difference between fully integrated and built in fridge?

Maureen Dimitri
November 6, 2010

I have read several posts about this and am still a little confused. As I understand it, fully integrated is flush with counters/cabinets and fully paneled to blend in with cabinets.

Built-in is paneled, but may have grilles exposed? Also some fridges I have looked at on AJMadison are classifed as built-in, but are over 24" deep without handles. So built-in is not always flush with counters? Then why is it called built in?

In terms of choosing fully integrated versus it just a matter of personal taste or are there other issues to consider?



Comments (38)

  • applianceguide

    Paneled integrated refrigerators are able to be completely hidden by cabinetry, with no reveals or "breathing gaps". Sub-Zero has its 700 series which moves the compressors to the bottom and vents out the bottom, allowing the unit to be completely hidden by cabinetry. To do this though, you will need to use a high class cabinetry company to make sure the end result is good. Not everyone knows how to build for and around integrated refrigerators properly.

    Built in should be 24" deep, panels applied on these help them blend in, but do not make them disappear. Sub-Zero has a new overlay application that helps the unit blend more, and allows you to purchase their regular line (not the 700 series), but it is still not totally concealed as it needs reveals around the unit to allow it to breathe.

    Hope that helps,

    Appliance Buyer's Guide

  • dodge59

    Here is my "Built in and panelled Fridge.
    It is not completely hidden as that was not one of our
    goals. Our goals were wood panelling, along with it's much easier upkeep than stainless steel. It does not have any gills showing, and the works as well as the water filter are in that top compartment---makes it very easy for routine maintenace (vacuuming condensor and changing filter, once/year.

    A truly integrated fridge would not show the SS around the doors as ours does.

    Good luck with your decisions!!


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  • macybaby

    Here is a company that specialized in fully integrated appliances. Look through some of the pictures, you can't tell they are appliances until the doors get opened.

    Here is a link that might be useful: fully integrated appliances

  • honeychurch

    This is my built-in fully integrated fridge (Thermador Freedom). Two people have visited my kitchen for the first time in the past few days and have been completely surprised that this was a refrigerator---they thought it was a cabinet and the fridge was in a different room!

  • antss

    med22 - you have a goo handle on the genre.

    A built in means exactly that, you've got to put it in and fasten it to some cabinetry. A free standing can be placed a and use din the center of your room if you like. Also, a built in does not always accept panels - a large percentage actually have stainless steel doors.

    A built in will ALMOST ALWAYS have a carcass depth of 24" and will not have finished sides like a free standing. This is the biggest visual difference;. Now, after the 24" carcass, a manuf. can out a door that takes a 3/4" panel, or a 1/4" panel or both, or put on a Stainless Steel door that is 1/2" thick or 3" .

    It's this door that makes the built-in grow past the 24". Counter depth varies too, we do a lot of flush countertops which means the fridge needs to fit in a 24 3/4" to 25" depth if we want it flush! We have also done some built up ogee edged counters that have an 1 1/2" overhang giving lots of room for fridge depth.

    If you choose a model like dodge's and have framed cabinets like he does , then you'll get a fairly "flush" install. If on the other hand you have euro/frameless cabinets and chose a subzero 600 series (discontinued) with a stainless door your fridge would protrude almost 2" from the face of the cabinets.

    Fully integrated is totally concealed, no toekick , no grille, not trim, no vents visible, like honeychurch's.

  • Maureen Dimitri

    Thanks for all the responses. I went to an appliance store and the saleperson was able to actually show me the difference on several models. I saw the SZ BI48 and while it was panelled, the panels had a small border of stainless around it and the door sides showed since it was not truly flush with the cabinets. He told me you can get around that by pulling cabs forward and adding 1/2" on sides of panel. I then looked at SZT36 which he called fully integrated. I know that is debatable for some since the bottom grille still shows.

    In any event, it was really helpful to see the difference in person. Gary your pic of the Jenn Air was helpful too. It is tough to tell from the angle of the pic, but do your doors protrude and is the border of stainless around the panels actually the door sides?

    So it seems from past posts and my research, that if I really want fully flush/integrated fridge, I should be looking at Thermador and Miehle. SZ is close except for the bottom grille. Fridges classified as Built in are not fully flush.

    Again thanks for the info


  • dodge59

    OK Maureen, I have more pictures, from different angles, I will have to put them up on Flickr then bring them over here. As you can see, ours shows "No Gills" either at the top or the bottom (I'll show the bottom later).

    Lining up the wood on the front of the fridge, with the adjacent cabinet doors, It looks like the fridge "Might" stand out (protrude) about a half inch from the cabinet doors (hard to tell, as it's not much.

    The border of stainless is actually part of the doors, some of that could probably be hidden by "trim strips there", but back in 2005-2006 we didn't see any "Truly Integrated (Hidden) fridges, so we made no attempt to hide or disguise ours. As we mentioned we had Stainless steel before, Fridge and DW, and both were more work to keep spotless that we wanted to do again, hense the wood.
    As you can see from the kitchen pics, we have nuff wood in there, so I dont mind, a bit, how the stainless breaks it up a bit---but just our preferences.

    ok bblb with some more pics!


  • marcydc

    Here's a pic of my Miele fully integrated fridge. The cabs are full overlay so just 1/16" between the doors on those and we achieved the same with the fridge.

    I have a piece for the toe but we haven't put it on for some reason yet (not sure if that is DH's or the GC's fault :)

  • dodge59

    OK here is one "Side shot" of the built in Jenn-air.

  • dodge59

    Here's a shot from the other side.


  • Maureen Dimitri

    Thanks Gary...those help a lot. It does not look like the fridge sticks out at all.

  • dodge59

    Not to us, anyway, Well Congradulations!!! You just graduated from "Built In Fridge Academy"

    Good luck on your future purchase!


  • 61612

    Between built in and integrated seems to me the goal is to gain the best cabinet look?. Does the built in provide better operation for frig? Why would you choose built in over intergrated? Thanks

  • rococogurl

    The issue is purely aesthetic. Nothing whatsoever to do with operation of the fridge.
    You choose one over the other to get the look you want. I have a built in fridge, not integrated. No cabinet panels.

  • practigal

    I think there is a cost difference between the two and either way you hope for no repairs. If Gary had replaced his fridge door handles with cabinet handles the fridge would be barely noticeable. The depth of the fridge or the depth of the surrounding cabinetry determines how much the fridge will will stick out, if at all.

  • 61612
    Agree really a preference. We are going with DACOR Discovery integrated cabinet front ready, compressor on the bottom.
    Extra cabinets are installed on top so we thought best to put compressor on bottom. Plus you do not see it.
    Never owned built in or integrated. So we are new to all this. Thanks for help
  • hvtech42

    I think those new Dacors are made by Fhiaba. I haven't seen any Fhiaba reviews, please post back here with a review once you've had it for a while.

  • 61612
    What I've read it has 5 star rating. Made USA in the interior is has a different blue light freshness.
    I like it because it is hard to find a exterior door without the ice dispenser. We have wood floors and kids. We have the DACOR
    Appliances and the past service has been very good. Call if you have questions. It's my first integrated refrigerator. I called many times and they were helpful.
    Gold Purchase ...Discovery refrigerator plus Handles You get 2 additional appliance choices. I'm not exactly sure pricing but it was what we were looking for in a package.
  • 59 Dodge

    The other thing I should have mentioned, (although I hinted at it), is the ease of maintenance and repair with the works on top. If you have long haired pets, as we do, (3 cats), then with the works on the bottom you are going to be cleaning out the condenser more often.

    Now how do I know about that?, Well our Wine Fridge, with its guts on the floor needs to be cleaned a lot more often, than does the big fridge. Also at our ages, Mid 70's, it's a lot easier to clean that "which is up" as opposed to getting down on hands and knees, removing the cover over the wine fridge filter and then whilst still on hands and knees, vacuuming the thing out! I thinks I will train our cleaning lady on how to do it, as last time it took me a half hour to "get vertical", after cleaning that succer!!!!!!!


  • 61612
    Marcydc. Nice job you can't tell it's a refrigerator.
  • hvtech42

    What I've read it has 5 star rating. Made USA in the interior is has a different blue light freshness

    That fridge is definitely not made in the USA and Dacor has never made any fridges in-house in California. They only make cooking products in-house. The rest of their products are sourced from other manufacturers. Their previous line of fridges was made by Whirlpool elsewhere in the USA but those are now discontinued.

    5 star rating? According to whom? Those fridges have barely been out long enough for anyone to leave reviews.

    I like it because it is hard to find a exterior door without the ice dispenser.

    I have never seen any integrated fridge with an exterior ice dispenser. That would defeat the whole point...

  • xedos

    hvt - Gaggenau & Thermador's all freezer column units have the option of through the door ice.

    I agree that it defeats the whole point if fully integrated though.

  • hvtech42

    Oops. Lol I've never seen anyone actually buy one.

    Still, integrated fridges without exterior dispensers aren't exactly something that you need to go far and wide to search for...

  • 61612
    DACOR is made in Ca. Family owned business.
    Nice refrigerator for the price. Not made by anyone but DACOR.
    We have been very happy with performance.
  • xedos

    Sorry 61612- you are simply mis-informed !!!

    Dacor is a family owned business and headquarter in Cali

    - BUT -

    They don't manufacture their fridges there !

    or their microwave

    or their wine station

    or their wine cellar

    or their dishwasher

    or their fact they don't make those products themselves AT ALL ! And their fridges are made by two different manuf. too boot.

    When they did try to build a DW in house , it was a colossal failure !

    and if you're connected to the inner circle - tell em their website navigation sux. May just be the worst in the business.

    Where did you hear this stuff from to begin with ???

    lemme guess - your local sales weasel spun you a great story about an apple pie American family company and you ate it up ?

  • xedos

    We've done a few kitchens with them hvt - usually along with trash compactors . Remember those ???

    Some people just want what they're used to, even if they are moving up.

  • hvtech42

    Xedos who makes their wine station? Also they did update their website pretty recently.

    61612 I'm confused... earlier it sounds like you were considering this fridge, but now it seems like you already have it?

  • xedos

    Napa something or another, I've forgotten. They've had the thing in restaurants/ bars for a decade or more.

    Having redone the site doesn't make it better.

  • 61612
    We have a DACOR kitchen building a another home
    Purchasing new appliances. A package is important to us
    Never owned an integrated refrigerator /built in Nor a compressor on top or bottom. DACOR service has been good. We had a small spot on oven door. Service arrived shortly and replaced door.
  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    Package "deals" short you in functionality. If you never cook, you won't likely care. If you actually do cook, scuttle the package and go best in class for each function. I wouldn't do Dacor for anything. Not if I expected any type of support from a existing company. They are not long for this world.

  • xedos

    You're really digging in deep now 61612.

    You'll find no love of "packages" from the crowd here.

    And you still haven't answered about where you're getting this rubbish info . Hope they're giving you a BIG package discount for your advertorial.

  • hvtech42

    Is Dacor really at risk of going out of business?

  • xedos

    That's news to me ! What's the story?

    Or have you "read on the internet" ?

  • hvtech42

    It was in response to Sophie's comment "They are not long for this world"

  • xedos on the internet, knew it.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    Questionable products being inaccurately over hyped by sales weasels never bodes well for a company that has such a small market share to begin with. Sure, it's speculative, but it ain't based on a stupid guess either.

  • hvtech42

    Makes sense... I never see them being installed in my area, and I rarely hear people talk about them on here.

  • xedos

    They will maintain the status quo.

    Sales weasels hype the flavor of the month to suit them. I see it happen with industry darlings miele and wolf/sz too !

    Even viking has managed to remain afloat.

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