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Options for Supporting a Deep Cabinet over a Refrigerator?

Danielle Gottwig
last year
last modified: last year

Here's the deal.

Our refrigerator is located in a corner.

There's a run of cabinets to the right of the refrigerator, and a wall to the refrigerator's left:

Just to make this situation super fun and interesting, inside the wall to the refrigerator's left, hidden by the refrigerator, is an access panel. It's in the lower back corner of that perpendicular wall. So to access it, you slide the refrigerator out.

Now, I come along with a kitchen reno in mind, and I'm thinking, "When we redo the kitchen, it would look nice to put a 24" or a 26" deep cabinet over top of the refrigerator, rather than that 12"D one, and a similarly deep side panel over the exposed refrigerator side. And maybe I could trade that deep French door model for a counter-depth, single door model that fits the corner situation a little bit better?"

HOWEVER, I'm not sure that I can actually do this, because I'm not sure what I need to properly support a 30" or 33" wide by 24"+ deep upper cabinet.

Typically, a refrigerator enclosure has a cabinet and two large side panels, one on either side of it.

But in my case, a unmodified, tall, 24" deep panel can't be installed on the left side of the refrigerator box, because this panel would cover the pesky access panel in the wall.

It didn't occur to me this could be a problem until I got talking to a KD for Kraftmaid today about my proposed floorplan. I thought I was going to use a cabinet, one panel, and some filler. Her perspective was that I absolutely need support for a deep over-refrigerator cabinet at four points. And that to get this I need two panels, one on either side of the box. A panel on one side and filler on the other isn't going to cut it, she says. Oh, I think, well can't we just cut a hole for the access panel?No, she warns, I can't cut a hole in one of the panels to provide access to the box without losing the warranty on the cabinets.

So scribbled this all down, went home, and now I'm puzzling over this problem. Here's my stupid question: Can I in fact cut away the lower back corner of the large panel for the left of the refrigerator enclosure (warranty be damned?) and still expect it to provide adequate structural support? Or could I ditch the panel entirely in favor of a bracket or a cleat to support the over-refrigerator cabinet along the perpendicular wall?

In other words, is this an easy problem to "fix" with a bracket or a bit of lumber? Or is it a big fat failpoint?

If it's an easy fix, I need to find the correct method to cite/terminology for use when asking KDs or installers for what I need.

If it's a big fail, then maybe I need to drop this idea that I can enclose my refrigerator and get a refrigerator that I don't mind admiring from all angels.

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