Building in a fridge with cabinet on top

April 07, 2015

OK, whew!! Lots of photos to share today to show you how I completed the next step in the kitchen renovation. Well, almost completed…close enough for now. :)

Building in our fridge is something I’ve wanted to do for years and years – I applied beadboard to the the wall next to the fridge a long time ago in a failed attempt to give it a “built in” feel. I also applied it to the side of our old fridge but when we got this one I left it off:
DIY fridge built in before

I was trying! :) But now that the whole room is getting a major redo it was finally time to make this happen. I had a plan in place that didn't work out, but more about that in a second.

I started by taking off the beadboard on the wall to the right, removing the baseboards from that wall and then taking off the crown molding on this bank of cabinets:
building in refridgerator

You can see the difference in the two wall colors here – the one on the left is the old color, called Sisal. The one on the right (at the top) is Analytical Gray. I’m not painting the back wall above the cabinets since it will be covered (hopefully soon!).

I took this photo to show you the difference just that little crown makes – if you have cabinets without it, it’s an easy fix and really makes them look more finished! I was surprised at the difference: crown molding on cabinets

OK, so on to the build. My original plan was to just take the upper cabinet down and bring it forward. I was going to use two side panels and just attach it to those. But I could NOT get the cabinet down! It was crazy. The screws were stripping and barely moving at all, it was nuts.

I was totally bummed out – I considered calling in expert help to get it down, but I knew that would cost money. More importantly, I would have had to wait till help was available and I was already in this thing. When I finally decide to tackle something it has to happen right. then.

So I sat down and started figuring out a new plan. I decided to keep the current cabinet where it was and build straight out from it. I knew I could reuse the cabinet doors and it would provide even more storage.

I gathered all my trim and wood and got started – the first step was to fill in the spaces next to the cabinets by the fridge so that wood on the side of the built in would be flush against the cabinets and countertops:
building in fridge DIY

I had half an inch to fill at the front of the cabinets and 3/4 inch everywhere else (the trim on the front comes out a little bit). I found trim that worked and secured it to the sides of the upper and lower cabinets. This also was important because it gave me something to screw into when I installed the side of the built in.

I ended up placing one more in the middle on the bottom section when all was said and done. I tend to go overboard with nails and screws and making sure things are sturdy. 

I had a piece of high grade wood cut down into two pieces. The right side on the wall wasn’t as deep as the left side because there was no need for it to go under the current cabinets, since it wouldn’t be seen. The piece on the left needed to be a little deeper (as deep as the upper cabinet already hanging) so that it would go under the cabinet and cover that whole side. I hope that makes sense – it should in a minute.

I cut down a notch the size of the upper cabinet on my fancy sawhorse:
Adding sides to refrigerator

Our garage is a complete disaster so this was easier than finding the sawhorses. :)

I attached the right side directly to the wall, making sure to hit the studs. Then the left side was attached to the filler pieces I showed you earlier. You can see here why I cut out the spot for the cabinet – the front part goes as high as the cabinets and the back part is under the cabinet:
DIY built in fridge

This is when I realized it was a good thing I couldn't get that dang cabinet out of the wall – it would have been too wide. If you don’t have a wall next to your fridge that would still be an excellent option and would cost even less. But I used up 1 1/2 inches with the side supports so it wouldn’t have fit.

Next up was building a new cabinet. I was going to build it and then install, but I realized it would be easier just to do it right there (obviously I was pulling the fridge out to do most of this). I added sides directly to the supports and then starting building the box with the top and bottom:
building in fridge with cabinet on top

I had these pieces cut down at Lowe’s (they did an awesome job). I am FINALLY going to get a table saw soon, but I still have to have the bigger pieces cut down anyway so I can get them home. :)

Next up was trimming it all out. This part doesn't look great now but I still need to shore things up, fill and then sand. When I’m done you won’t even notice imperfections. I say that to encourage you – it does NOT have to be perfect! Get the job done and fix the little things later! That’s my thought anyway, I am not a perfectionist when it comes to this stuff.

Anyway, since I was using trim in different thicknesses I didn’t do mitered cuts:
How to build in fridge with sides and cabinet

The side trim had to be wider so I could attach the cabinet doors there: 
builidng in fridge with current cabinet

Once I got those up I figured out the size of support I needed for the middle of of the cabinet and got that installed. The cabinet doors are a little closer together than they were before – maybe about an inch? That’s the only difference between the old cabinet and the new one!:
building in refridgerator with cabinet on top

Other than looking much better (well, eventually!) it's more custom and has more storage.

I kept the back of the new cabinet open on purpose so I could take advantage of the old cabinet storage. I’ll use that for stuff we rarely use. The new cabinet is much deeper and I’m so stoked about the storage possibilities!:
above fridge storage

At first I was going to make vertical dividers but now think I’m going to go with shelves that I’ll build and slide in instead. That way I can still access the back if needed. I’ll be able to fit SO much more up there!

The best part is we can actually reach these doors! You’ll see I flipped the doors over and put the knobs on the bottom. Not sure why I installed those at the top anyway. It’s awesome to be able to just open these up and reach inside! It just makes more sense.

Someone is already enjoying the new cabinet:
building in fridge cabinet at top

I could have built the sides forward a bit more but didn’t want to interfere with the doors opening. Also, I want this to work for any size fridge and this one is one of the biggest you can buy. When we replace it I won’t worry about a slightly less deep fridge working.

I still need to caulk inside the cabinet and on the wall next to it, fill holes, sand, add some base…and then eventually it will all get painted out after the new uppers are built:
DIY fridge built in

But I’m pretty dang proud of how it turned out. We’re still walking by and feeling like something is falling off the fridge – it’s hard to get used to having something up there. ;)

I’m glad I figured this out and made it happen! The cost for the wood to make the whole thing was $100 – but if you use cheaper wood it will be half of that easy. I wanted a nicer finish so it paints up well.

DIY fridge surround

Here’s a before and after:
Build in fridge with cabinets

Have you ever tried building out your fridge for a more custom look? I love the look of it but what I love even more is that we can actually access the storage!

I hope my explanation made sense – let me know if you have any questions!

P.S. Check out this project in the finished kitchen!:
How to build in refrigerator with cabinets

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  1. So timely!! I was just thinking about how I'd like to do this in our kitchen the other day and trying to figure out how to build out that upper cabinet. Of course, it's like #99 on my to-do list so it will be awhile, haha. :)

  2. That door gap being different would and does bug me. Sorry Good thinking on just leaving the existing cabinet there. I hate stripped screws! I've used a pliers to grab and twist out if I can because my little stripped screw tool works about 1% of the time.

    1. It doesn't bother me at all -- I wouldn't even notice it if I hadn't installed it myself. :)

    2. I didn't even notice the gap - I had to scroll back up and look to see what was being referred to. You did a great job and the photos with your explanation make me believe I can do this as well. Thanks for the post.

  3. You did such a good always! I've been wanting to do this for years as well, and will be crossing it off my list soon, too. Hooray! I really wish I had at least half your talent.

  4. Looks great!

    Definitely do the slide out shelves in the cabinet. Our above fridge cabinet is an abyss of crap because it's hard to get to anything. :)

  5. I'm so impressed with how you jump in and do these projects yourself! It looks great!

  6. Girl, You are my Hero!! I am so impressed by your do it yourself attitude... Looks great! Job well done!

  7. Are you going to paint all of your cabinets? I think they are beautiful the way they are. I have maple cabinets in my kitchen that are stained and would like to put some kind of a wash on them because they have become more orange looking over time.

    1. I am, they are looking their age (the uppers are mostly OK but the lowers are scratched up and worn), plus I'm adding to the tops of all of them. And yes, ours are maple too and they have developed the same orange tone!

  8. If I may make a suggestion, you might want to consider drilling some holes on top of the cabinet towards the back so the heat from the motor has somewhere to go. As it is, you might speed up the demise of the fridge.

    1. Good idea, I may do that when I finish up the upper cabinets. From my understanding the gaps on the sides should be enough for the ventilation.

  9. I love it, you are amazing. Don't fridges need air all about them so they don't get overheated? I have no idea but I freak out all the time about things not having enough airflow.

    1. Thank you! From my research, as long as there are gaps along the sides it can ventilate (it's hard to see but ours has an inch+ on each side). Someone suggested drilling holes at the top cabinet and I may do that eventually. :)

  10. I love this. I am not afraid to try building things myself, but they never have the professional looking finished product that yours have. I guess I just need more practice. :)

  11. Very smart and yes, it's awesome when we can find 'where' we can build more cabinet space in our kitchens, lol! I have one just like yours atop my fridge and boy, do I love, love it!
    Congrats on a great job done!!!

  12. It looks great and the additional storage is always needed can't wait to see it finished. You do great work!

  13. Looks awesome!!! We got all new cabinets a couple of years ago from Home Depot and the lady helping us suggested we do the built in look (which we did) and I'm so glad we took her advice. It completes things. Can't wait to see the rest of your kitchen redo!

  14. You should be dang proud of yourself--you rocked it! It looks awesome!!

  15. Wow! That is awesome! You did it...just like that! I wish you would have explained more about how you made the bottom of the new cabinet and showed a pic of how you attached it and before you added the trim. I think I understand all the other parts. Don't think I can do this to mine, my pantry in the corner, is next to my fridge and it if I did it, the wall wouldn't come out far enough. I was so impressed with your island you made too!

  16. Great job - it looks terrific!! Wish I lived next door... haha

    I noticed those flipped doors right away. Your cat cracks me up!!!! LOLOL

  17. I am so glad that you posted this! We are in the middle of enclosing our upper cabinets and I was trying to figure out how to do the cabinet above the frig. We have the same scenario. We have a wall next to the frig. Now my problem is solved!!!

  18. Looking good Sarah, can't wait to see how you add to the tops of your cabinets. I so wish mine went up to the ceiling. The space above mine is not even 12 inches so I can't even put useful things up there like you do. Our cabinets look similar. Mine are same color (merrilat maple/paprika color) and are barely 5 years old and they are beat up on the bottom and the ones by the sink are losing their finish :/

    1. Same here! Our bottom cabinets are wearing badly, the ones by the sink are our worst too!

  19. The amazing things you make and get done are over my head. How do you you know how to do all that building stuff? Love how your fridge enclosure looks, very professional.
    How do you keep your fridge looking so pretty and clean on front? It looks like your fridge is new. Love how you made cupboard over fridge look and so much more practical. You are a building genius girl.
    Maybe if hubs wasn't such control freak so I could try things I would. If he would just do things as I ask him to as we go along but there are always objections. I told him how somebody on blog land used laminate flooring for new counter tops, nope can't be done. I saw it done, photos and all. We have 3 boxes of laminate flooring that would work great, think he just doesn't want to try it, not have to do work. We need new counter tops something awful in our kitchen. We have horseshoe shaped kitchen. Think hubs is afraid he can't cut flooring to work on counters.
    Can hardly wait to see how it all looks when you're finished, imagination is really excited to see what you do. Happy week

  20. When life gives you lemons(or stripped screws), make your own terrific, custom cabinet

  21. Love it!! Can't wait to see the finished product. For future reference, there's a drill bit thingy (technical term) that will allow you to remove stripped screws. I found it at Lowe's. :-)

    1. Thank you! I can't wait either. ;) I have that tool but they still wouldn't budge!

  22. You are an amazing talent! Awesome job! Please teach some local DIY classes!!!

  23. The cabinet looks great. I'm always up for extra storage.
    What tool did you use to cut out the piece around the upper cabinet? Your blog has inspired me to tackle DIY projects. I try to have Lowes cut when I can, but sometimes I have scraps to reuse and hate to always be asking others to make cuts for me (hubby is not handy). Any tools to suggest for a beginner?

    1. A jigsaw! It's a pretty easy tool to use, it just takes some practice. My cuts are never perfect so I rely on caulk often. ;) A saw, nail gun and jigsaw are my three go-to tools and you can do a TON with them!

  24. I wasn't sure if my other comment went through, so I wanted to say that I love the pintuck look and plan to get it for my guest bedroom. I was looking at pintucked bedding on several sites and found nothing under $100. I have a queen bed in there, but I wanted to get a king because I like oversized comforters. I think I would also use the gift card to get some new sheets and accent pillows. I'm glad that Walmart has both a white and gray color option.

  25. Love, love,love the pin-tuck look. It just makes the room more inviting and put together, and for the price you just can't go wrong. Also, I had seen the wax warmers but always though they looked bulky, but that one fits perfectly in the room. I definitely have to go out and get one!

  26. Loved the pin-tuck look on the white comforter and decided it was perfect! But the nearest Walmart that carried it was a 100 mile round trip. I was SO disappointed when I arrived to see that it was NOT a comforter, but a duvet cover with shams. The suggested white comforter to go inside it was another $40. Even the WM site calls the pin-tuck design a comforter. This might need to be amended on the description. Thanks. Anonymous

    1. Anon, I think you meant to put this on the other post, but the comforter set I have and linked to is most definitely a comforter and not a duvet. If you purchase this one online it is a comforter set. I hope you can find one that works!

  27. Fabulous job Sarah! How much space in inches is above your top cabinets and the ceiling?

    I'm also planning on painting my kitchen cabinets white this year, and I want to extend them to the ceiling with mdf. I've considered making cabinets above, but I'd have to find tiny cabinet doors to match the ones I have currently in the rest of the kitchen.

    I have 18" of space from the top of my cabinets to the ceiling, and I'm wondering if that's enough space for cabinets (cabinet frame space, plus cabinet door). Otherwise, I'll just build an extension and not bother with cabinet doors.

  28. my mom has a built in fridge like this thats constantly needing repair/spoiling her food due to overheating because the back cant "breathe" properly... something to look out for

  29. But now adays fridges 'breathe' from the front bottom with 100% solid enclosed fridge backs so this is really not an issue.

  30. I love, love this as this is the same setup I have. I want to raise my cabinets and shelves to the bottom and extend out the refrigerator cabinet. You give me hope that I can do it.

  31. I know this is super old but I have been searching for months on inspiration on how to just build in front of existing cabinets rather than demolishing them! How did you attach the new front cabinet base to the old one? This looks amazing and you have given me hope that I can do this without making a mess of my existing cabinets.


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