How much clearance in front of a refrigerator?

numbersjunkieMarch 25, 2010

My refrigerator will be at the end of a cabinet run, with cabinets on the opposite wall facing it. They will be regular base + wall cabinets, not a tall pantry unit.

The aisle between them also leads to the dining room, foyer and stairs to the second floor.

I have not decided on whether to get a french door refrigerator or a single door opening into the kitchen (left hingle). I realize that the doorway will be blocked when the refrigerator is in use, but I don't have enough space to push the cabinets across from the refrigerator back far enough to avoid that.

Right now that aisle is about 45 inches. Is that enough space to allow comfortable access to the refrigerator?

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My fridge is currently boxed in sort of as you describe, except that it is the side of a tall cabinet, not base+wall in front. (The cabinet doors and the fridge doors do not open into each other at all.)

I have 35 inches in front of the fridge, which has top-bottom doors. The space is usable, but moving the fridge to a spot with more space is one of my priorities on the redesign.

I wouldn't do the french door fridge in my tight space, but it may work in yours. Go to the store, stand in front of your fridge, measure the space you need, and see.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 1:20PM
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Since you mention french door, I'll assume you are getting 36 inch wide refrigerator. I'll also assume that the cabinets on the side with the refrigerator are 24 inch deep. This gives you a total of 24+45 or 69 inches.

You didn't mention if you're getting a counter depth fridge. With a counter depth french door, I think you have enough space.

A regular 36 inch refrigerator is 34-36 inches deep. It definitely won't fit. You won't have enough space to open a single door (36 deep + 36 door). With a french door, you won't have enough space to open the bottom drawer.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 1:32PM
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I have my fridge in a similar pinch point. The fridge is at the end of a u-shaped layout but across from it there is a 21" wide wall (hiding a support post and closet) where we put a 12" wide message center. The rest of the wall is recessed well beyond this message center on one side and opens to a stair landing on the other.

Before cabinets and fridge were installed there was 44" of width. After install from front of cabinet door to front of fridge door it is 38". It is a cd sxs fridge so it works OK for us. If someone has a fridge door open you can still squeeze past but obviously it is not an ideal situation. The message cabinet stores phone chargers below (and wallets, istuff, etc) and a phone and shelf above so it is a space that is accessed infrequently.

This fridge placement was one of our biggest concerns but we are glad we did it - the working portion of our kitchen is now very open and easy to work in but the fridge is still close. There is only an issue if someone is entering or leaving the kitchen and someone else has the fridge door open at the same time. Based on the rest of the layout, it rarely happens.

You still should do a dry run on this like janet suggested. Especially if the cabinet across from the fridge is used a lot.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 1:43PM
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Sorry I missed that detail, but yes I am getting a 36 inch wide counter depth refrigerator. And the landing area will be to the right, which is why I was thinking of a single door type.

Right now my wall oven is where the refrigerator will be, and I have about 45 inches to the tall pantry cabinet on the opposite wall. I've never felt like it was tight to get things in or out of the oven, but I'm not sure about the refrigerator.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 1:46PM
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The fridge will stick out a little bit beyond the cabinets so you need to factor that in.

Is there a wall on the right side of the fridge? If there is, check that you have enough clearance to open the right side door if you do get a french door.

Also if your main workspace is the counter besides the fridge, it might not be convenient getting things in and out of the fridge with the left opening single door.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 2:02PM
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Yes, I have the depth of the CD refrigerator as 30 inches including the door and handle. That may be off a bit depending on the model.

The wall will be to the left with adequate clearance. There will be counter to the right, which is why I was thinking a single door with hingles on the left. I think that will be less awkward than a french door.

But what I really need to know is how much space do I need in FRONT of the refrigerator? I looked at the NKDA guidelines and they seem to say 30" is enough, but I'm not sure I was reading it correctly. Seems very tight to me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 2:53PM
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For many (all?) refrigerators you need to keep an inch of clearance behind the fridge. So it helps to measure from the back wall and go from there.

If you look up a couple of models you are interested in, look for the specifications. These will tell you what the measurements are with doors open, closed, with handles, etc. Then you can measure from your back wall and figure out how much space you would have behind you and whether that would feel comfortable.

Here is are some numbers just using the LG counter depth FD as an example. You can see that the total depth with doors open is 42.25; add one inch behind the fridge, and measure out from your back wall. Based on 45" in the aisle (remember that counters hang over about an inch from the cabinet base), you would still have about 2 feet of room behind you when the door is open. (25" wall counter + 45" aisle = 70", minus 43.25 for fridge and clearance = 26.75.)

Here are the LG specs as an example:
Depth (Including Handles): 30"
Depth (without Handles):27.5"
Depth (without Door): 23.63"
Depth (Total w/Door open): 42.25"
Height (To Top of Case): 68.38"
Height (To Top of Door Hinge): 69.75"
Width: 35.75"
Width (Door open 90° with Handle): 44.25"
Width (Door open 90° w/o Handle): 39.25"
Door Edge Clearance with Handle : 4.5"
Door Edge Clearance without Handle : 1.75"
Installation Clearance: Side 0.13", Top 1", Back 1"

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 4:02PM
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This may sounds ridiculous, but I made my husband do the "butt test". DH says, take your biggest family member and have him bend down and pretend to get something out of the freezer drawer. This is how I came up with the necessary space required. We have a regular depth fridge, with 34" inches to the counter on the other side, from the front of the fridge (didn't include the handles in this measurement). I have two aisles crossing each other sort of in this spot though.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 10:15PM
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Go for the french door or SxS. You're going to want room from the end of the open door to the other cabinet to squeeze by, else it will always be a bother to both the persons trying to get something out of the fridge and the other trying to get by.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 2:23PM
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I'm not sure I understand the details of your measurements, so I'll just toss our setup out there. We have a u-shaped kitchen with the fridge at the entrance of the u. The distance from the fridge handles to the opposite counter is 42" and our fridge is a french door, regular depth. There is enough room for someone to walk behind when one person is getting something out of the fridge, but it's not a lot of room. I don't think it would be enough with a single door fridge where the door is much wider.

Typically we use the counter opposite the fridge as landing space because of the french doors.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 3:43PM
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Thanks for your help. It sounds like the 45" is more than enough to allow comfortable access to the refrigerator. Not sure our setup will allow someone else to pass behind because I don't think our doorway can be made wide enough.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 3:58PM
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I have my fridge in the area that leads to my dining room. It's a fairly narrow doorway. I have a shallow cabinet across from the fridge for storing cans and such. I really wanted to move the fridge out of this location because every time the fridge opens it blocks the path to the dining room. But we couldn't figure out a way to move it and still have the rest of the space make sense.

We left it because it was the lesser of the evils.

I thought I wanted a french door fridge, but for the same reason you mentioned...landing space is on a side, I stuck with a single door on the fridge and standard upper freezer. I also looked at the lower pull out freezer option and that didn't work at all in my space either.

Your situation isn't ideal, but it's workable.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 4:57PM
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