I Don't Know What I Don't Know About Mini Fridges

edeeveeMay 18, 2014

Can I install any small fridge under a counter? If it's flat back do I still need to allow clearance in the back? On top? How much? What else don't I know?

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Sophie Wheeler

No, you need a built in beverage fridge if you are going to be installing it into cabinetry. Or, you can install a reestanding small fridge into a big, well supported, hole between two cabinets. But the dorm style fridges need a lot more air circulation than do their larger brothers. It will need a pretty good gap around it in order to cool properly. And the counter on top need additional support like a ledger, depending on the void size between the cabinets.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:01AM
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Thanks, holly. What if I placed the fridge next to a tall pantry cabinet, under an adjacent counter top with no other cabinets? I have 4 to 5 feet to play with. How much of a gap on top between the unit and the counter? How much of a gap behind? Thanks in advance if you can answer this.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Sophie Wheeler

You'd need a side support panel next to the pantry to support the counter. That's generallty 1 1/2" at a minimum. Or up to 3'' if it needs to be to divide into the available space more evenly. Most of the dorm fridges are around 33'' high, which would probably be OK with the standard 34 1/2" height of the bottom of the countertop. Look at the clearance specs of the models to be sure though. That leaves the width of the hole. For an 18'' wide fridge, 21'' is probably sufficient for some models, while others would need 24''. Again, check the specs of the model under consideration. But, if you want to future proof the hole for a built in model maybe in the future, you'd want to leave a 24'' hole to slide in that built in. I'd personally also want a ledger board at the rear for counter support as well as a flat connecting crosspiece from the side panel and filler to the adjacent cabinet. The whole installation is just sturdier that way.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Thanks so much for offering your time and expertise. Now that you've offered advice re the sturdiness of the counter ... I was hoping to hold it up with some sort of brackets but that's probably a no-go if I want to use it for my microwave and Kuerig, right? I've found a couple of narrow open base cabinets on craigslist that might work in my space. Their height is 35". I'm thinking installing the countertop with one on either side of the fridge should provide the support I need? Thank you again for your generous help. I always find your posts useful and I appreciate your straightforward answers.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 5:46PM
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I'm not sure I follow the setup exactly, but if you meant you wanted the counter hung from the wall on brackets, that can be done. It has to be engineered correctly, but the stanchions can be applied directly to the studs, and plastered over, so that you only see the angled part, and those can be covered with decorative corbels. If it's done correctly, it'll be plenty sturdy enough for your small appliances.

I know this, because I have a similar, tiled counter outside. :)

You will probably need to use a triangular bracket, however. You could check though. There might be a cantilever system--it's a big thing inside the wall counterweighting L brackets (no hypotenuse). That is, I know it's possible, but might not be in your budget.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 8:37PM
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Hi Plllog!
"That is, I know it's possible, but might not be in your budget."

See, there's the crux of it. This little beverage center idea of mine was not in the original budget. (Nor, alas, were new drywall in the livingroom and halls, the gorgeous walnut top on my used cabinet island, the matching gorgeous top that will soon be on the new media cabinet and the near full gut of the bathroom.)

And we're still determined to get through remodeling our ugly duckling without taking out a loan or dipping into savings.

Conventional wisdom says: Wait until the coffers are full again but that's so hard to do.

First off, I'm a cheapskate. Even if the goose who laid the golden egg waddled up onto my deck and built a nest, I'm not sure I would willingly pay someone to mess up the walls I just paid to fix.

Second, I'm not quite cheap enough. My new kitchen is starting to look pretty good but, gosh, it would look so much better if the microwave and coffee maker didn't take up so much room on that one counter. I'm willing to spend a little bit more to change that, especially since I'm going to have a piece of countertop leftover that should be just the right size.

Still, it's nice to know that it's possible. Maybe when the coffers ARE full again I'll put a tile counter outside on my deck to shade the golden goose should she happen to wander by ;)

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:47PM
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As I said, I wasn't fully tracking what stage you were actually in. It's the cantilever gizmo that's expensive. The triangular brackets aren't. If you don't mind seeing the brackets (and you can paint them in some surprising and outrageous color, or match them to the walls so they sort of disappear), you can just apply them right to the walls as long as the wall board is screwed to the studs. If there's a gap, it probably won't hold, but if you can anchor in the studs, it's fine.

I can't remember why, but my brackets got moved twice. Reopening the stucco, patching it and then doing it again. It was solid to begin with since it's the outer wall. It didn't take very long, since it's just the piece over the stud that gets opened for each. They don't have to take down the wall (which they would for the cantilever gizmo). :) Talk to a contractor or carpenter about it.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 11:46PM
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If the counter goes between a the pantry side and the wall, and the counter is not too heavy, ledger boards screwed into studs on the wall sides and the pantry wall on one side should be plenty of support for countertop and micro/keurig if the micro is not too big . Under our stairwell in the basement we have pantry on the tall end and a countertop extending 4 feet to the wall on the short end. Under it we have two under counter Uline refrigerators/freezers.

We also have a cheap amana fridge /freezer ($120) under counter across the kitchenette to be converted to a cabinet at some point now that we have the Ulines. Meanwhile that counter is supported at one end by a ledger board on the wall and a cabinet on the other side. That is a 21 inch fridge in a 24 in space and has never had problems with fridge cooling, it's the tiny freezer that is inadequate in that unit.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:02AM
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Plllog, Scrappy, Many thanks! I think I've found a couple of small cabinets that will work but I am filing this away for future reference.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:17PM
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