each person--makes it a joy.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              This discussion is interesting. On a recent trip I stayed with various relatives and was astonished to see remodeled kitchens where not one bit of cooking was going on.

                                              Do most passionate cooks have funky spaces in which to do it?

                                              I'm looking forward to having a space that's better for cooking and for entertaining. Where I can access my tools more easily, in which my bowls and such won't be constantly chipping from digging them out, where I won't be on my knees searching lower cabinets, where the countertop won't be such a breeding ground for bacteria, where I can actually wash a stock pot without flooding the floor, and a floor that won't show every bit of filth.

                                              1. re: Discerning1

                                                I hear you. I cook probably 355 days a year. Two years ago we did a gut remodel to handle many of the things you mention. It cost a small fortune. Personally I spent my money on convenient storage, rather than an expensive range and refrigerator. Those pull out shelves were worth every penny as far as I'm concerned.

                                                1. re: Discerning1

                                                  The great thing about cooking is that it's something we "have" to do if we want good food at a good price. If it's a cramped, hard-to-use space we make do. For people with money, having a nice house means having a great looking kitchen with all the bells and whistles--that's expected if you have an expensive house. Whether you cook in it is another matter. I think good cooks come in all shapes, sizes and income levels--as do bad or indifferent cooks. But put a passionate cook in a great kitchen and that's where wonderful food can be created without the cook going crazy.

                          4. We remodeled the kitchen 3 years ago, and I was adamant about needing (wanting) a counter-depth fridge. Got a KitchenAid with double fridge doors, didn't want ice/cold water on the outside, so found inside one, freezer on the bottom with pull out drawer. Love all those features, but DID give up quite a lot of inside fridge space. Now I whine about that.

                            1. We've always had a regular depth refrigerator but to be honest I think I'd rather have a counter depth one, not only for aesthetics but because with only the 2 of us it's rare that we run out of shelf room in the fridge part. I can see that for a larger family the storage space would be an issue though.

                              In fact I don't like keeping stuff in the back of the shelf because then it becomes "out of sight out of mind" LOL! More than once I've bought stuff that I already had, because I didn't notice it was already in the back there -- annoying, because now I have TWO open containers of whatever it is. So I have a hunch a counter depth would be fine/better for us in the fridge compartment.

                              BUT....! I prefer a side-by-side and will say that although I don't need the larger fridge space, I would definitely not want less space in the freezer. So in reality it'd be a tough call.

                              Having a second freezer is not an option for us. We live in NY which has the second highest residential electrical rates in the entire USA (only Connecticut tops us, and not by very much either .... 17.63 for CT, 17.45 in NY. If you're morbidly curious, there's a comparion chart here
                              http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/... ). Having a second freezer would be like burning dollar bills, LOL!

                              1. Go to the appliabce showrooms with your platter, pot, or what not that must fit. See how the interior space feels to you. Bring along your current ref. / frzr. capacity (usually on the door of ref)so that you can compare various models Most counter depth built ins are wider that the standard depth refrigerators.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: JEN10

                                  Wow, thanks for the tip .... I didn't know that most counter-depths are wider. Since we are hoping to be able to use the existing cabinets in whatever house we buy (either as-is or with just a refacing job), if the existing fridge has cabinets on both sides -- as ours does here -- that could definitely be an issue.

                                  I just ASSumed that the only dimensional difference in the counterdepth ones was the depth. Forewarned is forearmed, thanks!

                                  1. re: skyline

                                    You can get counter depth in almost any width depending on what you are willing to pay. "Most" are not wider, but you do need a wider width to get the same cubic foot space you'd get in a regular depth fridge. Obviously.
                                    I have a 48" counter depth and it's less cubic foot space than a lot of regular depth, "standard" size fridges.

                                    I like them because it's easier to see and get at everything, even in the back and lower shelves. Less cavernous for me means easier to keep track of whatever is in there. I think I probably waste less food.

                                    1. re: skyline

                                      We are in the midst of a kitchen reno and the way we got around the counter depth conundrum was by digging into the wall behind the fridge. Our house is about 100 years old so we were able to beaver into the lathe and plaster and the framing behind the fridge to inset it. The fridge does stick out a bit past the regular depth counters but not significantly. We have a fridge height pantry with pull out wire drawers on the left and a bit of counter with a microwave and shelves above and drawers below on the right. Only two of us but we felt we really needed the spare fridge space enough to do the extra work to keep the regular depth fridge. Really glad we did. SO built all the boxes and doors for us, bless him and they are gorgeous maple. I particularly love the custom designed vertical slots overhead for all my frying pans/skillets and for all those weird flat things like cookie sheets and cutting boards.

                                      1. re: grayelf

                                        We also were able to steal some space from the area behind the fridge (this is where we have duct work for our AC, so we were able to push a full depth fridge back behind the kitchen wall. It looks counter depth (completely flush with the counter) without giving up the inside space.

                                        1. re: grayelf

                                          Grayelf, I think that (vertical slots for cookie sheets) is such a marvelous use of the over the fridge space. It is one of my favorite features of my new kitchen!

                                          1. re: dmjordan

                                            I had a tall cabinet over the wall oven that I wanted to use for cookie sheets and such. I bought twoheavy metal vertical files from an office supply store and put them side by side--they worked great because they had a heavy base yet were thin metal so I had a lot of room. One solution if you can't go for built ins.

                                    2. We bought a counter depth fridge when we renovated our tiny 7x8 kitchen last summer and it made a huge difference. We have the French doors, freezer on the bottom style. The French doors also make a big difference since the door swing is not as wide. I do miss the space, especially in the freezer, I always have stock and bones stored in there which take up alot of space (yes I reduce my stocks). Even with the loss of refrigerator and freezer space, it is still worth it.