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What are Counter-Depth Appliances?

April 1, 2020

Are counter-depth appliances right for your home? Learn everything you need to know about counter-depth, including differences with freestanding units.

kitchen with Whirlpool appliances

In the ever-growing list of appliance features and options, there is one option that continues to throw a wrench in people’s decision-making process: cabinet-depth or freestanding. On the surface, it sounds like a simple “either/or'' type of question that varies based on preference. The reality is this decision is more akin to deciding between an electric or gas stove than it is deciding between simple color options.

We’ll define and break down what counter-depth means and help you decide whether or not counter-depth appliances are right for your home?

Counter-Depth vs Freestanding

To begin, what are counter-depth appliances? “Counter-depth,” also known as “cabinet-depth,” is the distance between your back wall and the face of your countertops. Typically you’ll find the depth between 24–25 inches, but variations occur.

Counter-depth appliances are designed to sit flush with the standard depth of kitchen cabinetry. This option is most associated, and most relevant, with refrigerators. Refrigerators are more likely to protrude beyond the distance of countertops, most other appliances such as dishwashers and ovens are designed to fit beneath the countertop or are built into the cabinetry itself.

Standard freestanding units are more commonly used, and so will be more familiar. They are generally 30 and 34 inches deep and often focus on offering the most internal storage space for your dollar. However, because standard refrigerators have so much depth, you run the risk of having your appliance jutting out between 5 to 10 inches beyond the standard 24 to 25-inch deep cabinet face. This can contribute to a disorganized or mismatched look. This has led to the increasing search to answer what counter-depth appliances are and whether or not they’re the right choice for peoples’ homes.

The Pros & Cons of Counter-Depth Appliances


1. They Offer a Sleek & Seamless Look: The unobtrusive design offers a clean uniform look that is more aesthetically pleasing to your kitchen design. Because counter-depth models line up with the edge of your countertops, they provide a built-in visual style that is ideal for modern kitchens. Best of all, like standard refrigerators, counter-depth refrigerators come in all styles: French door, side-by-side, top-freezer, and bottom-freezer.

2. Improved Kitchen Workflow: Because your appliances, especially your refrigerator, generally extend only an inch or two beyond the edge of the countertop, you will experience a better flow of movement in your kitchen. The increased aisle space makes it easier to move around the kitchen, even with multiple cooks or kids underfoot. You even have more room to open the refrigerator doors without bumping into islands, cabinets, or guests.

3. Similar Capacity W/ Easier Access: Since most counter-depth appliances accommodate the loss of depth with are a little wider/taller dimensions, they typically offer the same amount of usable space. You don’t have to sacrifice space for style. Plus the shallow depth makes it easier to reach the back of your appliance and take full advantage of every square inch of space.


1. Generally More Expensive: Counter-depth models are typically 15% more expensive than comparable standard units.

2. Less Storage: Even with compensating height and width, counter-depth units tend to offer smaller capacities.

3. More Varied Measurements: Due to their wider and taller designs replacing a standard unit with a counter-depth unit may come with some complications with measurements if you want to maintain an equal internal capacity. Measurements of all sides are necessary to ensure a proper fit.

How to Measure Your Space & Appliance

While counter-depth appliances require the same installation and similar wiring and plumbing hookups, proper measuring is paramount. (Tip: double-check that your doorways are wide enough to accommodate.)

Depth Measurement: Begin at the wall (not the backsplash) and measure to the edge of your countertop; it should be about 24-25 inches. Leave an inch of space between the back of the appliance and the wall for proper ventilation.

Width Measurement: Remember, counter-depth units typically run wider in order to compensate for their narrower depth, so be sure your unit can fit into the allowed space.

Measure the narrowest point of your cabinet cutout. For refrigerators, allow half an inch on both sides for proper ventilation. If the appliance has a swinging door and will be sitting next to a wall, leave 2½ inches of space to accommodate for the hinge to swing open.

Height Measurement: Counter-depth fridges are often a little taller than standard models in order to provide a similar internal capacity.

Measure from the floor to the bottom of any cabinets or countertops that will be above the appliance. It is best to allow for half an inch from your measurement for the sake of ventilation.

All counter-depth models should include depth measurements with doors and drawers open and closed. Ensure that the refrigerator doors and drawers have clearance to open without hitting anything. For more information on refrigerator sizes and dimensions, check out our refrigerator buying guide.

Are Counter-Depth Appliances Right for You?

Counter-depth appliances are the ideal choice for the streamlined aesthetics of flush cabinetry that allow optimal traffic flow through the kitchen. Keep in mind that with all options, potential trade-offs exist, like a loss of countertop space due to wider designs or the loss of appliance capacity. Also, It is best to expect a slightly higher price tag for these sleek appliances.

If you’re worried that the price difference of a counter-depth product might bump them out of your price range, Howard’s offers rebates and a 60-Day Price Match Guarantee on qualifying products. Visit your local Howard’s store and see the counter-depth difference for yourself.

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