Understanding Bar Fridges

Deciding on the right bar fridge for your custom home bar.

A frequent question we receive is ‘what type of bar fridge should we buy?’ There are two main types of bar fridges; Built-In and Freestanding. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. We build our bar fridge openings at 24" wide by 24" deep by 34.5" high to accommodate the majority of either bar fridge type .

The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is the built-in will have a grill at the bottom front. The freestanding fridge has no vent at the front and vents out through the back. This means the built-in unit requires no gap around the unit while the freestanding unit requires a gap around the side, top and back for air flow. Without this air flow the unit can warm up and wear out prematurely. This also means the built-in fridge has a nicer look with no gaps around the fridge, we do recommend the built-in unit if when sitting at the bar you can see the bar fridge.

There are also ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) units available. These are designed a few inches lower to allow the counters to be lowered to help make homes more accessible to people with disabilities. For these units we can either provide a filler strip at the top to accommodate for the gap or lower the cabinets accordingly. There are also ADA units for dishwashers available.

Another factor is the interior size of each fridge. The built-ins are typically around 6 cubic feet while the freestanding units are a little over 4 cubic feet. So keep in mind that a built-in can have almost 50% more interior storage.

The final main factor would be cost. Freestanding units are definitely the cheaper option, typically around $200-$400 CAD. Built-ins are usually $700-$1,500 CAD but can exceed $5,000 CAD for certain units.

So, things to keep in mind when selecting an undercounter bar fridge would be cost, location and size.

Other types/options for bar fridges to consider would be; glass fronts, wine cooler, integrated wood doors, keg fridge, drawers, ice maker, freezer, door swing, etc.

Another common question is whether to go with an undercounter bar fridge or a full size fridge. We aim to have our bars to have a true bar feel to them, due to this we much prefer to see one or two undercounter bar fridges instead of a full size fridge. However, there are some full size fridges that are a bit smaller than normal or with glass doors that can accent a bar well. It really comes down to the amount of space available, full size fridges are quite deep and are typically difficult to build into most bars while keeping a bar feel, not a kitchen.

While discussing bar fridges, other appliances you may want to consider for a home bar would be ice maker, dishwasher, microwave, glass washer, liquor dispenser and keg fridge.

Hopefully this helps with a bit of pre-planning but always feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Steve Humphries
The Bar Store Canada Inc.