Side by Side Refrigerator vs. French Door?

imstaceyFebruary 23, 2014

We are about to remodel our kitchen. Currently, we have an LG French Door that has been nothing but trouble beginning with the door latch breaking.

So, my husband wants to go back to a traditional stainless Side by Side, thinking we will encounter fewer door issues. I tend to agree with him. But, I'm worried that we will be giving up too much storage space.

We are a family of 5. I wish we could do a 42" or larger fridge but can't afford that high sticker price. So, we need the largest 36" we can get.

Seems like everything is french door now. Is it a bad call to do the standard side by side in a new kitchen? If not, any recommendations?


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I cannot STAND the french door style, don't get me started. My best friend has one and is constantly whining about it. She's always leaving the upper doors ajar and digging in the freezer is such a pain. I never have understood the popularity of such an impractical design.

SxS is a much better format all around. Check manufacturer specs on cubic feet inside and be sure you choose a model with fully adjustable shelves.

I'm very happy with my 4-year-old KitchenAid SxS. One reason I chose it because it has a soft-drink cans rack in the door. My previous (year 2000 in another state) GE SxS had perpetual ice maker problems. Not the KA, no issues at all in 4 years.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 11:10AM
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The subject of SxS vs. FD has received considerable discussion here over several years. You can do a search and find out as much or more than you want to know about how different people have different preferences on this subject. . I suggest you read those prior threads to supplement the responses you get to this thread.

Some observations in response to the comments.

Do I detect a worry that getting a SxS might somehow depreciate the value of your house if you don't have the currently most popular style? If so, don't worry, A good looking fridge in good condition is what will matter. Beyond that, some people like SxS. Some prefer FD. Some have other preferences. You can't please them all nor should you try.

If you prefer SxS, then that's what you should get.

Some people find that the doors on the FD models drive them crazy. Some do not. Nobody is "right." It is personal preference.

Your current LG fridge may have been an unfortunate choice. According to the data from annual membership surveys by Consumer Reports, LG fridges have been the least reliable by a wide margin over the last several years. This was true for both FD and SxS models where LG had a 22% failure rate in the first five years of ownership according to the 66,000 to 70,000 survey responders. Back when I bought my new fridge a couple of years ago, Whirlpool brands (including KitchenAid) had failure rates in the 8% to 10% range, less than half the LG (and GE) rates.

Things have began to shift, though.

GE has dropped its failure rates significantly. A couple of years ago LG got its failure rate for the FD models down to around 16% for the FD models. Although LG hasn't improved since then, the Whirlpool brand's failure rates have climbed to 14% to 15%, which CR says is a statistically insignificant difference from LG's current 16% rate on FD models.

Another shift in the CR survey data is with SxS failure rates. Up until recently, getting a SxS model used to mean getting a significantly less reliable fridge. The latest CR survey results show that FD and SxS fridges now have very similar failure rates. Also, it used to be that there were not any statistically significant differences between failure rates among SxS brands except for LG -- most brands ran around a 14% to 15% problem rate with LG running a 22% rate for its SxS models. That still holds true except that WP's Kitchenaid SxS fridges have now joined LG with a 21% failure rate.

The biggest failure item in all brands of FD and SxS fridges is through-the-door ice and water dispensers.

As rule, SxS fridges do have somewhat less effective storage area than FD models with similar rated capacity, but that may or may not be the most significant factor for you. (Do note that actual usuable capacity on any fridge is always less that the maker's specifications because manufacturers measure the volume of the box without regard the effects of shevling, bins, drawers, ice makers, water dispensers, etc.)

If your most important criteria were the greatest possible capacity in a 36" wide unit, then you might be looking at the 32 cu. ft., models from Samsung and LG. (Most other brands' largest FD models claim around 27 to 29 cu. ft.) The largest 36" wide SxS models claim around 27 cu. ft.

But many people who prefer SxS models have that preference because thet layout works better for them and the way they use their fridges.

From the last time I was fridge shopping a couple of years ago, the prices of most large capacity SxS fridges seemed a bit lower than those of the 26-28 cu. ft. FD models. Now, if you go for the largest 31-32 cu. ft. FD models, the price difference gets pretty dramatic: you can expect to pay about double or triple for the 32 cu. ft FD over what you pay for typical 27 - 28 cu. ft. free-standing, standard depth 36" SxS models. (Counter depth models are a pricing world onto themselves.)

FD models are more energy efficient in that they consume less power than than SxS models of comparable rated capacity. Power companies and energy managers like that because it helps reduce power demand. However, from your perspective, the efficiency of FD fridges may or may not translate to significant operating cost savings to you. If the biggest FD model uses 550 kWh/yr. and the SxS models uses 590 kWh/yr., that might be only $3 to $10 per year more for running a SxS model. Of course, if you are in an area where electrictiy rates run at 35 or 45 cents per kWh, that cost difference would be larger.

FWIW, the most recent product testing results from Consumer Rports rated the Samsung RS265TD[WP] SXS model highest the larger capacity, standard-depth SxS models. It had very good crisper drawer performance (apparently attributed to the dual-evaporator design) and the quietest motor of the SxS models they tested.

Ultimately, though, that I have and prefer a FD layout and find it more convenient for me in my kitchen (and don't have any issues with the doors) does not mean the same holds true for you.

Get what you want.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Sun, Feb 23, 14 at 14:09

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 1:38PM
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I have both a French door and a SXS and do prefer the French Door, although sometimes the bottom freezer just doesn't seem spacious enough and not always easy to find things. However, it's very easy to fit everything into the refrigerator and easy to access items. Can't fit a large tray, full sheet cake or pizza in a SXS.

Choose whatever is best for you, what offers the layout and features your prefer.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 12:03PM
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I have both as well. full depth FD, and counter depth SxS. We needed a counter depth, so the "old" fridge got demoted to the mudroom and is now shared with dh's brewing hobby and overflow fridge/freezer storage.

That being said, I think the SxS is MUCH easier to organize, both the fridge and freezer side. With my family of 6, a counter depth side by side WOULD NOT be big enough for me, but since I have the extra fridge, it's great.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 4:09PM
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I love my french door. I have a kenmore elite which is several years old with no issues at all. As said its personal preference. It sounds like you just had a bad one.

I don't like SxS because both sides are too narrow for me.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 4:58PM
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I like the basket slide out drawer of the French Door and as noted above the ability to put in wide stuff like a 2 -3 foot wide sub for a party. I'll never go back to side by side.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 6:00PM
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Great thread and thank you to JWVideo for the information. I am shopping for a SxS and found more info from you than all the hours of searching on line.

I also do not like FD (actually hate them), and can't wait to replace it. Digging around in the bottom freezer is crazy and I wind up killing my back. I do not understand its popularity.

Thanks again, JWVideo.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 1:03AM
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Jane, it's not really that hard to understand. FD gives you ability to see all the food more easily, store wide things like platters and to have fruits and vegetables at convenient waist level rather than having to bend for them on the bottom. The downsides of FD are as discussed above as are the advantages of SS. The FD advantages I have suggested are not important to everyone and the SS works out better for them. Different strokes, but hard to understand?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:33AM
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I just got my new french door refrigerator yesterday and I can attest to the fact that there is much more usable space in the same cubic ft size. Both my side by side and french door are 25 cu ft. I transferred everything from my side by side to the french door. My side by side was full, but the french door has plenty of empty space left. And I can actually see what is in there! I have approximately the same amount of space in the freezer. I personally like having the freezer on the bottom, I access the fridge a lot more than the freezer.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 7:59AM
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I agree with the refrigerator space. I love the wide space in the fridge. However, the freezer does not work for me. I've lived with FD for 3 years and found the freezer a nightmare. I had a 36" Samsung. Love the fridge did not like the freezer.

I keep my freezer fairly full. I was always pulling things out to get to anything. No matter how I tried to organize it, it would get messed up each time I had to look for something. I also have a bad back and found myself stooping over constantly. I didn't like how the drawer pulled out into the walk space creating traffic problems whenever I was looking for something.

I agree, it is a personal decision. I hate giving up the wide fridge space, but I'm glad there is a choice. I have a spare top freezer to put large trays in.

My fear was there was little choice anymore as I find it hard to find SxS in the appliance stores. Everything is FD.

We recently moved to Florida from NY and are doing a kitchen remodel. I've been so distressed that I couldn't find a good SxS.I looked at an old CR and found very few ratings on them and thought SxS's were being fazed out.


    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 10:17AM
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This is one of those questions without one right answer.

It reminds me of the never-ending "white kitchen cabinets, or stained wood" debate that gets some folks all fired up. :)

What one person loves, another person hates. Such is the beauty in a world that offers us so many choices.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 10:34AM
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Jane, I don't know if Sub Zero and a fridge larger than 36" is in your budget but I loved my old 42" SXS except for the low produce drawers, of course! They still make it and it is a great model. I had mine for 13 years and it never gave me a bit of trouble.

The 36" sxs however is another story and I know a number of people who have it and dislike it because it doesn't hold much. But that may be a function of the shallower depth. With a 42" I had plenty of room.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 11:24AM
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I don't understand when it is said that you have to dig through the freezer part of the FD style fridge. I have a wire basket drawer on top that slides out of the way to reveal the bottom section. Do some not have this? If so, then I can understand why so may not like it.

One of the reason I love my FD is because I can easy see everything in the freezer. Maybe not all are designed this way?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 6:48PM
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Y'know, it's not really whether it's side by side or French door, it's the particular units. Some are easy to put stuff away in, some aren't. Some don't let you close them incorrectly, some do. Side by side were invented for small apartment kitchens that didn't have the swing space for a full width door. You can put a French door in the same space because the freezer drawer doesn't need swing room and the upper doors are the same as side by side, and they've become popular because you have so much more horizontal space in both the fridge and the freezer.

So, do you need to have those short doors? A lot of people are putting these shapes into larger kitchens where there's plenty of swing room.

I would choose a freezer on bottom unit with only one upper door, if there were room for it. That way you get the full width shelves that are so much easier to fill, more space in the door shelves, plus the freezer drawer, which if it isn't too tall to be able to get into comfortably, makes finding things in the lower part of the unit so much easier, especially if it has an upper basket.

And "side by side" works very well if the sides are big enough. :) I have columns. They're made by Thermador (BSH) or Miele, with slightly different innards. When the fridge and freezer are each 30" wide, side by side works great! :) Though you still need the door swing room. They make narrower ones though, if you have less space.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:46AM
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Plllog, you nailed it for me. Replaced kaput SbS with KitchenAid FD due to available space/door swing restriction. Right hand door never shuts on it's own, so I'm constantly giving it an extra shove to ensure tight seal. Planning gut remodel this summer and will do columns as well. Maybe next to eachother, maybe not, since I'm usually not in freezer and refrig at the same time.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:15PM
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My Miele columns' doors are so well balanced that they sometimes need an extra pat too. :) Otherwise, they'll stay right where you pushed them. :)

The bad kind of fridge is the one that bounces. You push the door all the way and it still doesn't seal.

Absolutely no need to have the fridge and freezer in the same place if you have columns, as Anne, mentioned. :) Point of use, or, for the freezer, point of out of the way, are also possibilities. Mine are in the same place because it made sense in my kitchen. :)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 9:46PM
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Love my FD Kenmore Elite fridge - had SxS for 12 years before our kitchen remodel last year - the whole family cannot get over how we can "see" everything in this fridge. Love the full sized "tray" drawer, great for pizza, fruit plates ,etc.
I have an extra freezer in my basement so the freezer on the FD in not really an issue for me. I cannot see why it would be that big of a deal - for me, the day to day use of an eye level fridge is more important.
As others have said, to each his own. I just would never go back to SxS.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:30PM
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I was never happier to be rid of my side by side. I never used any of the space below about halfway down because we would never remember it was there and it was too hard to clean and nothing ever fit in it. I really did not like it. The freezer side same thing, anything low was not remembered. But then everyone is different. I so much appreciate the extra wide tray accommodation as we entertain a lot and it really comes in handy. I have a KA without ice/water in the door. I didn't want it and do not miss it either. We use ice a LOT and I like just scooping it up in one big scoop and putting in a glass or pitcher.

If I could have my choice of refrigerator configuration I would want a single door upper with drawer on the bottom. I don't really like dealing with the double doors on the FD and seem to put everything on one side of the fridge. It's only my husband and I so it's fine but a little extra aggravation at times. The trade off for me is having all the refrigerated items at eye level, I just love that so much and I can't even tell you how much I love the extra width of the deli tray. While it's not perfect I would never go back to a sxs. IMHO they seem prehistoric to me now.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 7:30PM
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plllog opined: "I would choose a freezer on bottom unit with only one upper door, if there were room for it. "

I agree, but if you want a full depth fridge, there do not seem to be any on the market that are 36" wide. We have that form in Sub Zero at work, but it is built-in/counter depth.

We ended up getting the 32 cf LG french door, which was my wife's choice. Functionally, we like it better than the 48" built in SxS she had in her house, and it holds slightly more. The freezer has 3 levels, but stuff in the bottom level can still get buried. I had the adjacent cabinets made deep, so it looks "counter depth."

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:36PM
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At the end of the day I think it is just a personal preference. I have both and although I like the big wide opening of the fridge on my Jennair 48 inch built in FD fridge I hate the doors and the way they close. I also cannot stand the freezer drawer. I am 6'3" and feel like I have to lay down to see inside. I actually had this fridge for a month before I realized that there was a drawer at the top of the freezer, seriously! I think at the end of the day I would pick my Thermador Freezer Columns. The freezer is tight but at least I can see in it while standing and the doors close on their own without any thought.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 11:55AM
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I think that some manufacturers do French doors better than others. We have a SZ FD now. We can open either side and the doors always close, especially the fridge doors. It is possible to not close the freezer all the way if you don't give it a reasonably good shove but once we got used to it, we have not had a problem.

During our remodel, we had an LG FD loaned to us by the reuse store which took our old kitchen. The doors never closed properly and we were constantly leaving something open and triggering the alarm.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 12:47PM
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Hm... My reply went astray.

Autofarad is right, that the single door, bottom freezer fridges at 36" are built-ins, and there are like 8-10 brands that make them.

There are also many in the 30" wide range, both full and counter depth, and a number full depth (also counter depth) and classic full width (just under 33"). They're out there! You just have to track them down. Most side by sides are wider nowadays, because you can fit so little into an old fashioned 32" one. So much of your valuable storage space is taken by the center column.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 2:30PM
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I've never lived with a SxS, but I haven't liked them in homes I've visited. Like a narrow upper cabinet, it's hard to see/get to the things in the back.

When we remodeled last summer, I really wanted a single door, bottom freezer model to replace our 24-yr-old top freezer. The problem was that we wanted a large capacity (which the old one was), and no one locally carried such an animal, in our modest price range. We ended up trading convenience for capacity, and got a FD.

We've been using it for 8 months, and I really do like the top fridge, and freezer drawer. Ironically, now that we can see everything more easily, we don't fill the fridge as much as the old one. We could have gotten by with a smaller single door, I think, and had everything we wanted! I've adjusted to the FD, but I still think having to go around the door to put things away is a pain.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 3:50PM
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If you can go to a 42" or 48" SXS, you will have plenty of space and the freezer capacity is far greater than a similar sized FD. A 36" SXS gives you both a narrow fridge section and a narrow freezer section, so it is far less efficient than a 36" FD. The best way to compare one fridge to another is to measure each shelf (incl shelves on the door) and compute the usable square feet. That is a much better gauge of how much they hold than the mfg cubic square foot measurement. Bins make it a bit more complicated but you can estimate cubic square feet for those.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:08PM
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I have a freezer drawer on the bottom currently. You do have to bend down and pull out the upper tray. The bottom tray opens with the door. One consideration is you have to pull the weight also of whatever is on the trays when opening. SS you can see everything right there in the freezer. FD you need to memorize what's on which side; otherwise, you are opening both doors all the time. If you entertain a lot and always have party trays or cookie sheets in the fridge all the time, yeah, FD is way to go. As far as leftover pizza, how about chunking the nasty box and putting the slices in something else? If you keep a lot of produce on hand, FD has waist-level bins. Our produce bins are usually empty; we eat out alot. SS is narrower in both sides and may have a dated look, but may be more practical for some, especially those who don't want to bend and pull. There's pros and cons to both. SxS are cheaper in price. Get what works best for you and don't go necessarily with current trends.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 2:19PM
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