Can I Shave Off the Side of a Cabinet to Fit a Fridge?

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Consider shaving your cabinets as a last resort.
Consider shaving your cabinets as a last resort. (Image: David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Under certain conditions, you can shave or trim the side of a cabinet to allow space for a refrigerator. Though not an ideal solution, you can trim a wood cabinet provided the side of the cabinet is thick enough to lose the amount of space your fridge requires. Before shaving off the side of a cabinet, see if you can fit your fridge underneath by lowering its leveling screws, often located behind the base grille on the bottom of the appliance.

Things You'll Need

  • Stepladder
  • Hand plane
  • Electric orbital sander
  • Optional refinishing tools (paint, wood stain, clear wood finish, paintbrushes)

Equip yourself with a hand plane, available at most hardware stores. Use a smooth hand plane for wooden cabinets or a replaceable-blade plane for particleboard, plywood or fiberboard cabinets.

Turn the plane's depth adjustment wheel, the knob near its rear end, to set its cutting depth. Start with a shallow cutting depth to avoid over-cutting. Tighten the knob after your first few strokes to increase the cutting depth as needed.

Position yourself in front of the cabinet side to be shaved by standing on a stepladder. Have a partner spot you for safety. Grasp the front knob of the planer tightly with your leading hand and hold the rear handle firmly with your other hand. Apply the plane to the cabinet side with pressure, pointing the front end of the tool downward. Keeping pressure on the tool with both hands, make a smooth downward stroke to shave the wood. Tilt the front of the plane upward on the return stroke, and keep making downward strokes until you've shaved enough wood from the cabinet to fit the fridge.

Use an electric orbital sander, a gentle sander suited to soft woods and beginning users, to smooth the surface of the cabinet and even out any imperfections created by the planing process. Apply a moderate amount of hand pressure, keeping the sander in constant motion as you move it up and down the surface of the cabinet in smooth strokes.

Refinish the side of the cabinet as necessary. The refinishing process varies depending on your cabinets. Painted cabinets are easiest to refinish; simply apply a coat of paint that matches the rest of the cabinets to the sanded surface. Wooden cabinets with a natural finish may require the application of a matching stain and clear wood finish. If matching is an issue, simply paint the side of the cabinet a bold new color to add a decorative touch to your kitchen. If the fridge hides the side of the cabinet, you may deem this process unnecessary.

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