Kitchen Remodeling: Built-in vs Counter Depth Refrigerators

Ron Nanberg | Mon, Jan 14, 2019 | Kitchen Remodeling

Built-in RefrigeratorsBuilt-in refrigerators are certainly trending in Chicago kitchen design, but is your kitchen a good candidate? That all depends. While you may love the idea of a Sub-Zero or similarly styled built-in refrigerator, you might find a counter depth model makes more sense for your household.

Built-in Refrigerators are more “permanent”

One of the first things to consider is how permanent you want your fridge to be? Built-in refrigerators must be professionally installed and are affixed to the wall. This optimizes some of of their higher-end features – like the ability to enjoy more precisely maintained temperatures in different zones (perfectly chilled whites or champagnes, anyone?) as well as higher-level air purification, anti-microbial, and humidity control - and stabilizes their larger size.

However, this means you aren’t taking that fridge with you when you move. Since built-in refrigerators are notably more expensive than free-standing, counter depth options, we don’t recommend installing a built-in fridge if you plan to sell and/or move in the next several years.

Freestanding refrigerators can be equally integrated

Freestanding RefrigeratorIf you’re more concerned with visual integration than you are ultra-professional refrigeration bells and whistles - a high-end, freestanding refrigerator will suit you just fine. It will also save you thousands of dollars (a built-in refrigerator will cost you a minimum of $3000 more than high-quality, freestanding options) that can be spent on other kitchen remodeling splurges.

You'll still have the option to integrate a counter-depth refrigerator to achieve the streamlined look built-ins are known for. Visit, What Does Integrated Appliance Mean?, to learn more about integrating appliances into your kitchen design.

Built-in fridges can be taller and wider

Does your fridge seem overcrowded the majority of the time? You may appreciate the extended capacity of the built-in refrigerator since they come in taller and wider models. The largest built-in models come with dimensions up to 48-inches wide.

However, to maintain the seamless look – both built-in and counter-depth refrigerators are shallower from front-to-back than standard freestanding options. That reduced depth can be made up by a built-in’s extra height and width - dimensions that aren’t usually available in counter-depth models.

Counter depth refrigerators are better for smaller kitchens

Is your kitchen space on the smaller side? If so, it’s unlikely you’ll want a built-in fridge as they are going to be too big for the space. Counter-depth refrigerators are a better bet. If counter space is a premium, you may want to avoid either option and go with the most stylish freestanding refrigerator you can find to optimize cubic square footage - even if that means it sticks out a bit from the cabinets.

Built-in fridges have fewer configuration options

This goes back to the “how often would you want to change/move your fridge," question.” Some cooks are married to a particular refrigerator/freezer configuration; others find their refrigeration needs ebb and flow as household occupants grow up, move out and or grow older.

If you can see yourself wanting to downsize or switch the refrigerator’s configuration as time marches on – particularly if you plan to age-in-place - counter-depth refrigerators will allow you to upgrade or change out refrigerators over the years without excessive appliance expense or the need for professional labor and installation costs.

Those who love to cook, bake and entertain often tend to love the look and options available from built-in refrigerator models, but you shouldn’t waste the extra investment if you aren’t going to reap the full benefits. Schedule a consultation with Kitchens & Baths Unlimited, one of Chicago’s premier kitchen designers and remodelers, to honestly assess which type of fridge makes the most sense for your home.

New Call-to-action