Saturday, December 05, 2009

Changing Refrigerators, easy, right?

I know I haven't done much posting lately, but it's not because I haven't been busy. While KeeWee was visiting friends and family in New Zealand, I took advantage of the opportunity to make some pretty major kitchen modifications. Having her out of town made it a lot easier, as I am prone to create quite a mess when remodeling. (Note: The preceding statement is an example of a classic understatement!)

The problem was that our refrigerator, which has been running almost without fail since 1959, is starting to show it's age. The thermostat contacts would stick once in a while, freezing everything. One shelf would no longer work, and I'd replaced it with some sheet acrylic a few years ago. Finally, the drain tube has failed, causing water to collect in the refrigerator instead of draining out as it should. Although most of these things are relatively minor repairs, the writing is on the wall.

When a friend ended up with a nearly brand new refrigerator/freezer he wanted to sell, I jumped at it. "But just changing refrigerators doesn't require a kitchen remodel, does it?" Well, in our case, it kinda did. We have some very solidly built cabinets over the microwave, the stove, and the refrigerator. The cabinets are all one piece, and and they just barely allow clearance over the refrigerator. No one still makes a refrigerator that is full sized and would still fit under the cabinets, by about five inches.

After a careful examination of exactly how the cabinets had been built, I decided that the best approach would be to cut the part of the cabinet assembly over the refrigerator free from the rest of the unit, shorten it six inches, shorten the two doors, and hang it back on the wall. This would involve some very careful flush cutting from the inside of the cabinet section just to the left of the section I wanted to remove. Fortunately there is a tool that's just perfect, or at least close enough, to get the job done. I picked this one up at Harbor Freight for $39.95.

Originally these were advertised as sanders, and in the picture the sanding head is installed. Beyond sanding, though, there is both a semi-circular saw blade and a plunge cut blade. The design of the blades could have been more efficient, but they did the job.

A handy little sander and saw.

Once I had the cabinets separated, it took two of us to un-nail the end cabinet from the wall and lift it down. Since the interior dividing wall went with the smaller cabinet, I had to cut and install a new right end wall for the cabinet unit still on the wall. Some half inch plywood, aliphatic resin glue, and finishing nails took care of that part without incident.

Cutting down the cabinet was another story. The cabinet itself didn't look too hard as cutting off the top six inches and putting the top back on was fairly straight-forward, and the work would be covered by the fascia anyway, so it didn't have to be cosmetically perfect, just functional. The doors, however, needed to be very carefully done or they would look terrible. The logical way to shorten them would to cut them off with a really fine blade on a good table saw, then glue the top end back in place with a biscuit jointer and a couple of biscuits. Since I didn't have a biscuit jointer anyway, or a fine blade for the table saw, or even any long bar clamps, I decided to turn that part of the project over to a cabinet guy.

He cut the doors and shortened the cabinet, and did a beautiful job of it. You can't even tell it had been done. I relocated the upper hinges and re-hung the doors. A light corner sanding and a little stain covered up the edge where the cabinets had been previously one piece. A friend gave me a hand lifting the cabinet back into place and a few sheet rock screws mounted solidly back to the wall. Re-hanging the fascia went smoothly, and a finished piece of wood cut from the old cabinet was just the right size to finish the now exposed area at the bottom right side of the existing cabinet.

We wrestled the old refrigerator out to the barn, and wrestled the new one into place. It took quite a while to clean up the mess and get most of the stuff back into the cabinets, but barely twelve hours before Keewee was due to return, the tools were out of the kitchen and the majority of the mess was cleaned up.

Before the mods, the bottom of the cabinet over the refer was even with the bottom of the cabinet to it's left.

The entire project had taken the better part of a week, on and off, but the result came out pretty well. There's still a very small area below the fascia that needs a little Verathane, but other than that, it's finally finished.

Thank goodness.........



At Saturday, December 05, 2009 2:54:00 PM, Blogger keewee said...

Honey, thanks for the wonderful job, I love my new refrigerator.

At Saturday, December 05, 2009 4:33:00 PM, Blogger TrueBlueSam said...

This project is in my future also. Thanks for the good instructions. WeedEater cord makes a great roto-rooter for opening up the drain line on a refrigerator.

At Monday, December 07, 2009 5:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you did a pretty good job - I'd never be that brave!!!


At Tuesday, December 08, 2009 9:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fine effort, Mr C!


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