Oak Sliding Shelf
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There are several reasons to give the refrigerator a "Built-In" look. The first of course, is appearance. Hiding the huge sides of the refrigerator may be an excellent improvement on the look and feel of your kitchen.
As you can see, The appearance is a lot different if the side of the refrigerator is hidden. The refrigerator in both drawings are the same size, but the refrigerator in the ' After ' drawing doesn't look as large because your eye focuses on the new wooden panel. You see only the edge of the refrigerator door instead of the large white side. Shown is a standard-depth refrigerator. Cabinet-depth refrigerators are also available, but are more expensive.
To accomplish this, we've added full-height matching panels on each side of the refrigerator, and changed the wall cabinet above from 12" to 24" depth.
The change is a convenience as well. Now, when using the countertop adjacent to the refrigerator for meal or snack preparation, any loose items cannot fall between the refrigerator side and the cabinet. That makes the kitchen much easier to keep clean.
If our wall cabinets are 36" or 42" tall, (not the 30") we'll add to the convenience by adding vertical dividers on at least one side of the cabinet above the refrigerator. We can store lids, cookie sheets, or any other flatware vertically in a cabinet 18" or 24" tall. That gets those troublesome storage items out of the regular cabinet space and makes more room in them for other items.
When you store flatware above the refrigerator, you don't need to be able to reach all the way to the back of the cabinet. You just have to be able to reach the front edge of the cookie sheet or lid you need or want to store. Very handy.
Elevation of Refrigerator Build-in
A modern kitchen needs at least one microwave oven. The choices at this writing are a counter-top unit, a microwave vent-a-hood that takes the place of a normal vent hood over the range, or a built-in microwave that uses a trim kit specifically for that model.
We'll start with the counter-top unit. First of all, it doesn't necessarily set on the counter-top. It may also go on a shelf in the wall cabinets or an en-clave set in the base cabinets. When setting a microwave on the countertop about the only thing to watch for is making sure the cord is not long enough to allow the microwave to fall in the sink. Seems pretty obvious, but worth mentioning.
Most kitchen cabinet manufacturers also make wall cabinets that are designed to hold counter-top microwaves. There are a couple of things to check in this case. 1) Make sure the microwave is not too high. The bottom should be no more than 54" off the floor. If it's higher than that it becomes dangerous for an average height person to remove hot dishes. 2) Microwaves usually are left-handed. That is, the hinges are on the left side when you are facing the microwave. If the microwave is up against a refrigerator, a wall, or a tall cabinet on the right, it is more difficult to use. Not impossible, just more difficult.
One more thing... a microwave shelf may not be placed next to a diagonal corner wall cabinet. The corner cabinet door will not open properly, as the microwave shelf is deeper (usually 15" or 18" deep) than the 12" deep wall cabinets.
My personal preference is to place the microwave shelf or cabinet near the refrigerator, as it is more convenient. Things usually go from the refrigerator directly into the microwave for heating or cooking. That placement may not be best for you. It depends on whether you rely on the microwave for simply heating snacks or liquids, or if you us it regularly to cook dishes for the family meal.
Here are a couple of the shapes and sizes of a typical microwave shelf in the wall cabinet section available from most manufacturers.
Just place your counter-top microwave on either shelf. The shelf on the left is designed to be placed under a shorter wall cabinet to obtain the desired overall wall cabinet height.
Next, we'll discuss the built-in microwave, which uses a trim kit to make it fit the various size openings. It can go into a wall cabinet or above an oven in a tall oven cabinet. In the case of the oven cabinet you will need a finished shelf to go above a single oven appliance setting in a double-oven cabinet. Depending on the manufacturer, this shelf for the oven cabinet may be an item they provide. If not, just purchase an extra finished filler board to go in front of a 3/4" plywood shelf for the microwave. The installer can assemble this for you easily.
This combination of a single oven and a separate microwave in a tall oven cabinet is usually less costly than the one piece oven/microwave combination from most appliance manufacturers. And if either of them give you problems you only need to replace that piece, rather than both the oven and the microwave.
A typical microwave wall cabinet for a built-in microwave is usually 30" wide and 30" tall, with doors above the built-in microwave.
And finally, the over-the-range microwave/vent-a-hood. These replace the regular vent above the stove, and will exhaust the heat and fumes from cooking just like the regular vent. But in addition, it's a microwave. It can be anything from an inexpensive unit ($200 range) to a microwave/convection oven ($400 to $600 range) .
A microwave/vent is 30" wide, and uses up 15" in height. Pretty much the same as the built-in microwave above, but it doesn't require a cabinet to set it in. However, there must be a wall cabinet above it to help hold it in place. A wall plate is included with your microwave/vent. Fasten the plate to the wall, then the back side of the appliance hooks into the plate in back. The front end is held up by drilling two holes in the bottom of the wall cabinet above and installing bolts (also included with the appliance.)
Since the Microwave/vent hood combination has become common, the bottom of a wall cabinet over a range is normally planned at 69" above the finish floor. By setting your wall cabinet at that height you will have your choice of whether to install a normal vent hood or a new microwave/vent hood combination.
That height (69") makes the bottom of the microwave even with the bottom of the wall cabinets on either side. There is some variance available, but not much. Any lower and the bottom of the microwave is too close to the cooking surface and will violate the manufacturer's recommended minimum distance. Much taller and it becomes dangerous to use the microwave. Removing hot dishes from a microwave that's too tall poses the danger of getting burns from hot food spilling into your face if there's a mishap.