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

by Albert Lee Appliance

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 Do you need to replace an outdated appliance?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. 

 White counter-depth GE fridge

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.

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.  

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.

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.

 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.

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!