Counter Depth or Built-In Refrigerators: Why You Should Care

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Do the multitude of options in refrigerators make your head spin?

Two of the sometimes confusing terms we get a lot of questions about are counter depth and built in. What do they mean, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

We’re here to answer those questions, so let’s dive in.

Counter-Depth Refrigerators

Counter-depth can be a deceiving title. With a counter-depth refrigerator the box of the fridge is counter-depth, and the doors of the refrigerator will still stick out past the counter and cabinets. This may or may not be a problem for you, but it’s an important detail to be aware of.

Counter depth models are less expensive than built-in models, and they require less labor cost to install.

If moving is in the future and you want to take your new appliances with you, it could be challenging to take a built-in refrigerator. However, picking up and moving a counter-depth fridge, though not easy, is at least possible.

As for aesthetics, counter-depth refrigerators are going to be a more visual element in your kitchen. Whether they are stainless steel or matte black they will stand out amongst your cabinetry. This could be a good thing if you love the look of the refrigerator, but it could be a negative if you’re going for a streamlined.

Built-In Refrigerators

Built-In Refrigerators are at counter depth including the doors and will not stick out into the walkway of your kitchen. These types of refrigerators have the option to blend in with the rest of the cabinetry by installing cabinet panels on the front. Built-in refrigerators are the perfect option when trying to achieve that seamless look. They can blend completely into cabinetry without being noticed at all.

Because they don’t stick out into the walkway, these refrigerators have less interior space in some cases than a counter depth refrigerator. However, many models solve the space issue by building them being taller or wider. Sometimes this can mean even more space than the counter-depth, but each model is different so if space is an important factor be sure to check into it when shopping around.

A built-in refrigerator will normally be considerably more expensive than a counter-depth model, and will require additional labor to install it.

There you have it, a quick rundown of the pros and cons of counter-depth and built-in refrigerators. Both have their place, so it’s up to you to decide which is best for your family and home.


Our goal with these pieces is to help you get the information you need to make educated choices for your home and family. If you’ve found this helpful, share it with others. If you have questions or would like to request other topics to be covered, please use the comment section below and we’ll make sure you get you the answers you need.

To ensure your kitchen remodeling project is a success download our FREE Kitchen Design Guide, where we go over refrigerator options and more!