When we designed the kitchen in our latest renovation project, one of the must-haves was a custom white oak refrigerator cabinet. This included a built-in refrigerator covered in custom white oak door panels. At first, I was a little intimidated by this project. But once I designed it and broke it down into sections, I felt much better about it. And once it was finished, I felt really good about it because it turned out so much better than we imagined!
In this tutorial, I’m going to show you exactly how I built it.
Keep in mind, to do this type of refrigerator setup, you need a built-in panel ready fridge, which is a special refrigerator with special ventilation, doors, and door hinges. We chose the RS36A72J1N Fisher Paykel 36″ Built-In French Door Refrigerator. So, it’s important to keep in mind that the dimensions used in this tutorial are meant for this particular model and an 8ft ceiling. However, the dimensions can be adjusted if you choose to go with a different refrigerator.
Material & Tools
- (7) 3/4” x 6” x 6 ft white oak dimensional lumber
- (2) 3/4” x 6” x 8 ft white oak dimensional lumber
- (3) 1×4 x 8 ft white oak nominal lumber
- (10) 1/2″ x 6″ x 8′ Square Edge Unfinished White Oak Board
- (4) 1×4 pine boards
- (3) appliance pulls – we used Emtek Jasper Appliance Pulls 18″
- (2) knobs – we used Emtek Haydon Cabinet Knob
- (4) inset cabinet door hinges
- 3/4″ smooth plywood
- wood glue
- (8) large wood clamps
- finish nailer
- finish nails
- miter saw
- table saw
- track saw
- tape measure
- impact drive
- wood screws
Step 1: Build Side Panels
Before you start, I recommend reading this article to learn the proper technique for edge gluing to build panels.
The first step is to build the side panels for the refrigerator cabinet. Cut 10 of the 1/2×6″ white oak boards to 95 1/2″ in length. Then rip cut each one of them on the table saw to 5″ in width. Edge glue 5 of them together to form a large panel. Then do the same with the other 5.
Then cut 8 pieces of the 1×4 pine to 25″ in length, and nail and glue four of them on the back side of each panel as shown below using 1 1/4″ finish nails. Space them out about 27″ with one on the top and bottom.
Cut two pieces of the 6″ dimensional white oak to 94 1/2″ in length, and rip cut them to 5 1/2″ in width. Use clamps to glue in place as shown below.
Cut two pieces of 1×4 pine to 6″ in length. Then glue and nail one of them to each side panel with 1 1/4″ finish nails as shown.
Step 2: Set the Side Panels in Place
After you’ve completed both side panels, set them in place. You’re other kitchen cabinets will need to be set before you can do this. Using a level, make sure the side panel is plumb. Then use 1 1/4″ cabinet screws to fasten one side panel to the existing cabinets.
Then place the other side panel, but do not fasten it to the cabinets yet.
Step 3: Connect the Side Panels
Cut a piece of 1×6 to 36″ in length. Glue and clamp it in place as shown and make sure it is level. Also make sure both sides are plumb. Fasten the other side panel to the adjoining cabinet using 1 1/4″ cabinet screws.
Cut a piece of 1×4 pine 44″ in length, and use pocket screws to fasten it to the two side panels as shown below. And use a 2″ wood screw to fasten it to a stud in the wall.
Step 4: Build the Upper Cabinet
Using 3/4″ plywood build a box with the dimensions shown below. Glue and nail the butt joints. This will be for the inside of the upper cabinet.
Install the plywood box between the two side panels as shown using 1 1/2″ wood screws. The screws will go through the top piece of plywood into the pieces of pine on the front and back. The locations are indicated by the red dots.
Cut a piece of left over white oak to 36″ in length and rip cut it to 3/4″ wide. Then glue and nail it to the bottom front edge of the upper cabinet box as shown. This will hide the edge of the plywood when the upper cabinet doors are open.
Step 5: Add Side Filler
Cut two pieces of 1×4 white oak to 72″ in length. Then apply glue to one edge and clamp one onto each side panel as shown and let dry.
Step 6: Build the Door Panels
Layout 6 of the 6ft 6″ pieces of nominal white oak the way you want the front panels of the fridge to look. Number the pieces 1-6 on the bottom, middle, and top. This will allow you to match up the grain on the cabinet, fridge, and freezer panels.
These measurements are a little longer than what they need to be, but this will allow you to trim some off of the ends of the finished panels to make them nice and straight.
Cut each piece into sections of 17″, 44 3/4″, and 23 3/4″, starting from the same end on each piece.
Cabinet Doors: Edge glue the 17″ pieces 1-3 together keeping the ends as flush as possible. Do the same for pieces 4-6.
Refrigrator Doors: Edge glue the 44 3/4″ pieces 1-3 together keeping the ends as flush as possible. Do the same for pieces 4-6.
Freezer Dooor: Edge glue the 24 3/4″ pieces 1-6 together keeping the ends as flush as possible.
After all of the panels have dried for 24 hours, it’s time to trim them using a track saw or circular saw plus guide/straight edge. I highly recommend a track saw if you have one.
Cabinet Doors: Take 1/8″ off of the hinge side of each panel, and 1/16″ inch off of the opposite side of each panel. Then trim 1/16″ off the top and bottom of each panel.
Refrigrator Doors: Cabinet Doors: Take 1/8″ off of the hinge side of each panel, and 1/16″ inch off of the opposite side of each panel. Then trim 1/16″ off the top and bottom of each panel.
Freezer Door: Take 1/8″ off of the left and right side using a track saw.
Step 7: Add Trim
Usining 1×3 white oak, trim out the top of the cabinet as shown below. Miter the corners. Use 2″ finish nails to fasten the trim to the cabinet.
Step 8: Install the Hardware
Your panel ready refrigerator will come with instructions and a template for installing the mounting brackets and appliance pulls. Follow those instructions to install both.
For the upper cabinet doors you’ll need 4 inset door hinges, which will come with mounting instructions. Use those instructions to install the hinges.
Step 9: Test Fit and Trim if Needed
After you’ve installed all of the hardware, install the upper cabinet doors and refrigerator and freezer panels using the provided instructions. Then push the fridge into place. You may need to adjust the height of the fridge using the adjustable feet. Adjust the panels to create even margins around all of the doors. If you see that any margins are two thin, remove the panels and trim as needed.
After you’ve done all of the final triming, fill all of the nail holes and sand as needed for a smooth finish. And you can finish the wood to your liking using your favorite stain color or leave it natrual.
Step 10: Hook Up Refrigerator and Set in Place
After you are happy with the way all of the panels fit, you can hook up the water supply and plug in the fridge. Then push it back into place and secure it to the cabinet using the supplied instructions.