Built-in Refrigerator vs Freestanding

Built-in Fridge Vs. Freestanding (COMPARED)

As you consider buying a new refrigerator, one important decision you'll need to make is choosing between a freestanding or a built-in refrigerator. This guide will help you learn what the differences are.

What is a built-in refrigerator?

Those wanting seamless, high-end kitchen designs commonly choose built-in refrigerators. Some built-ins can be flush with cabinetry, while others are non-flush so that the doors extend beyond the counter depth. Built-in fridges are also generally taller than freestanding models.

The refrigerators are designed for home-use and are available in a wide range of sizes, up to 48" (122cm). However, they are generally more expensive and often require professional installation as compared to freestanding fridges.

A KitchenAid Built-In Refrigerator

What is a freestanding refrigerator?

Due to their popularity, freestanding refrigerators are available in a number of styles and brands. Additionally, they're usually more affordable than built-in refrigerators.

Due to their standalone nature, professional installation is not typically necessary. This not only can reduce the cost, but also enables you to more easily clean behind the fridge, or if service is needed, it will be much easier for a technician since the fridge does not need to be removed.

Freestanding fridges are available in full/standard depth or counter-depth. You can learn more about freestanding counter-depth vs standard depth refrigerators here.

Additionally, there are a variety of width options, with the largest available width being 36 inches (91cm).

A KitchenAid Freestanding Refrigerator

Built-in Vs. Freestanding Refrigerator

Listed below are some of the main differences between a built-in refrigerator and a freestanding refrigerator:

1. Customization:
Built-in refrigerators are more customizable. You can either purchase stainless steel doors or panel -ready doors which will enable you to match your refrigerator doors with your cabinetry. Freestanding refrigerators may come in select colours, like stainless steel, black stainless steel, black, and white.

If you would like to learn more about panel-ready doors, consult the manufacturer's installation instructions or specifications.

Stainless Steel Freestanding KitchenAid Refrigerator with Double Doors

2. Fit:
Built-ins can align seamlessly with kitchen cabinetry or the doors can sit slightly beyond the counter depth depending on your choice of installation.

Two design styles are available for you to choose from:
Fully Integrated: Provides seamless integration with your cabinetry.
Non-flush / Standard: Where the doors of the refrigerator will sit beyond the cabinetry.

In terms of freestanding fridges, there are two options:

  • full-or standard-depth models, that will protrude past your cabinetry
  • counter-depth models will align with the depth of your lower cabinetry providing a streamlined look for much less than the price of a built-in.

Free-standing models may require gaps between the fridge and cabinet to allow for airflow or door swings, thereby possibly not giving you the seamless look you desire.

3. Storage/Capacity:
Free-standing fridges (full depth) typically offer more storage capacity with less width given they are deeper, whereas with a built-in, you would generally require 42" to 48" (107cm to 122cm) if you need more storage. Built-ins are also typically taller, usually above 80” (203cm), giving you more space, but also something to consider when you are planning your kitchen design. Keep in mind that some kitchen designs may not allow for this space, plus the cost can be much higher too.

Woman Opening KitchenAid Refrigerator

4. Planning:
To fit a built-in refrigerator in your kitchen, you should measure and plan the opening the fridge will occupy. When it comes to designing your kitchen, freestanding refrigerators require less planning. If your fridge is going to fit into your kitchen layout, however, you need to measure the space properly.

5. Cost:
The price ranges for built-in refrigerators are typically much higher than free-standing appliances. Depending on the brand and model, you can generally expect to pay at least 50% more for a built-in refrigerator.

PROS AND CONS

Listed below are some pros and cons of built-in versus freestanding refrigerators, so you can decide which is the better option for you.

Built In Stainless Steel KitchenAid Refrigerator with Double Doors

Built In

Pros:
Premium look & feel:
Refrigerators of this type can easily be integrated into your cabinetry. Some models can be installed flush, but you can also add a matching cabinet panel so that the appliance blends in.

Space (width):
Built-ins can go up to 48 inches (122cm) wide, but many freestanding fridges max out at 36 inches (91.4cm). Having a refrigerator this wide is great if your family needs more space for food storage. Built-ins are less deep than free-standing refrigerators though, so to be sure you are getting more capacity, always check the manufacturers’ specifications. Manufactures communicate capacity through cubic feet.

Additional Features:
KitchenAid offers a limited FIT Guarantee that ensures qualifying widths and styles will fit your existing cabinet cutout of compatible models. Click here to learn more and for terms and conditions.

Cons:
Space (depth):
The depth of the refrigerator may be reduced. Most built-in fridges are shallower than their freestanding counterparts. This is what allows them to sit flush or near flush with your cabinets. It is true, however, that they are generally taller, meaning you have more height to work with.

Cost:
The price of built-ins tends to be higher: depending on the brand and model, many built-in fridges are at least 50% more than free-standing fridges.

Installation:
It may be necessary to hire professionals to install your appliances and do the electrical work, depending on your handyman skills. Cabinetry and plumbing may also be involved.

Always check and follow your appliance installation instructions and manufacturer’s recommendations before beginning, as it should be your primary source of information.

KitchenAid Refrigerator in Cabinet Cutout

Freestanding

Pros:
Options:
A freestanding refrigerator can be configured in a variety of ways. There are options with freezers on top, bottom, side by side, or a fridge with French doors and freezer on the bottom. Some of these configurations also come in counter-depth options, so there are plenty to choose from.

Cost:
Freestanding refrigerators are typically less expensive so if you need to keep to a budget, this is your best bet. Keep in mind that many freestanding refrigerators have top-of-the-line styles and features to get that premium look and feel, without having to get into the built-in price range.

Flexibility:
In the case of moving it around your kitchen (if your layout permits it) or deciding to install it in the basement as a backup refrigerator, a freestanding fridge is a good option. This appliance only needs to be close to an electrical outlet to run. Some refrigerators have ice-makers and filtered water, so depending on the model, you may also want to be close to a water line. As an added bonus, you can take it with you should you move. In order to do so, you only need to slide it out and pack it up.

Cons:
Space:
If you choose a freestanding standard depth fridge, it will typically protrude more than six inches (15cm) beyond surrounding countertops. For some kitchen layouts, this may not be a big deal, but it’s something you need to consider especially if you have a smaller kitchen.

Do you want to find a refrigerator that fits your needs? Explore KitchenAid refrigerators designed to elevate your kitchen experience.

Need some help deciding? Use the KitchenAid Appliance Finder to help narrow done your options.