Need to widen refrigerator cabinet opening JUST 1/8 inch

Sherry99January 15, 2011

Newbie needs help on widening a refrig cabinet opening! Our new refrigerator is 32 3/4 wide, the refrigerator cabinet opening is 32 7/8 wide. It should JUST fit. However, we found that the refrig's middle part is slightly wider than the top and bottom part. So the refrig can only go half way into the cabinet until the middle part stuck. The refrig cabinet has trim on both sides, which cannot be easily taken down. (I am not sure if it's called "trim". They are strips at the opening of the cabinet that make the opening smaller than the inside of the cabinet.)

What would you recommend for this situation? Can we sand one or both trims on the refrig cabinet to gain just probably 1/8 inch? If sanding is the right way to do it, how should we do it? What kind of tools we need?

Or do you have any other suggestions? Any input is much appreciated! Thank you in advance!!

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From your questions it seems you don't have any diy experience at all.

This sounds like a simple thing, but you should try to find someone with experience to help you because whatever you do to trim this down it needs to look finished and that requires experience to get it right especially since these are new cabinets you don't want to mess up.

If you do want to go ahead with this you could use a block sander to sand it by hand. Make a line to sand down to so it's the same on each side. Use a medium grit, then fine grit, and finish with extra fine grit. Be careful not to round down the edge or leave wavy marks on the front edge. You will need to refinish with a matching wood finish.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 12:06PM
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> Our new refrigerator is 32 3/4 wide, the refrigerator cabinet opening is 32 7/8 wide.

And the fridge needs 0 clearance on each side? Are you sure?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 12:16PM
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Typically, taking off trim is not really a complicated job. If you are uncomfortable with DIY... I'm sure you can find a handyman to do it. Then, you could sand down both insides of the trim and reattach.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 12:18PM
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This is a router job.Bits required: 1/8" rabbeting bit; flush cutting, top-bearing bit.
Use the smallest router available (like a laminate trimmer) The 1/8" rabbet bit has a bearing on the bottom, and will remove a consistent 1/8" of wood, except where the bearing rides.Change to the flush cutting bit; the bearing will now ride on the newly-cut edge of wood, and trim off the remainder (where the first bearing ran)leaving a flush trimmed edge.The top of the opening can be carefully stop-cut, but the router can't cut all the way to the floor, should your trim extend that far, it will need to be carefully finished off with a chisel.The chisel needs to be very sharp.
Sanding away 1/8" of wood 6' tall (hardwood, no less) is lots of donkey work, and will not be precise.
If you don't have the tools and bits, you'll need to engage someone who does.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 12:20PM
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Thank you guys very much for your prompt replies and great suggestions!

steff_1, you're right, we do not have any DIY experience on things like this. We're first time home owners and in the country where we grew up, very few people own houses. So everything is new to us. We are trying to learn though! :) About your suggestion, since on our refrig cabinet, the right trim is much wider than the left one , do you think we can sand only the wider one?

writersblock, the refrig manual says as long as there is 1/8 inch clearance on "sides", it will be fine; plus, it vents from bottom. So we thought it would work. But we didn't expect that the middle part is slightly wider than the top and the bottom. :(

remodelfla, thank you for your suggestion. We will check out which approach is easier, sanding with the trim attached or taken down.

Casey, thank you for your suggestion! Since we are so new to this, we are unfamiliar with many terms in your message. But we will check them out by doing more research and let you know if we have more questions.

Thank you guys again!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 2:08PM
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This same thing happened at our last home. Fridge opening was suppose to be wide enough, but it wasn't by just a bit.

Builder used a belt sander and sanded off the small lip from the pantry cabinet beside the fridge. The crown had not been installed yet when I noticed this problem. They had to do some hand chisel work at the bottom. This is a 36" wide fridge. The room was built wide enough to fit the cabinets like this.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 2:32PM
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If the sides are uneven, then taking it all off one side will work. I still think you should try to get a pro or experienced cabinet person to help you on this. To see what I mean, try sanding the edge of a piece of scrap wood while keeping the edges sharp and straight.

Call your cabinet supplier and ask if for a small fee they could send someone out to do this for you. If not, try Furniture Medic in the link below. Maybe someone at work can refer you somewhere locally to help you.

Casey's solution is meant for an experienced woodworker with good power tools. It's the best way to go and will look great when finished.

Here is a link that might be useful: Furniture medic

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 2:49PM
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Thank you, macybaby, for your input and sharing the picture! I couldn't see quite clear whether your fridge space has surround. So did your builder sand the frame of the pantry cabinet? Either way it does sound like a job that we may need professional help.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 10:37PM
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Thanks again, steff_1. I was thinking that if we want to do it by ourselves, we will first try on a piece of wood from a broken chair :P

It's a great idea to contact the cabinet supplier. It's just that the cabinet was installed by the previous owner 6 years ago. I will try to see if I can find the supplier information from the cabinet, or from a pile of documents the previous owner left for us.

Thank you for the Furniture medic information, too! I was not aware of it before.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 10:47PM
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I had to laugh when I read this post because we had heLL over out kitchen. (Lawsuit, etc...) NOT one appliance fit except the fridge, so we thought. Everything had to be modified for two under counter U-Lines, warming drawer, Advantium, sink, dishwasher. The range was a slide in..and it worked because we adjusted the base cabinets. Then came the installation of the refrigerator, which has sidewalls as yours. Well, the belly of it was wider than the opening. There was room inside the opening if we could have gotten it through.

I put a little baby powder on the edges of the wood sides and the side of my fridge. Then I sat my fanny down on the ground, lined up all edges, planted my feet on the front doors and shoved!!! It passed through like a tight-fitting car in a garage. I was just so 'over' problems that I wasn't going to let 1/8" stop me from getting that wide bellied fridge in its place. It did muck up the paint a bit but no one can see it.

Thinking about it later, I realized how fortunate I was that something didn't split or break. The fridge slides out now with no problem after 5 1/2 years. :D

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 1:02AM
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Sherry, the fridge is not in a surround. The face of the the pantry stuck out about 1/8" proud of the side panel, so the builder carefully removed it. I was surprised that they did it without any marring to the pantry side, though only the upper portion is visible.

If yours also has that little lip (pretty much standard construction) it should be very easy for an experienced carpenter to deal with. It takes some talent, but mostly the right tools.

We didn't do it ourselves because the house was being built and we let them deal with it. Now days - DH would get out his plane and remove the excess that way. He amazes me at how good he is with a quality hand plane.

When we first moved to this old house, we bought a 36" wide fridge. It was going along side the cabinets and open on the other, so width was not a problem. We measured the height and it looked good to fit under the existing cabinet.

Went to slide it in place, and about half way back it got stuck. The floor was out of level enough that it changed the angle of the top of the fridge and it pressed up against the cabinet. Since we knew we'd be remodeling - we just removed that top cabinet for the time being.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 11:17AM
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sherilynn, thank you for sharing your story! We couldn't stop laughing while we were reading your message, too. And then we were inspired with a similar solution. The short version of the solution: instead of baby power, we used Vaseline... and it worked like a charm!

The long version: after considering all the alternative solutions, we decided to start with the one that needs the least expertise -- lubricating the surfaces. We thought that we'll be careful not to put too much force on it even with the lubricant on, so that we won't damage anything and if it doesn't work, we can still try other solutions.

We don't have baby powder, so we thought of Vaseline, which should be safe for both surfaces even left on afterwards. We put Vaseline on both sides of the refrigerator and on both sides of the cabinet trim. We then used the same strength as we tried yesterday to slide the fridge in. When we reached the place where it stuck yesterday, we could still keep it moving, with just a little bit more strength. Finally, we were able to slide the fridge in all the way where it supposed to be. (It's not counter depth, so it does stick out, but we don't mind.) We also tried to see if we can pull it out easily and we couldï¼Â:D We then wiped the Vaseline from the sides of the fridge and the trims. Hopefully the Vaseline in the cabinet won't be a problem.

We took some pictures and wanted to show you guys how it finally looks like. But I haven't figured out how to post images on this forum. :(

I am glad that I came to this forum for help. Not only we found a way to solve the problem, more importantly, we got multiple replies so fast and every message is very informative! We also learned other solutions that might be helpful in the future. Many thanks to all of youï¼Âï¼Âï¼Â

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 4:14PM
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Thank you again, macybaby! Guess old houses are more likely to have this size problem. Our house is 50 years old. Although the previous owner remodeled the kitchen 6 years ago, the fridge cabinet is still quite small. Now we have finally slided our fridge in, we do also have the problem of not being able to open the cabinet above the fridge -- the hinges block the cabinet doors from opening fully.

But we were aware of this problem when we were shopping for the fridge. Given the size limitation of the fridge cabinet, this is the largest french door or side by side style we could find and liked. So we decided to live without the cabinet above the fridge. I read from somewhere else that we can raise the cabinet. So I guess we'll do that when it comes the time that we really need the cabinet above the fridge.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 4:27PM
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That's great news the fridge is in and that you didn't have to cut the sides of the cabinets. So glad that worked for you.

To post pictures you need a hosting site like photobucket and then you can copy the html link to post here.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 5:09PM
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We had a similar problem with our previous fridge and cab above it. DH took the cabinet down, trimmed off the bottom of the cabinet frame, sanded it carefully, selected the closest stain color he could find to touch it up, and it worked out fine when he reinstalled it. If there's not too much overlap, this could work for you.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 5:45PM
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Thanks, steff! Here are the pictures. Please forgive us for the greasy palm prints on the fridge. We couldn't wait to take the pictures as soon as we slided it in, LOL.

From pictures 1 and 2, you can see that the top and bottom parts still have some (although very narrow) gap. But the middle part sticks right in. Picture 3 shows the cabinet problem.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we used Vaseline on top of the fridge on the left side as well. I tend to think that it's the fridge shell that has different dimensions on different parts, not the cabinet.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 6:30PM
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Thank you, Anne! I think that's what we will do when we really want to use the top cabinet.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 6:38PM
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