Appliance IQ: Kitchen

Counter Depth Refrigerator Vs. Standard

Most kitchens usually feature either a counter-depth refrigerator or a standard-depth refrigerator. Both can make a visual impact and come in many of the same styles. The main difference is the unit's depth and whether or not it will align with your existing cabinetry.

This article pits counter-depth refrigerators vs standard-depth refrigerators so you can determine which you should get for your kitchen. 

Counter-Depth Fridges

A counter-depth refrigerator offers a lower design profile for your kitchen space. You can choose between two counter-depth styles: freestanding and built-in.  Typically, freestanding is roughly 28" (71cm) deep. Built-in, on the other hand, is generally about 24-25" (61-63.5cm) deep and is usually taller due to its shallower depth.

It’s also important to understand the difference between freestanding refrigerators and built-in models. Built-in models often have a panel-ready design meaning they can be customized to match your kitchen’s surrounding cabinets. Incidentally, you could select a different design to maximize visual impact.

A side-by-side fridge next to two drawers. On the counter are a glass jar, a blue jar and a black jar. On the shelf above is a white water pitcher

With built-in refrigerators, you should consider the following:

  • They come in a flush design to perfectly fit with existing kitchen cabinetry.
  • They are often more expensive, even costing two to three times more.
  • They can help preserve the walking space in front of a unit.
  • You may need custom cabinetry and to hire a professional to perform the installation.

To compare, many full-size/standard refrigerators feature a depth of over 30” (72cm), often reaching 35-36” (89-91cm) with doors and handles. This means that in some kitchen layouts, a traditional refrigerator may protrude about half a foot (or more) from the edge of the counters.

Many find counter-depth refrigerators to be more sleek and modern looking.

Discover the right Whirlpool® counter-depth style for your kitchen here.

Please note that the remainder of this guide will only focus on freestanding refrigerators, not built-in units. 

Whirlpool does not offer built-in refrigerators.

Counter-Depth Refrigerator Benefits
A benefit of a counter-depth refrigerator is that they can closely line up with the end of cabinets. This is crucial if you are looking to achieve a seamless and unified look.

Here are some other benefits of counter-depth refrigerators:

  • Offer more room to open the doors than standard-depth refrigerators, so that you won’t hit something in front.
  • Create more room for people to move around the kitchen.
  • Shallower depth equals easier access to what’s inside the fridge.

Whether you have a spacious kitchen or one with limited space, the modern design of counter-depth refrigerators can work either way.

Standard-Depth Refrigerators

Also known as a full-depth refrigerator, standard-depth units are usually closer to 35-36” (89-91cm) deep, including doors and handles.

Always consider if any additional depth will negatively impact moving around your kitchen. 

Discover which Whirlpool® standard-depth style is right for your kitchen here.

Standard-Depth Fridge Benefits
The benefits of a standard-depth refrigerator, include:

  • They are often the less costly option. Of course, you can pay more for additional features, but if you are working with a set budget, then standard-depth may be the right choice for you. 
  • They offer more capacity, allowing you to enjoy ample storage space if the size of your kitchen can accommodate.
A stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator next to a brown cabinet and drawer. On the counter is a line of jarred spices in front of a grey and white backsplash with an outlet. Above are two brown cabinets

Counter-Depth and Standard-Depth Style Options

The market typically offers counter-depth and standard-depth fridges in the same configuration styles:

French door refrigerators have two doors on top of a freezer drawer. The doors open outward and inside is a spacious interior. French doors generally need less clearance to open and close than a single door, making it a strong option for kitchens that are smaller or narrow.

A stainless steel French door refrigerator

Side-by-side refrigerators feature two doors that extend the full length of the unit. The refrigerator is relegated to one side and the freezer to the other side.

A stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator

Top-freezer refrigerators are the more traditional style and feature a freezer on top and a fridge below. Based on the model you select, the refrigerator and freezer doors can open either to the right or left.

A stainless steel top-freezer refrigerator

Bottom-freezer fridges have a refrigerator on top of a freezer drawer or door. This makes it somewhat similar to a French door style but the difference is that it has one refrigerator door, not two. Based on the model you select, the refrigerator door can open to either the right or the left. If you go with a single door, double-check that you have the necessary clearance for the door swing.

A black bottom-freezer refrigerator

Measuring for a Counter Depth or a Standard Depth Fridge

Before you get too far ahead of yourself, you will want to thoroughly measure your cabinet cutout and counter depth to ensure that your fridge will be perfectly aligned. Also measure the path you will take from your home’s entrance to the kitchen, including the front door, to make sure that everything will fit. 

If you are replacing a counter-depth refrigerator, confirm the dimensions of the space.

Review the full Whirlpool® refrigerator measurement guide here.


Review the “door open” dimensions to understand what the depth of a unit will be when the door is open at 90 degrees. This will determine if there is enough clearance to fully open the door.

Now that you know the difference between counter-depth and standard-depth refrigerators, you can decide which is right for your kitchen, household and lifestyle.

Learn more about Whirlpool® refrigerators or shop the lineup today!

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