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What’s the Difference Between Counter-Depth and Standard-Depth Refrigerators?

by Albert Lee Appliance

White counter-depth GE fridge

At a Glance:

Counter-Depth Refrigerators

Standard-Depth Refrigerators

Fridge Styles

What are the Benefits of a Counter-Depth Fridge?

Measuring Your Usable Space


Why Trust Albert Lee?

Are you looking for a new refrigerator for your kitchen remodel? Do you need to replace an outdated appliance? Regardless of your needs, investing in a new refrigeration appliance is commonly centered around function, features, and whether your new appliance will fit aesthetically with your kitchen layout. 

There are a handful of refrigeration options to choose from, and it can be difficult to navigate through the various brands and configurations. As you conduct your research and begin the fridge-shopping process, learning about the specific attributes of each available fridge type can prove to be invaluable information. 

We’ve spent quite a bit of time comparing types of refrigerators, fridge brands, and even compact fridge models, but what about installation type? The most common refrigerators used in household kitchens are counter-depth and standard-depth. The space where you plan to install your refrigerator can influence your purchase decision and affect the look you are trying to achieve, so let’s explore the differences between counter-depth and standard-depth refrigerators. 

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Counter-Depth Refrigerators

If you’ve spruced up your kitchen recently or you keep up with current design trends, you’ve probably noticed counter-depth refrigerators in newly updated or renovated kitchens. Counter-depth refrigerators are increasing in popularity due to their streamlined design and elegant construction, but what exactly is a counter-depth fridge? 

This particular fridge model is slightly taller than a standard-depth fridge, designed to be more space-efficient and fit seamlessly with surrounding cabinetry and countertops. Counter-depth models offer nearly identical storage as a traditional full-size refrigerator, but they won’t stick out past the kitchen cabinets and impede your walk path.  

The distance from your backsplash to the front of your kitchen counters is one way to gauge your “counter-depth.” To fit within this space, counter-depth fridges are shallower than a standard-depth fridge, with a typical range of 23 to 27 inches deep. In contrast, most full-size standard-depth refrigerators are more than 30 inches deep, commonly in the 35- to 36-inch range. This means a traditional refrigerator may jut out more than six inches from the edge of the countertop. 

So, how does this impact your kitchen? Introducing a counter-depth fridge allows you to achieve the sleek, refined look you’ve been craving, with just as much storage space. You can minimize congestion and disruptions in your workflow with a flush installation, which proves to be helpful when you’ve got more than one cook in the kitchen.

Some top-rated counter-depth refrigerators include: 

 taking fresh produce out of crisper drawers

Standard-Depth Refrigerators

Most people are probably a little more familiar with freestanding or standard-depth refrigerators. While counter-depth refrigerators are certainly picking up steam, standard-depth fridge models are still the most common fridge type found in everyday kitchens. 

Standard-depth fridges do take up more space than counter-depth models—as mentioned, generally running 35- to 36-inches deep when the doors and handles are included. This extra depth provides more space for groceries and leftovers, but it also takes up additional room in your kitchen and can limit your ability to move freely.

The added depth can be an issue if you have a smaller kitchen because your refrigerator will protrude slightly from surrounding countertops and cabinetry. Now, this isn’t anything dire, but it can be a bit of an inconvenience and an eyesore at times. 

Since standard-depth fridges are more common, you’ll most likely be able to discover a greater selection of colors, finishes, and styles as you shop around and begin to map out your newly designed culinary space. 

Some top-rated standard-depth refrigerators include:

 Café 40door fridge full of food

Fridge Styles

You can find either fridge model in the four most popular styles: side-by-side, French door, top-freezer, or bottom-freezer. If you have a smaller kitchen space, you can also find top- or bottom-freezer refrigerators with a narrower width and depth to help better utilize the limited space you have.  

With so many design options to choose from, you’re destined to find the ideal fridge type for your new kitchen. In case you need a quick refresher, let’s break down some of these fridge types.

Types of Refrigerators Infographic

French Door Refrigerator  

The French door refrigerator style features two doors on the top section and one or more freezer drawers below. French doors open outward to showcase one intact refrigeration space inside. A French door fridge requires less clearance to open each compartment compared to a single door refrigerator, so they are a popular choice to fit almost any kitchen structure.  

Side-by-Side Refrigerator  

Side-by-side refrigerators are exactly as the name sounds. These fridge models have two doors extending the full height of the fridge. On one side you’ll find the refrigerator compartment, oftentimes with a water and ice dispenser, and the other side will feature your freezer compartment.  

➝ Learn More: Side by Side vs French Door Refrigerators - Which Is Best?

Top-Freezer Refrigerator

A timeless and traditional fridge style, the top-freezer refrigerator features the freezer compartment on top of the appliance and a singular refrigeration compartment below. The handles will typically be on the left side of the appliance, opening toward the right side, but it depends on the model you choose.

➝ Learn More: The Best Top Freezer Refrigerators

Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator

The bottom-freezer refrigerator mimics the look of a French door fridge model, but instead of two refrigerator doors, it has just one. The refrigerator section is still on top and a freezer drawer is located below. Once again, depending on the select model, the refrigerator door can open either to the right or to the left.

➝ Learn More: Top Freezer vs Bottom Freezer Refrigerators| Pros and Cons

 woman taking fresh veggies out of the fridge

What are the Benefits of a Counter-Depth Fridge?

If you’re considering upgrading your kitchen with a counter-depth fridge, let’s further explore some additional benefits of this fridge variety.

As we mentioned, the nice thing about a counter-depth fridge is its seamless design solution. Even if your kitchen layout is more free-flowing and you don’t require the additional space for floor traffic, you can still benefit from the sleek appearance of a counter-depth fridge.

This fridge model is designed to fit nicely with most modern kitchen cabinet designs, so you don’t have to sacrifice space for style. If you decide to go taller with your fridge design, a counter-depth model will still deliver the same amount of useable space as a freestanding fridge, without protruding into your walkway.

Additional benefits of counter-depth refrigerators include:

✅ More clearance space to open the doors without restriction.

✅ Improved mobility in the kitchen.

✅ A shallow fridge depth grants easy access to food, drinks, and condiments, and makes it easier to clean.

✅ Greater height allows for sufficient storage space.

 Luxury kitchen with Café counter-depth fridge

Measuring Your Usable Space

Before you can enjoy the perks of a new refrigerator, you must first take your measurements. Whether you decide on a standard-depth or counter-depth design, it won’t do any good if your appliance isn’t properly aligned.

The size of each refrigerator will differ between models and brands, but it’s still a crucial step to accurately measure your refrigerator and your kitchen space. As soon as you're ready, grab a tape measure and a level and follow these tips below:

  1. Make note of the place where you plan to install the new refrigerator. Measure the width at the upper cabinet, countertop, and base levels. Measuring the space at its narrowest point will ensure an accurate fit.
  2. Measure the height from the floor to the lowest point on the upper cabinet. Take this measurement twice—the first time from the front of the space, and again at the back of the space. If the measurements are not equal, use the shorter of the two.
  3. Measure the proper depth from the back wall where the fridge will go to the front edge of your counters.
  4. If you have a kitchen island, measure the distance between the island to the refrigerator to ensure you have enough clearance for delivery.
  5. Leave at least two inches from the back wall, one inch from the upper cabinet, and 1/8 inch on either side of the fridge to allow for air to circulate around the appliance. A refrigerator needs proper circulation to run efficiently, avoid overheating, and last its full life span.
  6. Check the angle of the door swing and freezer drawers. Make sure there is plenty of room for each compartment to open without rubbing against the cabinets, the island, or the user.
  7. Measure the delivery path and any areas that could prevent a smooth installation. Find a direct route and do your best to avoid doorways, stairs, or narrow turns. Measure hallways to be sure your appliance will make its transition, and remove any furniture, rugs, or decorations ahead of time to prevent any damage or accidents.

Open doors of KitchenAid counter depth refrigerator in a kitchen

FAQ: Counter-Depth vs Standard Depth Refrigerators

Q: What is the main difference between counter depth and standard depth refrigerators?
A: The main difference between counter depth and standard depth refrigerators lies in their depth measurement and how they fit within a kitchen space. Counter-depth refrigerators are designed to align with standard kitchen counters, resulting in a more streamlined look and a flush appearance with the surrounding cabinetry. On the other hand, standard-depth refrigerators are typically deeper, protruding beyond the countertop and creating a bulkier profile.

Q: Are there any advantages to choosing a counter-depth refrigerator?
A: Yes, there are several advantages to choosing a counter-depth refrigerator. Firstly, its design creates a more seamless and integrated look in your kitchen, as it blends in with the surrounding cabinetry. This can be particularly beneficial if you have an open floor plan or if aesthetics are a priority for you. Secondly, a counter-depth refrigerator takes up less space in terms of depth, allowing for better traffic flow in narrow kitchens. Lastly, some people find it easier to organize and access their food due to the shallower depth, as items are less likely to get lost in the back.

Q: Are there any drawbacks to counter-depth refrigerators?
A: While counter-depth refrigerators have their advantages, there are a few drawbacks to consider as well. One main disadvantage is the reduced storage capacity compared to standard depth refrigerators. The shallower design often means sacrificing some usable space, which can be a limiting factor, especially for larger families or those who require extra storage. Additionally, counter-depth refrigerators tend to be more expensive compared to their standard-depth counterparts, as they are designed with specific aesthetics and may include additional features.

Q: Can a counter-depth refrigerator be used in any kitchen?
A: Counter-depth refrigerators are designed to fit seamlessly within standard kitchen layouts. However, it's essential to measure the available space in your kitchen before purchasing one. While most counter-depth refrigerators are designed to fit standard cabinet dimensions, there may be variations in sizes and configurations. It's crucial to ensure that the refrigerator's width, height, and depth will fit your kitchen appropriately.

Q: Are there any specific considerations when installing a counter-depth refrigerator?
A: When installing a counter-depth refrigerator, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, ensure that there is enough clearance for the refrigerator door to open fully without obstruction, taking into account the depth of the refrigerator and any handles it may have. Secondly, consider the ventilation requirements of the refrigerator, as some models may require additional space around the unit for proper airflow. Lastly, be mindful of any plumbing or electrical connections that may interfere with the installation. It's always recommended to consult the manufacturer's guidelines and specifications for a smooth installation process.

Q: Do counter-depth refrigerators offer the same features and functionalities as standard depth models?
A: Yes, counter-depth refrigerators generally offer the same features and functionalities as standard depth models. They are available in a wide range of styles, including side-by-side, French door, and top freezer configurations. You can find counter-depth refrigerators with various features like ice makers, water dispensers, adjustable shelves, temperature control, and advanced storage options. However, it's worth noting that due to their more specialized design and premium positioning, counter-depth refrigerators might have a higher price point for similar features compared to standard depth models.

Q: Can I retrofit a standard depth refrigerator to fit as a counter-depth model?
A: In most cases, it's not possible to retrofit a standard depth refrigerator to fit as a counter-depth model. The design and dimensions of a refrigerator are specifically tailored to its intended depth. Attempting to modify a standard depth refrigerator to fit within a counter-depth configuration would likely involve significant structural changes, which could compromise the functionality and integrity of the appliance. It

is generally recommended to choose the appropriate refrigerator depth from the start rather than attempting retrofitting.

Take Your Pick

When it comes to refrigerators, the options are endless. If you take your time during the research stage and carefully measure your space, there should be no limitations.

We’ve discovered while the counter-depth fridge is certainly more visually appealing, the standard-depth fridge provides more variety and a slightly larger internal capacity. They are both great selections, so decide which fridge type will work best for your family and your space.

If you have questions or would like more information, don’t hesitate to contact the leading appliance retailer in the Seattle area: Albert Lee. Give us a call, shop our entire refrigeration catalog online, or visit one of our store locations to chat with an industry expert. Stop by today!

Why Trust Albert Lee? 

Since 1939, Albert Lee Appliance, a three-generation, family-owned business, continues to grow and serve the greater Seattle area with quality you can count on and service you can trust. We are proud to have served this community for so long and wouldn’t be here without our loyal customers. There is a reason why we are Washington’s largest independent appliance dealer, and it’s not a secret. Simply put: We have the experience. We are the original appliance experts for over eight decades (and counting).

Shop Refrigerators at Albert Lee 

At Albert Lee Appliance, we provide quality name-brand appliances for great prices. Shop refrigerators online or visit us today at one of our six locations in Puget Sound, WA. In the meantime, browse our website to shop Albert Lee appliance sales and check out Albert Lee appliance reviews online to ensure every purchase is an informed one. More available than ever, our experts at Albert Lee Appliance are always happy to help you compare counter-depth and standard-depth refrigerators, whether you call us or use our online chat feature. Contact us today!

Learn More: Product Vs. Product: Comparing Types of Refrigerators