Gap Between Fridge And Cabinets? (Here's What You Can Do)

Jennifer Eggerton
by Jennifer Eggerton

The dreaded gap between the fridge and cabinets where handy items and crumbs like to hide. Many DIY homeowners wonder if the gap is really necessary and just exactly how to fix it.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for required gaps around the fridge. Some space is needed for proper ventilation and operation of the appliance. Space requirements are defined by each manufacturer and specific to the model of refrigerator. Specially-designed shelves, caps, spacer panels, and trim kits can be used to safely fill in extra space around your fridge.

Let’s take a closer look at this nemesis of kitchen designers and learn how to make the most of it.

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Benefits of a Gap Between the Fridge and Cabinet

Although it is an eyesore, the gap between your fridge, cabinets, and walls is important. Refrigerators rely on proper ventilation to keep your favorite foods and beverages nice and cold. Space around the fridge also prevents the motor from overheating.

Downsides of a Gap Between the Fridge and Cabinet

As practical as having a gap between the fridge and cabinets may be, there are many reasons why people dislike this particular part of their kitchens.

  • Fridge area looks unfinished
  • Great place to lose small items
  • Food spills are hard to clean
  • Drips and stains on the sides of the fridge and cabinets

Gaps for Ventilation

Your fridge needs space around it for ventilation. Without proper ventilation, the compressor overheats. This leads to costly repairs and a shorter lifetime of the appliance.

The gap around your fridge allows warm air to move away from the appliance. Here’s how it works. Refrigerators have two fans. The first is located inside the fridge, and it circulates cold air around the food. The second fan is located near the compressor.

Compressors generate a lot of heat, and the fan helps to keep it cool. As the fan moves air across the warm compressor, the heat from the compressor is transferred to the air. The air then moves outside the shell of the fridge. If the space around your fridge is too small, the air has no place to go, and it stays around the compressor. Want to know more about proper ventilation, check out the video below.

Door Swing

Another reason to give your fridge plenty of space is door swing. This refers to how much room the door needs to fully open. It can mean the difference between cramming yourself between the door and fridge to make a sandwich and easily accessing the freezer, vegetable bins, interior shelves, and door shelves. Leave enough room on the side of the fridge for the door to open to 90° or more.

How Much Space is Enough?

For most refrigerators, there needs to be a 1/4” gap on either side and a 1” gap in the back and above the fridge. Check the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website to find out what is required for your fridge. If you reposition your fridge to match the manufacturer’s specifications and still have space, good news! There are ways to fill in the extra space.

4 Ingenious Ways to Fill a Gap Between the Fridge and Cabinet

Now that we know that your fridge needs just a little space for ventilation, let’s look at some ingenious ways to fill the extra space.


Caps fill the space between the countertop and fridge. The caps snap into place and are easy to clean. You can find caps in several different finishes to match your fridge, countertop, or cabinets.

Spacer Panels

Spacer panels fit between the edge of your cabinets and the fridge. The panels are in available with different finishes, as well as louvers for air flow.

Pantry Shelves

Pantry shelves are great for smaller kitchens. The frame of the shelf fits in the gap between the wall or cabinet and fridge. Shelves slide out for easy access to your spices, dry ingredients, and small kitchen tools. Choose a pantry shelf that is the same height as your lower cabinet to keep it concealed.

Trim Kits

Trim kits are frames that fit around your fridge to hide gaps between the cabinets and walls. The kits can be matched to your cabinets, countertops, wall color, or fridge.

6 Ways to Use Space on Top of the Fridge

The open space on top of a fridge is a point of debate. Some people prefer to leave the space open for a clean look, while others prefer to use all the available space in their kitchens. Most times, the top of the fridge is cluttered with items that won’t fit in the cabinets. The challenge to using the top of the fridge is that you still need access to the overhead cabinets. Here are some ways to use the empty space on top of your fridge while keeping your kitchen organized.

Shelf Frames

Shelf frames fit around the sides of the fridge. This gives you some extra storage on top for baskets of root vegetables, canisters, and jars of beans and pasta.

Louvered Panels

Make the space on top of your fridge practically disappear with louvered panels that match your cabinets or fridge. The pieces easily fit into place and allow air flow around your fridge.


The top of the fridge is a great place to put your favorite cookbooks. It adds interest and leaves room for the air flow that is needed for ventilation. Cookbooks are typically small enough to fit below the upper cabinet. If you have larger cookbooks, stack them and add some decorative items.


Oven mitts, dish towels, and other small items need a place in your kitchen. Put some nice baskets on top of your fridge and fill them with these items.

Colored Glass, Ceramics, and Metals

Colored glass and ceramic vases and bowls enhance the look of your kitchen. Use accent colors from your dish towels and oven mitts, or add to the theme of your kitchen, such as country chic or ultra-modern.

Wine Rack

A good wine deserves to be displayed. The space above your fridge is an ideal place for a wine rack. Wine needs to stay at room temperature, and heat from the fridge ages the wine. A wine rack on top of the fridge works best for newer fridges that have coils at the bottom of the appliance.

Related Questions

Can I put heavy items on top of my fridge?

No. You should avoid putting heavy items on top of your fridge. Even the smallest, lightest items slip around each time you open and close the door. Heavy items do more damage when they fall off the top of a fridge. An option for storing heavy items on top of your fridge is to attach industrial-strength magnets to the bottom of the item. This helps to hold it in place when you open and close the door of your fridge.

Should I clean the coils of my refrigerator?

Yes. The coils of a fridge are prone to collecting dust and lint, especially in older models that may not be sealed properly. Removing the lint and dust helps the compressor and fans stay cool. Unplug the fridge and use the brush attachment for your vacuum. If the coils of your fridge are located on the underside of the unit, contact a professional technician to clean the unit.

What is the sticky residue on top of my fridge?

The top of the refrigerator is one of the few horizontal surfaces that rarely gets cleaned in a kitchen. The sticky residue is a combination of dust, lint, and cooking oil residue. A good DIY cleaning solution for the sticky residue on top of the fridge is 1 teaspoon of dish soap, 10 ounces of white vinegar, and 5 ounces of rubbing alcohol. The mixture quickly breaks down the sticky mess. Wipe the area with a clean, damp towel.

Why is my fridge making noises?

Noises from your refrigerator, such as rattling, squealing, humming, indicate that compressor or fans are not working properly. Contact a professional technician to have the unit serviced.

Should the side of my fridge feel warm?

Yes. The warmth that you feel indicates that the fridge is working properly. If the side of the fridge feels hot or warmer than normal, it is a sign that there is not enough space around the fridge for ventilation. Center the fridge in the opening of your cabinets, and make sure that it is at least 1” from the back wall. If moving the fridge doesn’t help, contact a professional technician to service the refrigerator.

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What Did We Learn?

Your refrigerator needs space for proper ventilation and door swing. For most models, the gap should be 1/4” on the sides and 1” in the back and on top. Also, leave room for the door to open 90° or more. Check your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for your specific model.

If you have some extra space on the sides of your fridge, install caps, spacer panels, trim kits, or sliding pantry shelves. The top of the fridge can be used for extra storage space, such as shelves and wine racks, or decorative items, such as cookbooks, colored glass, and baskets filled with dish towels and root vegetables. Avoid putting heavy items on top of your fridge.

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Jennifer Eggerton
Jennifer Eggerton

Jennifer L. Eggerton loves being hands-on, whether it's with a home DIY project, making repairs, re-decorating a room, or keeping life organized. She enjoys helping people by sharing her knowledge, insights, and experiences, as well as her lessons learned. In addition to her work as a writer, Jennifer is a Jeep® overlander, self-published author, and nature photographer who loves being outdoors.

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