Refrigerator Hinge Cap and Built-in Look

observer1June 14, 2008

I am in the seemingly endless process of trying to choose a refrigerator. My plan has been to build a fake wall which will accommodate the refrigerator, a wall oven, and a pantry. It has seemed to me that I could have a built-in look for the refrigerator, without actually buying a built-in, by having the fake wall closely surround the front of the refrigerator. It seems to me now, from the pictures on the web, that most refrigerators have hinge caps that are visible from the front while some others have hidden hinge caps. Do you-all know if my plan requires a refrigerator with a hidden hinge cap in order for me to succeed in having the refrigerator look built in?

Thanks for your always-valuable advice.

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Well obviously the hidden hinge will help achieve this goal better. I hope the following points are obvious too.

While planning your close tolerances do not forget that the doors have to open. Be very aware of exactly how they move on their hinges. Including vertically.

While planning your close tolerances do not forget that your fridge needs proper ventilation. Do you have a backup plan for air movement? If not you risk poor efficiency or worse.

I do not think you will ever get a truly built in look with a regular fridge. That is why people pay thousands more for built ins. You can get somewhat close but be smart about it.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 12:16PM
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ya think, I am sorry to have to admit that not much of this is obvious to me, which is why I especially appreciate your help; thank you.

You wrote "While planning your close tolerances do not forget that the doors have to open. Be very aware of exactly how they move on their hinges. Including vertically." Hmmm. Do you have any tips for me in this connection? To find out how doors move on their hinges, I have to physically examine each refrigerator I am considering?

Re the ventilation: The refrigerator is going to be sitting there between the fake wall and the real wall. I will leave an inch of space between the back of the refrigerator and the real wall. Probably nothing between the fake wall and the real wall will be very close to the top or sides of the refrigerator. So that will be satisfactory for ventilation, won't it?

Is there more you can tell me as to how I can get smart about this -- short of buying a built-in?

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 3:45PM
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The Installation manual that comes with the refrigerator should have detailed instructions about how much space it needs around it (top, bottom, back, sides) to function properly. There are sites that have appliance manuals, so if you Google the model # and the word 'manual', you might be able to find it online. I believe they usually need at least 1" on all four of the surfaces I mentioned--usually more on top....If anyone knows different, please to post in....!

Janet in Jerusalem

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 4:36PM
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If you go to the manufacturer's website and find the model number you're looking at, there is usually an installation guide you can pull up. That should tell you the clearances on the specific model you're considering.

The clearances on the major models I've looked at range from 1/4"-1" on the sides, usually 1" on the top, and 1"-2" in the back. Remember you may need a little "wiggle room" if you ever have to pull the fridge out for repairs. It's important to check your specific models.

I've found that most freestanding models with the concealed hinges need little to no additional room for the doors to swing open. The doors are generally hinged at the front of the door, so as they swing, the back edge of the door swings inward. Don't know if that's clear, but I can't think of another way to explain it. And I don't know if they all work that way.

One thing that helps with a built-in look is to recess your fridge into an adjacent room or closet if you can. There are many pictures of this in the GW. I'm doing just that-recessing into an adjacent bath that is also being renovated.

And one last word of caution---it's likely that you'll replace your refrigerator before you redo your kitchen. Do you anticipate needing a larger fridge in the future? I have a psuedo built in look in my current kitchen where the height was planned way too low---severely limited my options when I had to replace the fridge. I'm now planning around a generic 25/26 cu ft fridge so I can always fit a replacement of my choosing.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 8:38AM
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Janet, thanks for the info. I will look online for the manuals to see how much space I will need between the back of the refrigerator and the (real) wall. I am thinking that because the refrigerator will not be surrounded by cabinets or anything (because there will be no cabinets in this part of the kitchen) that I need not concern myself re space being needed at the top and sides of the refrigerator, so that, at least for ventilation, I am concluding that I can have the plane of the fake wall surrounding the refrigerator coming as close to it as possible. I hope that's right.

Seaglass, thanks for the many very helpful points. With regard to the wiggle room needed to get the refrigerator out for repairs: Do you know if built-ins some way allow space for that situation? Because I wonder, for this purpose, if I could simulate doing whatever the built-ins do.

As for how the doors open on those refrigerators that have concealed hinges: With regard to the doors not needing any additional room to swing open: Does that mean that one of these refrigerators can go in with the outside of its door flush with its surround as opposed to with the front edge of the refrigerator case flush with the surround (assuming no problem of matching the depth of the refrigerator to the depth of cabinets)? (I have no need to deal with the problem of matching depths by recessing: I will be building a fake wall to surround the front plane of the refrigerator rather than having cabinets around it, and I can place the wall however far in front of the real wall as I want to. I am provisionally doing the fake wall on the theory that it will be substantially cheaper than cabinets; I hope that turns out to be right.)

You are very right in thinking that I will replace my refrigerator before I redo my kitchen: We bought this house 36 years ago, and thus far it has taken me 36 years to come up with the concept of the perfect kitchen for us. So I will certainly adopt your great idea of planning around a generic refrigerator size. Thank you again.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 1:34PM
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Just going by the subzero built-in I had at the old house, the compressor on the built-ins sits above the refrigerator and is covered with a panel. That's how they get access to repair them (had way too much experience with that!) The free standing refrigerators are on large caster type wheels, but you still need to get your hands on it to pull it out. My personal experience here is that if the water line clogs for the ice-maker, the entire fridge need to be pulled out to access it.

One of the KD's I worked with suggested that once the fridge is in place, you can run a trim piece around the edge to give it a more built-in look. In the event you need to access the fridge, the trim could be carefully removed and then put back in place. I haven't gotten this far, but it makes sense.

I don't know how tight you can plan the fridge side to side. The models I'm looking at need a little clearance for ventilation, and I'm afraid to place the box any closer than the recommended clearance. I think the trim approach gives you some flexibility in creating a somewhat generic box size and then placing the trim in the best spot to give it that cosmetic look while allowing the doors to open.

FYI-my research for 25/26 cuft fridges says that including clearances, the inside dimensions of the box for the fridge should be about 37" wide, 71" high and 36" deep (the depth has the most variation, but 36" is the max). I looked at Jenn Air, KitchenAid, Samsung, GE Profile, and a few others I can't remember right now. That's what's in my cab layout right now. Now if I can just find a somewhat reliable fridge....

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2008 at 2:23PM
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Seaglass, doing trim pieces sounds like a great idea. And thank you for the dimensions; are they for bottom freezer or side by side? I have just systematically considered every refrigerator available in America, so far as I can tell, in my favorite category (36" wide, single door above, bottom freezer, no water and ice in the door, cabinet depth), and could not find a single one that met all my requirements. So now I am going to consider every refrigerator available in America in my next-most-preferred category. I hope I will live long enough. Meanwhile, thanks for the great advice.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 1:15AM
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The dimensions are for a french door bottom freezer, 25 cu ft which runs about 33-36 deep. For the counter depth, your depth will be closer to 24". I also systematically worked my way through every fridge and came up empty. Now it's time to compromise here too. If you start with the premise that you want hidden hinges, that seems to eliminate a lot of possibilities. Did in my case.

Good luck, and if you happen to turn up a gem of a fridge, please post. Now it's back to cabs for me----nearly had a heart attack yesterday with the quote. Time to simplify...and compromise, again.

Happy hunting!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 8:28AM
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Seaglass, I did come across one refrigerator that might suit you, although it doesn't meet my needs: The Dacor single-door-on-top bottom-freezer cabinet-depth integrated (but not built in) model. This one is very handsome to my eye, and the hinge seems to be hidden. The problem for me is that it is made only to take a panel, and I want SS, and they don't offer a SS panel for it. Also, no one at GW has had anything to say about Dacor refrigerators, at least as far back as the GW search engine goes.

You and I seem to be in sync re our timing: I too am at the stage of pricing cabinets. As for the quote that almost did you in: My experience thus far with cabinet quotes is that they are negotiable. Specifically: The first place we went to was a local dealer with an outstanding reputation. He started with a ball-park price range and I did not object out of ignorance, enlightenment not coming until I subsequently got, elsewhere, two quotes for only half as much as the first. Three weeks later the first guy sent me a rendering and a quote, and then phoned. I thanked him but told him that we were now looking for cabinets that would cost less than his. (In my mind I was not bargaining, just feeling apologetic about having had him do work when in fact we were not interested.) So at that point he said that there were eight cabinets in his rendering but that two of them could be eliminated without loss of storage space! and that his price would then fall accordingly. When I said that that would not do it, he suggested that I go to a local cabinetmaker. He proceeded to name five local towns that had good cabinetmakers but told me to avoid two of those towns because their prices were geared to New Yorkers with second homes. And he told me that cabinetmakers in the three reasonable towns would charge me about one-third! of his own quote. So soldier on. I myself still have a lot more cabinet looking-and-pricing to do.

Maybe you're looking for Euro-style cabinets too? If so, please tell me of any cabinet gems as well as refrigerator gems that you find.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2008 at 9:17AM
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Does the ezkleen on the fisher paykal fridge match other stainless steel appliances?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2008 at 11:45PM
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