New Refrigerators taller, won't fit. Ideas?

prairiemoon2 z6 MAAugust 10, 2012

We have a 15 yr old Amana bottom freezer that suddenly doesn't keep the food frozen in the freezer. We've just started looking for a replacement and find that many of the refrigerators are too tall for our space. It is a small kitchen and the refrigerator slides into a space made to 'house' the refrigerator. In other words the cabinetry was built around it. Cabinet above it, attached to a beaded panel on the right side and the wall on the left. The space itself measures 35 inches wide, and 69 inches deep. Most refrigerators that are the same capacity as our old one, measure 33 inches and 70 inches tall to the top of the hinge.

I did find two manufacturers that make one that is shorter, but they seem to have a bad reputation. LG refrigerators that have some horror stories in the reviews, and GE refrigerators that are at the bottom of the reliability ratings with Consumer Reports. Oh, also, there might be a couple of Kenmores that would fit, but we are concerned about rumors that they might be going out of business.

On the other hand, Whirlpool, which is the top rated refrigerator, also has some horrible reviews, despite getting the top rating on Consumer Reports.

So, it appears our choices are....

Buy the top rated Whirlpool and cut our cabinetry to accomodate it. (which will be right up to the door on the cabinet above it, with very little frame under it. Plus the manufacturer recommends an inch of air space all around which we won't have) And hope that we don't have any trouble with it.

Buy a refrigerator with a poor reputation that we don't like

Buy a smaller capacity refrigerator when we need a larger refrigerator, and it will look odd having this smaller refrigerator in a space meant to accomodate a larger one.

Unless, someone here might know of a refrigerator that I haven't come across yet? Or some solution I haven't thought of? When did buying an appliance get to be so hard?


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We were in the same situation. Our fridge was 20 years old when we started looking and found out that we were limited in choices. So hubby went ahead and cut the bottom of the cabinet off that would be above the fridge.
I'm not sure how much he had to cut but you have to also take into consideration the hinges on the fridge doors.
They stick up higher than the fridge top does. He couldn't cut off anymore than he did so now I can get the cabinet doors open enough to get things out but the doors still hit the hinges. The new ones are also deeper and wider. We didn't have a problem there but my neighbor does since she has a wall to one side and a cabinet to the other.

Hubs did ours ahead of time in case our fridge did go out and we needed to buy one on short notice. Luckily that didn't happen and we went with a Samsung French Door, 26 cf. Love the design and set up but its noisy running.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:17AM
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Can you disconnect the cab above the fridge from the wall and the beaded panel and move it up to gain yourself more space?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:20AM
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Every brand gets some bad reviews. I don't know that I've seen a preponderance of bad ones for LG. I didn't read them,
but there are a lot of reviews, and 4.5 stars average.

Here is a link that might be useful: LG fridge

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 10:37AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi mboston, that was pretty proactive of you to cut the cabinet for when you might have to replace it quickly. It is an inconvenient appliance to have issues with, since you have a lot of food that has to quickly be moved.

I am measuring the open space to be exactly 69". The new fridge dimensions are 69 and 15/16ths inches tall to the top of the hinge, but only 68 and a 1/2 inches to the top of the refrigerator. So it looks like I would have to cut off another inch and I guess that would do the trick, with a 70 inch space. I am concerned about having enough air circulation around the refrigerator and if I cut off another inch, then I would have 1.5 inch space between the cabinet bottom and the top of the refrigerator.

doc8404.... No, we have a Cape with lower ceilings and the cabinet is up as high on the wall as it could go with crown molding over it. I do see that there is an overhang at the bottom of the cabinet that looks like it is an inch long. If I cut that off, then I will be right up to the bottom of the cabinet and still have a surface for the door to close on but just barely.

Thanks atoofarrad, for the link. I'll check out those reviews. That site is new to me.

Well, as much as I hate to cut up custom cabinet work, I'm starting to think it might be the best bet. Especially since if we moved out at some point, anyone else might have the same problem and end up having to cut it any way.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:13AM
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In our last kit we ended up taking the caps off of the top hinges which gave us the space we needed.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 11:52AM
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Have the cabinet altered. The new standard of height for refrigerators is 70" and even if the one you purchase now lasts you 8-10 years (average lifespan) you'll still be facing the same problem when you replace it. Bite the bullet and fix the problem now.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 1:13PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

You make a good point, GreenDesigns. Well, maybe I will start a new thread then to see if anyone has recommendations for the best refrigerator and start over.

Thanks eandhl for that suggestion. I did go out and look and there is a cap over the hinge that I didn't see before, but it looks like I'm only going to gain a fraction of an inch to remove it.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 2:07PM
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You may need to go check the actual fridges yourself with a tap measure. When I was looking at several brands, I found that the height measurement was for the door including hinges, not the carcass itself. Usually the door and hinges were taller. My upper cabinet is only 12" deep, so I would have no problem fitting a unit in since the door hinges are at around 24"-31", depending on the model.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 3:11PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks weedmeister, we're heading to the stores tomorrow with the tape measure. Good idea. :-)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 5:26PM
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I feel your pain. Just had the built-in wine rack (original custom cabinetry) above the 1990 refrigerator in a new to us house cut up to the bottom of the frame at the front. No need to cut the framing at the back wall as the new refrigerator won't be flush with the wall anyway. Had the carpenter had too much difficulty, his back-up plan was to remove the wine rack entirely and finish out the space with crown molding. He did have to remove the support brace to cut it down, necessitating some minor repair work to the side cabinets. Newer refrigerators are much bigger now for the same cubic feet, and I now must buy a counter-depth model to fit the cut out and also squeeze through the door to the kitchen. Repairing your old refrigerator would just be kicking the can down the road. Have you considered removing the doors from your cabinet and having open shelving? Can you increase your usable width by removing the baseboard at the sides?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 6:02PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi furnitureshopper, Sorry you've had the same issue. Sounds like you worked it out with a little work, glad to hear it. Our son is actually a finish carpenter by trade who would have no trouble adjusting this, but right now, he is recovering from a shoulder injury. I took a good look at the cabinet above, and it does have a fairly large piece of trim that would not effect the actual box of the cabinet if it were trimmed. I'm getting used to the idea of cutting it.

Yes, we asked for an estimate on the repair work and they thought our problem sounds like a leak and it would be $200. just to find the leak. Then another $200-$400. to make the repair. Definitely, not worth it.

That is an idea about taking the doors off, but I don't think we will have to. We are using that cabinet for storing large items like cookie sheets and trays, so it wouldn't really work as decorative, so I'm going to try to avoid that.

Yes, we've already taken off the baseboard to fit our current refrigerator in there.

Thanks very much for taking the time to make suggestions, I appreciate it. I'm glad you were able to keep your cabinet! Just out of curiosity, what brand was the refrigerator you replaced? And what brand did you buy new?

Ours was an Amana that was bought in 1997. Prior to that we had a Frigidaire that lasted 25 years.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Prairiemoon2, we actually are still using the 1990 GE SxS (23.6 cf, 66" high and 31" deep w/handles) that came with the house. Runs OK but the temperature control is set at maximum and I'm sure it's just a matter of time. We don't keep a second fridge so we are trying to be proactive. I'm shopping for a CD fridge because I have to be. Leaning toward GE Cafe, Kitchenaid or LG SS french door without ice and water in the door. Actually don't mind a SxS, appreciate freezer visibility, but am concerned with home resale and frankly FD models are more popular.

Our trim carpenter was very careful with the cabinet modifications; you are lucky to have one in the family. Once the taller refrigerator is in the spot, I don't think anyone will notice that the back of the wine rack box frame is lower than the front. The important thing for me was keeping the look and flow of the cabinets.

The big box web sites offer a myriad of search options, including cabinet height, depth and width that might help you pinpoint specific models that meet your needs.

Consumer Reports latest kitchen issue mentioned the Whirlpool "white ice" finish as a possible hot color in kitchen appliances.

Happy shopping.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:00PM
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You are not alone. There are hundreds of people on these forums with the same problem - I know - I read the horror stories when we were having problems with out last fridge -a GE that measured 65 5/8 inches, without the hinge. Although I did not want to buy another GE I had looked at the Handi Height that GE was supposed to be making (I live in Canada) - due to space restrictions in condos and small bungalows etc. Well instead the condo builders made the over the fridge cabinets shorter to accommodate taller fridges - and spur the fridge business. Our cabinets - installed in June 2000 really can't be cut. One store even had an old beat-up Handi Height with a sign that read "don't renovate your kitchen, buy this fridge". In the end we had to buy a Whirlpool - DO NOT DO THIS! The fridge is 1 year and 7 months old and we are having major problems with it. If you Googl Whirlpool Fridge Problems you will find all sorts of horror stories - usually related to the fan and control panel - but the technicians check everything but - and we are talking all price points here. Ours sounds like gun shots going off and I have to remove major ice several times a day from the bottom mount freezer. We have had 2 tech visits - and all techs are not created equal - but I expect competency at the very least. The first one ordered new siderails and was appalled at the back panel where the air comes out - but he didn't order that part. 10 days later tech #2 arrives -knew a lot more - and was appalled at the state of the back panel and ordered it. So he left the side rails with me and now we are waiting 10 more days for a back panel. On Saturday, the fridge stopped working for several hours and while all I will keep in that freezer is bread and my 2 ice packs for the car - it wasn't cheap bread and it was totally defrosted. The whole things seizes and it moves around the kitchen while we are trying to open the freezer door. And the door was always shut tight. At first Whirlpool will tell you to do a manual defrost and tell you how that is done - since I am 62 I know how to do that. That didn't work. I was afraid to buy more milk because in Canada it is not cheap and I need to have organic due to health issues. We were not sure if the fridge part would be working after returning from the grocery store. It did reboot and once again ice is building. The second tech did a quick fix with a piece of copper wire. I had removed all of the bins and asked if he could please just check the fan and the control panel. NO. He said air wouldn't be flowing if it was the fan. Well that is what happened with the GE at 8 years of age - and finally a supervisor checked the fan and sure enough that is what it was, so we got another couple of years out of it. Other people with same fridge didn't. It died Sept. 30, 2010, along with the 8 year old washer and dryer. I also needed Stainless Steel which was a problem. Maytag made a fridge that would fit - but reviews were terrible. Whirlpool and Kitchenaid each just fit with the hinge - difference in cost being $100 for the KitchenAid - had a deli drawer - we don't eat deli - and people are having problems with leaking from the deli drawer. A major retailer in Canada is no longer selling Whirlpool or Kitchenaid products due to the number of customer complaints, maining dealing with the fan and the control panel. During the first problem with the GE fridge I spoke with Bosch and they told me that they were thinking of making a shorter fridge to accommodate the North American market since there is obviously a need for it. I can tell you though that if the Whirlpool fridge is toast - it is NOT going back to Whirlpool to be reconditioned to be sold to someone else for $800 or so - and neither have the fridges owned by the other Whirlpool customers on the complaints forum. In the U.S. I know you can often get free delivery - not in Canada. Guess I would have to do as others did - take out my frustrations on the fridge. Many older people just finally gave up and bought a high quality compact fridge and parked it in the refrigerator space. Guess it is a good thing that the person who tiled the backsplash decided to soak us and put the same tile behind the fridge so at least you would see tumbled marble instead of drywall. I am going to give Bosch a call to see if they are still planning a shorter fridge. I don't understand why 2 people need a huge fridge stuffed to the brim. Obviously I am ballistic over this fridge. Hope you find something that works but I think you might have a slight edge over me in terms of a couple of inches of space! By the way, the small front loaders are now a couple of inches deeper and since we did not want to go condensor in North America - LG makes a small unit - we had to buy Bosch sub compact - at $1,800 and $1,700 respectively. I could have bought the full size and received a free comforter for 1/2 the price. They look at the market and see where people will suffer!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 2:12PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Hi eccentric,

I feel your pain. Such an expense, such headaches and stress over it and you still end up with a solution that isn't very good I guess. Unfortunately, we did end up ordering the Whirlpool. (g) No sooner did we order it then I saw your post. No matter, I have read tons of horror stories in the reviews on just about all the different manufacturers. Actually, it seems to me that there aren't that many different manufacturers. Whirlpool owns Maytag, Amana, KitchenAid and one more I forget. And LG makes refrigerators for Kenmore. Frigidaire is a division of Electrolux. And I think Samsung is their own company.

I do really feel that electronics in the appliances have not turned out to be a good decision. They all worked much better when there were no electronics in them. But I don't think you can buy a refrigerator without electronics any more. The car makers have figured out how to keep a car running with electronics, I can't imagine why the refrigerator companies can't. I wonder if these manufacturers will end up going out of business? I think it is the consumer that suffers though, because everyone has to buy a refrigerator they have no choice. Unless we all start using coolers and ordering ice?

Consumer Reports has directed me in the past to many fine products that I had good performance and longevity from. Notably foreign made cars, when I was really struggling with the repair problems with American made cars. I have had great success with all those purchases for the past 30 years. I wish the foreign car manufacturers would start making refrigerators. (g) But in recent years, their recommendations have been inconsistent. I can't help but wonder if there are just not any good products left for them to recommend and they are making do. They also don't have the products long enough after testing them, to see how they perform in the long run. But they do send out their questionnaire to thousands of people for their experiences with them. And they report according to owners of Whirlpool, that only 8% of owners report repair problems. BUT, I don't know how old the review is, or how old the refrigerators were that they reviewed. Maybe this is a new batch of defective refrigerators since they did their survey?

Yes, I seem to have a little wiggle room with the cabinetry above the refrigerator. And the Whirlpool will actually be less than a 1/2 inch too tall. We were just discussing and had another idea of just notching out where the hinge is, because the refrigerator cabinet, will fit. It's just the hinge that won't clear.

One of the reasons we did go with the Whirlpool was also because we could purchase it and have it serviced with a small local family run company that has been in business for three generations and has a good reputation for service and repairs. We have bought many appliances from them in the past. They also offered us a 5 year extended warranty for a pretty decent price and free delivery. And they didn't sell LG or Samsung. They had Frigidaires which I like, but they are all 36" wide which no amount of trimming or adjusting would accomodate.

Well, it looks like we are all in the same boat and it comes down to a roll of the dice. I hope these manufacturers clean up their act before the next time we all have to make a purchase.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 7:39PM
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