Full Height Refrigerator Cabinet Construction

Ideas for building a full-height refrigerator cabinet and fitting it into the space provided. March 26, 2009

I've got a kitchen coming up with full height uppers and a 30" deep frig cabinet, finished ends both sides. I normally like to build one piece tall, but I know I can't stand this one up with sides attached. Flooring will reduce the height by approx 3/4" so I'll have about 95" to work with.

I'm looking for ideas on const methods for the frig cab. The chosen crown will be about 2 3/4". The ceiling looks good and I'm thinking I really don't have to drop down too much, but the frig cab will pretty much govern the height of the uppers. I usually use a wider top rail, depending upon the crown. How do you guys like to build your full heights?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
I hang the ref. cabinet then apply the side panels, always. I donít see any other way for you to do it. If you have a full height pantry you will need to build and install the toe kick separate. 89.5" is the max height at 24" deep that you can stand up with an 8' ceiling, if I remember correctly. Last time I built one was two years ago. So 89.5" +3.5" toe kick =93 and your crown makes up the difference.

From the original questioner:
You're right contributor J. I can't think of any other way to do it either. I'm sure somebody has a really clever way of joining it though so the end panels line up better, or maybe flush, which is what I'd like to do. The crown is small enough I almost think 93" is too short. Anybody else have any other ideas? If I figured correctly contributor J, you can almost stand a 92" tall, 24" deep cab up with 96" ceiling heights.

From contributor P:
Not sure of the finish height or how the cabinets you are doing are being constructed, but in this image you can see how I just did it for this job. I built the sides and top to house the fridge with the top overlapping the sides. The rails wrap the sides up to the adjacent uppers covering the exposed edge of the top. The lower and upper stiles butt the rails. All is clamped and pocket screwed, sanded and finished as one piece. The top section has no bottom and is screwed to the top of the bottom. 76" lower piece with a 28" upper I always build with install in mind and as few pieces as possible.

Click here for higher quality, full size image

From contributor J:
To the original questioner: you are right about the 92". The kitchen I did only had a 94" ceiling height thatís why I did the 89.5 + 3.5. Sorry for the mistake.

From the original questioner:
That's pretty darn cool looking. I have to study it to make certain I understand what you're saying. The top overlaps the sides, can't see how that works in the pic. Did you flute the front trim? That looks really good. You pay a lot of attention to detail, great work.

From contributor P:
If you look at the picture the flutes are attached to the sides and the top/bottom is also attached to the sides. Everything else is on the top cabinet. I canít push the top cabinet off if I push towards the back without lifting it. I can pull it forward with bottom rail on front and side pieces attached. They also help to position it. Makes it easier for me to carry/install and hides the seam.

From contributor H:
Once I needed to build a full height ref. cabinet for a New York City apt. It had to fit into an elevator so I made the top part separate from the sides. The sides were full height with a face frame stile on the front edge that would stop where the top cabinet was (like 24" down or so) would meet. The top cabinet (face frame style) looked like a 25" upper that went over a refer. The sides on the upper had a 3/4" scribe or set back to them. I screwed the cabinet together as one unit. When they got it they unscrewed it, I took the three parts up in the elevator and reassembled it. The only clue that the unit could come apart was the one horizontal joint where the top and side met just under the upper section.

Another trick if youíre so lucky is to cut a small triangle or a removable squared cut on the back side of the ends of a full height refer cab. If there are cabinets on both sides they will never see the cut out. I make mine square and use pocket screws.

Another one that I shipped to New York was to ask the homeowner if they were doing a floor tear out. They were, and I told them to leave a small section open so when the cabinet got there they could stand it up, slide it out of the way, and finish up on the floor.
There is always a solution.

From the original questioner:
That's interesting too John. I've seen them cut a triangle out of the side next to an adjoining cabinet too. I think I can stand the cabinet up with the stiles attached and pocket the panels from the inside, but I'm still thinking about contributor P's method too. Like contributor P, I like to think ahead for a smooth install.

If you started with 96", lost 3/4" to the new floor, and the contractor said he'd like 3/4-1" of room down from the ceiling (not sure if that's necessary) how tall would you guys build your frig cab and how wide of top rail would you recommend, recognizing that the crown is only 2 3/4". I'm thinking 94 1/4 to 94 1/2 with a 3" top rail. Have I missed anything?

I'll have 36" bases with ct and 18" splash, mount the uppers at 54 which would give me 40 1/4 or 40 1/2" uppers using the same 3" top rail. Sound reasonable?

From contributor P:
It would depend on the door style and overlay as well as what reveal you wanted to have at finish.

From the original questioner:
That's true contributor P - 1/2 overlay rp doors on 2" rails/stiles, and thinking 3" top rail.

From contributor P:
That works out about right. Going up from the door opening 1/2" overlay - 1"reveal leaves 1 1/2" of the 3" top rail. Coming down from the ceiling covering the 1 1/2" with the 2 3/4" crown would leave a 1 1/4" space above the cabinet. Providing everything is level.

From the original questioner:
It seems like it should work to me. Manufacturers simply build a 42" upper and you lose from the backsplash whatever you lose from the floor and your drop down from the ceiling, and too bad if you've got tall countertop appliances. Wish I had your ceiling height in your shop contributor P, mine is only 10' yours looks to be substantially more.