Appliance Cutouts

Standards, and a lack of, for kitchen appliace cutouts. August 7, 2004

Does everyone measure kitchens for exact fit including appliances, or do you take off from blueprints?

I have recently been called back to two different jobs where we delivered and installed cabs. When appliances showed up, they didn't fit. It was the builder's fault and we made the adjustments as necessary (and yes, we charged for it). I have many books, pamphlets, etc. for the major appliances with dimensions that I use, but not all 36" fridges are the same.

Is there a standard for range opening, dishwasher, fridge, etc., or is everyone measuring for fit?

Forum Responses
From contributor K:
Get the appliance manufacturer name and model numbers for the appliances and find the factory websites. Download the installation instructions and you'll avoid surprises.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the response. I have all of the literature you are referring to.

I'll try to be more clear this time. About 75% of my cabinets are built for builders. They call me, we take off from plans to check for any surprises or discrepancies (architects). When framing is complete, we measure from studs and build cabinets. We do our drawings and build from a "standard" (?) opening guideline. For example, 36" fridge = 36 1/2" opening, 30" range = 30 1/4" opening, etc. We are usually not given specific make and model of appliances. Builders do sign off on our drawings, so if we go back, they pay for it.

An example is a microwave vent hood (spaced for 36"). Microwave was an "off" brand. (I'm sure it was on sale somewhere!) The microwave fit the opening but the door would catch the cabinet next to it. Small problem but it took time to fix.

I should have asked: when you are doing drawings, what allowance do you give for the fridge, range, dishwasher, etc?

36" Fridge = 36 1/2 opening
30" Range = 30 1/4 opening
24" Dishwasher = 24 1/4 opening

From contributor D:
When it comes to appliances, I tell the person writing the check that I can do it one of two ways. Either they can provide me specs for the appliances they are going to use or I provide them with the specs that I am going to make the openings and they can pick the appliances that fit them. If the builder signed off on it and then the customer bought something else, the contractor dropped the ball.

I always make my dishwasher openings 24" wide, stove openings 30" wide and refrigerator openings for a 36 inch refrigerator 36" wide. If the installer can't fit them in the proper sized opening, they need more practice.

I use the following as my default dimensions:

refrig openings = 36"w x 69"h x 26" deep
stove = 30"w x 24" deep
micro over stove = 30"w x 15" h x 12" deep
dishwasher = 24" w x 24" deep

I provide these on the proposal and they are signed off when the down payment is made.

From contributor S:
Contributor D, do you really think it is the installer's fault if he can’t fit a 36” refrigerator in a 36” opening, or likewise with a 30” stove? Are you serious? The cabinet guys around here allow 30 1/4” for stoves, so the stove can actually slide in, and if they can they allow 37-38” for the refrigerator and this allows the end user to be able to open the door all the way if it is against a wall end. Lately I have seen some stoves that are 30 1/8” so the 30 1/4” would still work, but your 30” opening would not.

To the original questioner: I think you are safe to only allow 24”at the dishwasher, because it is designed to fit in that space. As far as the range, 30 1/4” is standard for a 30” stove. Any less makes it hard for the installer and the customer if they ever want to slide it out. I feel you should never go less than 30 1/8”. As far as the refrigerator goes, I think it would be better to allow a little more if you can. If you use scribe molding on the back of the base cabinet, the countertop needs to cover it also to make it look right and this will lessen the space you have allowed.

From contributor T:
The quick and easy is NO, not all appliances are the same. There is no standard. American companies tend to be similar, but European companies are different. This is an area that requires check, double check, check. Check?

From contributor B:
I've never seen a 30" stove need any more than 30". The brands I've had experience with usually require 29 7/8", but I'll have to watch it more closely. I always allow 38" for a fridge width and 70" for height so the doors will open against a wall. If you allow 36 1/2" and they put baseboard down the side, you'll always be screwed. Allow 38" for fridge width and you won't be sorry. I usually have the builder tell me where they get the appliances from. I have them fax me cutout sizes. Then I go back on the appliance distributor if something doesn't fit. They told me "standard downdraft 30" cooktop" on a job, when it was actually a 30" cooktop and telescoping downdraft blower mounted behind it. This required the island to be deeper than the standard 24" so everything would fit. The appliance distributor paid my bill for the retrofit because it was their fault and not the builder's. If it is a custom home, most builders don't keep up with the appliance details. They send the homeowner to a certain place to pick out appliances and they pick them out. The builder doesn't care what they pick out as long as the bottom line compares to what he allowed them. I deal with the distributor!

From contributor S:
I do mostly countertops and it is sometimes a real pain when the cabinet guy only allows 30”, because our tops have to come out perfectly flush on each side. Having an extra 1/4” or so really helps us out.

Don’t you just love those telescopic downdraft units? I usually have the challenge to fit them into a standard 24” cabinet and boy what a pain that is. The last one I did was not only in a 24” cabinet, it also had a raised bar behind it and I had to get real creative on the overhang so the downdraft would come up all the way. Fun stuff!

From contributor B:
Contributor S, I certainly understand your plight. However, I've found it to be done differently depending on which part of the country you live in. The ceramic tile guy doesn't have a clue about anything but ceramic. If I leave 30" plywood top to plywood top, he may or may not cut his tile exactly flush with my plywood. He doesn't know what the opening size is supposed to be. If I cover my butt, then he's on his own. If I leave 30 1/4" on a slide in JennAir downdraft stove, it won't fit right and the builder will come back on me. In south Louisiana, the trim carpenter actually cuts the openings in the substrate for most stoves and sinks before the laminate or ceramic is put on. I always leave the stiles proud of the box by 1/4" anywhere there is a slide in stove or dishwasher going in, and cut my plywood top flush to the edge of the stile so you can get more room if needed to fit something in. My experience around here is to do what the manufacturer recommends for opening size and then nobody can hold me responsible if there is a gap between the ceramic tile and the edge of the appliance. But I certainly understand your point about leaving extra room.

From contributor M:
I don't care who I get the job from, the customer will always sign the actual pieces of paper that have the cut out specs and the model numbers. That way, if they change their mind, they can't say it was my fault and/or a mistake in which appliance is being used.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I was hoping I wasn't the only one with this problem.

Picked up a job today with a new builder. Before I even asked, he said:

"Give me 40" for fridge, 31" for stove and 25" for dishwasher. The last cabinet guy built them exactly the size of the appliance and I didn't think we were ever going to get the fridge and range in! I'd much rather have too much than too little."

As long as he signs off I'll build it.

From contributor N:
I usually extend face frames proud of boxes 3/4 inch into appliance openings, and on frameless I add a 3/4 inch scribe/filler into openings. In the rare instance that I didn't leave enough room for appliance, or if in the future appliance is changed, it's easy to trim back as needed. Also gives more room for doors to open. No one has ever mentioned, or complained to me, about this method. The builders I work for like a tight fit, so that's what they get.

I also don't build until after drywall is installed and I have appliance specs.

From contributor B:
I leave exact openings for ranges and dishwashers. Stiles either side have 3/4" scribe if they need trimmed, but almost never do.

For refrigerators, I allow 38", more if next to a wall, and 72" height - because *there* I've had problems. Too many refrigerators these days don't have zero clearance doors. For built-in ovens, I either get model # and build exact, or I use wide stiles and rails that can be trimmed precise (though I hate the way the latter looks :) )

From contributor R:
Contributor S, now 30 1/4'' is the only way to go on a 30'' stove. Anything less seems nuts. Why fight it going in and rip the vinyl floor and tile counter tops in LA in new homes built by builders? Anyone who believes that if the installer can't fit a 30'' stove in a 30'' opening it's the installer's problem, just hasn't installed many cabinets. Where I come from, a cabinetmaker builds his own boxes, builds his own doors, does his own finishing, does his own installing and then puts his own countertops on - tile, laminate, post formed, solid surface. There are many things that only experience can teach.

There are many acceptable tolerances in cabinet building. 1'' on all sides of fridge is great. Makes install easy and the evaporator coil on the fridge needs to get rid of heat, so it needs a little room to breath. 30'' stove in a 30'' opening? Even the main bearings in a gas engine have an oil clearance of .006 of an inch.

From contributor M:
Why even question whether or not the appliances will fit? Having the customer sign off on the job and all of the appliance spec sheets leaves the customer liable if something doesn't fit. You built the cabinet to the sheets specs.

I always have my clients sign off on everything! Any changes, etc. the customer signs off. I have been mistake-free (knock on wood) in that area so far. Clients would rather give you the verbal go-ahead, but that doesn't stand up for crap in court. A signed/dated document will hold up far before any verbal agreement will.

I'm actually looking to do a kitchen that will be upwards of $30-40,000. Not too bad, but I told the client I can't proceed with the design process until I know the specs they're submitting to me are the exact ones they're going with. It's a shame we need to cover ourselves so much, but I'd rather sleep well at night knowing that I covered my bases and not wondering "What if?"

From contributor J:
As contributor B posted, most 30" stoves are 29 7/8". In fact, in my 7 years of building kitchen cabinets, I have yet to come across a 30" stove that isn't less then 30". Just like the microwave/hood combos are built at 29 7/8 to fit a 30" opening.

From contributor N:
That's right. The designation (24", 30" etc.) is not the actual appliance width in most cases, but the recommended opening dimension.

Heck, why not make your fridge opening at 40" for a 36"er and a 30" stove opening at 34"? Then at least you could get a broom back there to clean up all the crumbs that are sure to collect. If the fridge evaporator needed to get rid of all that heat, the manufacturer would specify it. Stick to the manufacturer's specs and you should avoid complaints of appliances being too tight or too sloppy.

Different standards in different markets, I guess.

From contributor B:
I've never thought about it, but I ought to leave at least an inch for that 30" hood so it isn't squeezed too tight into a 30" opening. Or maybe leave 37" in case somebody wants to put a 36" hood in. Most dishwashers are 23 3/4 to 23 7/8, and specify a 24" opening. A 30" stove usually says a 29 7/8" minimum opening, so I leave 30". Some stoves are actually supposed to hang over the countertop material just a little. If I cut the opening too big, it doesn't fit right and looks sloppy. If we're going to call ourselves custom cabinetmakers, then the appliances should fit properly into the opening, not look sloppy. I do make the fridge opening larger because you invariably end up with baseboard at the bottom and edgebanding on the countertop, and you've got to have room to get the fridge door open all the way. Other appliances are a good nice fit, not too tight, but a nice fit.

From contributor O:
And here I thought this was custom work. Anybody ever heard of Dimension Express? If your client or GC can't supply you with a list of appliances or the cutsheets for them, you're not ready to build. Drop ins, slide ins, popup vents, freestanding, overlaid, inset, French sinks, microwave trim kits, five different handle options for a Subzero - each requires a different trim panel configuration… No two double ovens the same… How in the hell can you build cabinets while guessing at appliance dimensions?
I'll measure and build from naked studs, but I won't do a cut list until I've got an appliance list and cut sheets.

No faster way to muck up a good kitchen than to botch the appliance specs. Know before you go.

25 inches for a dishwasher? Must be a California contractor.

From contributor S:
After hearing some of these last few posts from contributor J, N and B, I am sure glad you guys are not in my area. The cabinet guys here are allowing a little more than the bare minimum to help out other subs, like the appliance and countertop installers. And I am in California, go figure. Everyone has agreed that you should always check the spec sheet and I too agree, but the original post asked if there was a standard, and I believe there is, at least in my area. They allow 24” at the dishwasher, 30 1/8 - 30 1/4 at the range, slide in or free standing, and about 38 for the refrigerator. And it works great. No one has problems or needs to go back to cut or trim anything. I have been in this business for going on 30 years and I have seen problems come up from time to time when a cabinet guy (usually a rookie) only allows the bare minimums (or less) for the appliances, and then he learns the hard way when the customer calls him back out because the refrigerator door won’t open all the way.

I am sure you guys do great work, and hey, if it is working for you the way you are doing it, then that is great. I do high end custom as well as apartments. In fact, I am working on a 300 unit complex right now and boy am I glad they have 30 1/4 at the range. The way these walls are, it gives my installers a little leeway. No hard feelings, guys - let's just get back to making sawdust. :>)

From contributor T:
Keep in mind that once you deviate from the manufacturer's recommended cut out dimensions, you are taking on the responsibility for the fit of the appliance(s). Any time you can get together to help out the subs or each other, that is a great thing, but the responsibility can come back to bite you, so always cover your butt. I really dislike re-dos and all the blame that gets slung around. It is just so unproductive, not to mention all the hurt feelings. I think this is where measure twice and cut once comes in. Especially be careful with the European models. They can be quite different.

From contributor D:
I guess I am on the J, N and B team. I'll take them any day.

Contributor S, I build the cabinets, install them, and then do my own tops, cut the sink holes and cooktop holes and have never had to trim for an appliance to fit. An installer once told me there was not enough room to get a stove in, so I asked him to move and slid it in like a glove.

If you are installing the cabinets out of level so you don't have a consistent space, you may need to leave space, but that is the only reason. As far as I am concerned, a tight fit looks more professional than seeing spaces on the sides. I have a piece of particleboard that goes with me on installs that is 30 inches x 24 inches. It gets clamped in the openings as the cabinets are installed to keep it true and the laser takes care of the cabinet tops being level.

As far as refrigerators, I build the cabinet for them to slide into, so there is no trouble hitting walls with the doors, and with the stile on the side it gives a place for the base to butt if not. those cabinets are 27 inches deep, so the counters run into them without needing a return like you need on 24 inch deep tall cabinets. If you make the stove opening 31 inches, do you make the opening for a range hood or microwave 31 inches, too? I don't think that would be too attractive, but I guess molding could cover it up.

Most of the problems here are caused by dealing with contractors, which is something I don't do. If you deal only with the customer and don't sub out parts of the jobs like counters, these problems are a lot easier to avoid.

From contributor S:
Contributor D, 31” at the stove and 25 at the D/W is ridiculous. The most they allow for around here is 30 1/4, and 24, and at the hood it is 30” because hoods can usually be maneuvered in a little easier than a range. But hey, it sounds like you take extra time to make sure all the cabinets are square and level at the openings and that would really help out the situation. If only all cabinet guys did that! And I really like the 27” panel at the refrigerator (I can tell you install countertops). Now make sure all the walls are straight for us countertop guys and this world will really be a better place to work :>)

Oh, by the way, you might want to tell team member N that 34 at a stove might be a bit much.

From contributor R:
As you can see, there are some standards, and as you can see, the standards vary a lot. 1/8th on each side of the stove will not look bad, and 1'' around a fridge is okay. Some stoves measure 29 7/8". I'm sure I have seen them measure a full 30". You could always take a planer and trim a proud stile down (all my stiles are 1/4'' proud - I can cheat a lot on 3 base cabinets in a run), but that's not the object of the game. Or go to the other extreme and leave 31'' and apply some crack moulding. I know from experience that bad walls can effect the stove. Most of us know to dado out the drywall at the base cabinets and countertop and try to square it up a little. I have not done new construction in ten years. The kitchen I just completed was in a 60 year old house. I needed all I could cheat and then some. When I am working in a customer's home, I don't want to pass the buck to the appliance manufacturer, or the framer that framed the house, or anyone else. I just want to get done so I can collect my money, leave, and not return. Remember that old urban song "If it don't fit, don't force it, just relax and let it go." No one can say 1/8'' on each side of a stove or dishwasher is sloppy work.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I am a cabinet designer and salesperson in Houston. I am responsible for 25-30 custom jobs a month and I have found this... Leave 30 1/4" for all ranges and give yourself an extra 3/4" on either side of the opening by way of larger stile/scribe on face frame cabs or flush filler on 32mm. DW openings are best at 24 1/4 with the same configuration as above. All telescoping downdraft cooktops specifically call out for 26" minimum depth - that is why they don't fit into 24" deep boxes (get creative with your layouts). It can depend heavily on what brand appliances are popular in your area but most all GE single ovens are 28 1/2" wide and 27 5/16 tall; GE microwaves are 25 1/2 wide and 18 3/4 tall. Make your life easy by building oven cabinets 26" deep (in fact, make that the rule for all tall cabs when they adjoin 24" deep base cabs... it will clean up c-top installations). I use GE as an example because they are in high use here, but I have used many others - Whirlpool, Wolfe, Sub Zero, Dacor, Kenmore, Bosh, etc, and I find they reflect similar patterns.

Comment from contributor C:
Even having the specifications won't necessarily save you. The Frigidaire 36" side-by-side refrigerator/freezer I installed in my home measured 35 5/8" at the front, back, and top, so I made the opening 36" wide. When I went to install it, I discovered that the sides are ballooned out about 1/2" so that it was a press fit in a 36" opening. My Kenmore gas range measures exactly 30" wide. It too would be a press-fit in a 30" opening, and leave zero countertop overhang. I think that 30 1/4" or even 31" is better.