How to Build Cabinets Around Your New Fridge

Lead Image
  • 5-15 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 500-1,500
What You'll Need
Flexible measuring tape
Cabinetry or finished plywood
1/4-inch plywood backing
Wood screws
Cabinet doors and hinges, if desired

If you're dreaming of making your kitchen more attractive and like the idea of extra storage, consider building cabinets around your new fridge. These fixtures can completely transform your drab, cluttered kitchen into a classy, well-organized room, and they aren't hard to do.

Step 1 - Measure the Space for the Refrigerator

While it might sound complicated, a refrigerator cabinet is just like any other kitchen cabinet. Start by measuring it 24 inches deep. It might sound shallow, but by making the cabinets closer to your refrigerator, you add more storage to the kitchen as a whole and make the cabinet easier to access.

If you want to use doors to cover your refrigerator, clearly the cabinet needs to be deep enough to fit the refrigerator itself. You need to make certain that the clearances match or are just a bit above what the refrigerator manufacturer recommends. You don’t want to make the fit too tight or installation and repair can be a hassle, and may actually keep your refrigerator from functioning properly.

When you have the depth of the cabinet figured out, you want to sketch out how you want your cabinet to look with the measurements. You'll also want to decide how much clearance to have around your fridge. Most manufacturers recommend a 5/4-inch to one-inch clearance on each side. If you have an older fridge that doesn’t have cooling coils on the bottom, you need to remember to create ventilation at the bottom of your cabinet.

Step 2 - Choose the Wood

You’ll probably want to match the cabinet with the rest of your kitchen, so you will need to track the same wood or finish. You can also do something different that offsets your current cabinets, or you can go with simple, edged plywood. You might also consider matching any crown molding you already have, or if you don’t have any currently in your kitchen, you can add crown molding just to that area.

Step 3 - Build the Cabinet Frame

Building the cabinet frame is simple. For the side panels, use a 5/4-inch stock. Then, attach 1/4-inch plywood to the back of the upper cabinet.

The fun part is putting the rest together. Once your refrigerator is in place, you can start building the cabinet around it. You need to make sure that you are using your level while you are building so that your cabinet is even with the wall and floor. You'll probably have to shim the top as well. Then, use the top of the refrigerator to make sure that the cabinet is level. Take it out, and screw the top cabinet to the side panels from the inside. If you want, you can add molding or style the cabinet any way you want to.

Now is the time to add doors if you're planning to cover this opening. You can build your own custom doors, but since this needs a bit more carpentry skill and a router, it may be best to order some in the size and finish you need.

Fit hinges to your doors, one near the top and one at the bottom (equidistant from the edges), and screw them into place. Have a friend or family member hold the door steady while you mark the place for the hinge on the inside of the cabinet. Double-check your placement, and then secure the hinges in place.

Step 4 - Finish the Wood

Use stain or laminate that matches your other cabinetry, or create a completely new and different look so that your new fixture stands out. If you want to match, check with the manufacturer for stain or finish requirements, or to see if they have a laminate that you can use.

Step 5 - Slide the New Fridge into Place

Last but not least, you need to put your refrigerator into the newly-built cabinet. Use a large piece of laminate on the floor so that you can slide the refrigerator in without damaging anything. Once it's in, pull the laminate out while tilting the fridge.

Now, you have a modern, classy looking kitchen with a lot more storage.