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Best option to replace built-in-refrigerator?

January 26, 2011

Our kitchen has been completely remodeled in 2005 - except for the old GE Monogram refrigerator that is built-in (sides and top, no panels in front). We bought the house in 2007. Now the refrigerator is failing and we are wondering what to do. The earliest service we can get from GE is next week. Because of the age of the refrigerator (21 years) we have to assume that it needs to be replaced. I have been googling for refrigerators that match the specifiaction of our existing built-in-frame. I think another GE Monogram will fit best, but it is not rated very well at consumerreports.org. Do you have any experience with Subzero, Jennair, Electrolux, Kitchen-Aid or a less costly solution? They all seem to cost at least $7,000. I seem to find other refrigerators with different dimensions (same width, but shorter and deeper) for much less money. Would it make more sense to get one of those and have the built-in-frame from floor to ceiling rebuilt? The fridge is at the end of the counter next to a window. How much would that cost?

Comments (12)

  • antss

    1. consumer reports is not really the place to look for recs. on built in fridges.

    2. built-ins cost btw $7000 and $12000 - that's just the market. The only way to get one for less is to buy used or find a store going out of business.

    3. We'd need to know your exact dimensions before advising you. Built ins are all typically the same size 84" tall, 24" deep, and 36",42" or 48" wide. The install width can vary +/- 1/2" depending on the brand and or the detail the designer specs.

    "I seem to find other refrigerators with different dimensions (same width, but shorter and deeper) for much less money. " Right - these are not built -ins.

    You can certainly use one if it fits and you don't mind the xtra depth. You need to ask a cabinet maker or installer or handyman/carpenter what your modification will cost after a preview of your kitchen. It all depends on access, amount of work, are the materials generic pine stained with Minwax off the shelf or lacquered zebrano veneer, labor rates in your town, ect...

    Invariably it will be CHEAPER to get a $2500 fridge and re do cabinetry than buy a $7-9k fridge that fits exactly. That is not always better though - only you can decide that.

  • palimpsest

    You could do a lot of custom cabinet for $6000-7000. It would be relatively simple to get a decent counterdepth fridge and finish the inside of the current opening to match the cabinets. You will need to make sure that the non-built in has enough circulation room around the sides. A non counterdepth may need an inch or more on each side while a "counterdepth" may require as little as 1/8". If your choice needs more circulation than you have you may need to go from 42" ---> 36" wide.

    This is from a Subzero owner who has spent around 10% (which isn't a Lot)for repair over the last 7 years, and lives in fear I will need a major repair or replacement (my unit is 27", so I don't have a lot of choice.

  • beekeeperswife

    I'm not sure what your dimensions are but I have a 48" Thermador that is built in. Bought it at a Sears scratch & dent store for $3500. The delivery guys scratched the door when making the delivery and Sears covered the replacement of the stainless skins. Pretty good deal, since the "scratch" that was on the fridge was on the door to start with, but they delivery guys made another one that I couldn't live with. The original one was really tiny and up high.

  • annemouse

    Antss and palimpsest, thanks for your quick replies. We have a 42" wide GE Monogram and it is 25,75" deep and 84" high. I will go to our local stores and get some prices on what might be available in that size once I find out if the existing refrigerator is beyond repair. I will also call the Kitchen-Installers to see if they have an idea what adjusting cabinetry will cost. We are in lower CT and that might cost, too.
    Antss, where do you suggest looking for built-in-reviews?

  • lascatx

    You can look at the appliance forum here, but folks get pretty intense about certain things over there.

    The 42" width is the most limiting factor -- but you have plenty of room to do a counter depth. There are a a few 42" built-ins. Look at ajmadison dot com and shop the built-in choices to get an idea of what is available -- they have customer reviews on some too.

    I remember the Kitchenaid 42" French Door being one that I looked at and liked pretty well. The Thermador 42" was made by KA at that time -- not sure if it still is.
    We wound up with Thermador columns and a total of 48" though. You could do those with 24/18. Good luck.

  • shadco1

    We just snagged a 42" Electrolux Icon built in for 4500 it was a floor model, We passed on a 5300 SZ 42" BI.

    Check around we really like the Electrolux which replaced a 25 year old SZ 36" Built in.

  • kaismom

    One of my friend replaced the compressor(s?) of her 20 year old SZ refrigerator. It was cheaper and easier than replacing the entire built in refrigerator. The rest of her kitchen is also 20 years old... They may be delaying the kitchen remodel til later. This may not apply to you but I threw it out there any rate.

    The effort it takes to replace the BI refrigerator is not insignificant. These are big items and there is always a small chance that the delivery and installation does not go as well as you think it will.

    Either way, good luck.

  • keshaddy

    Thank you for this post. I have spent hours searching for options for replacing our 24-year old 30" wide Subzero counter depth built in refrigerator. Talk about limited options, not to mention sticker shock. I finally began to think that it would be cheaper to get rid of the "built in" and go with a freestanding. Your messages have confirmed enough that I will be getting some estimates on redoing the cabinetry.

  • annemouse

    Wow, here I am again - a year later, same refrigerator. This time a longer power-outage has killed the motor and I am googling again for a replacement and found my old post. Still hoping that GE can repair the old one once again. Still not ready to spend a fortune on a built-in...

  • smarz

    To kaismom and annemouse, how long has the repair lasted? Is your repaired refrigerator running without other parts breaking? Are you happy with your decision to repair your frig?

  • smarz

    I have a 2000 GE Monogram Built-in refrigerator. I had a repairman look at it, and he found that a $160.00 part needed replacement instead of the expensive condenser. The repair cost $350.00. I found that not all Appliance Repair people work on these refrigerators. I hope the condenser continues to work.

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