Now: Turn an Old Fridge into an Ice Chest in 7 Easy Steps

Find a new use for that fridge you don’t use anymore! Since you upgraded to a new fridge, you aren’t quite sure what to do with the old one and can’t bring yourself to toss it as it might come in handy. Here’s your dilemma solved. Turn the old fridge into an ice chest! Use the outdoor ice cooler to keep food and drinks cold inside it; use it to hold your beers at your barbeque tonight without being an eyesore. Here is your step-by-step guide.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Tools: Circular saw or miter saw, clamps, power drill, drill bits, sander, measuring tape, and safety glasses
  2. Materials: Non working fridge, 4″ x 1/4″ wood slats, 2″ x 1/4″ wood slats, 3″ wood screws, drawer pulls, door hinges (optional), and drain plug materials (see below)
  3. Drain plug materials: 1/2″ x 1″ nipple, 1/2″ x 3″ nipple, 1/2″ elbow, 1/2″ tubing of 30″ length, 1-1/2″ garden hose spigot, 1/2″ hose clamps, 1/2″ nut, white caulking, and 1/2″ rubber washer 

1. Remove the fridge accessories

The first step to converting your old fridge into a fantastic ice chest is to remove all of the accessories that it required to function. Take out the evaporator fan and cell, as well as the condenser fan, compressor, drawers, and shelving.

Look for any other parts within the fridge that would take up space unnecessarily once it’s converted into an ice chest and remove them too.

2. Design the Ice Chest

In the finished structure, the former fridge is on its back. Ideally, you want your structure to be raised on legs so you won’t have to bend really far every time you want grab something out of it. Save your back by raising it to counter height. 

To make this project a fully repurposed one, use old barn wood or pallet wood you tore apart recently. ​Maybe a neighbor even has some wood hanging around that he doesn’t need anymore.

If you prefer the new look of wood instead, just purchase cedar fence pickets. Also, as the cooler will keep the stuff inside it cold with ice rather than electricity, you will need to add a drain hole.

3. Take measurements for the fridge

Measure the Wood for the Ice Chest

Measure the fridge’s width, depth, and height. From one side of the fridge, measure the center line running the length. Next, measure the center line of the top half and the bottom half. You may want to add an inch of overhang on each side, just to cover all of your bases.

Also, figure out how high you want it to be. You will want a height at about your waist for ease of use. If the wood is weathered, you will have to take that into consideration too with your measurements.​

4. Time to make the cuts

Cut your top and bottom halves from the 2″ x 1/4″ slats. You will need to trim out the top and edges. Add trim to the top to hide where the old fridge meets the wood. Cut your wood down to about 2″ wide with your saw. You can use 90-degree angles if you want to keep it simple or get a little fancy with 45-degree angles.

Cut your 4″ x 1/4″ slats to the height of your future ice chest. If you want legs then cut those too. Add trim to the sides and decorative pieces as you desire to create your ideal look.

Create the lid frame too. Measure your lid, create a wood box around it, and attach it with screws. When you put the lid on the ice chest, it should fit snugly and be a little ​lower than your frame. When the lid is in place, screw it in tightly.

Obviously, the exact cuts you make will depend on several factors, such as the size of your old fridge, the height you desire, and how you want it to look on your patio or other location.​

5. Time to screw

This is DIY, so get your mind out of the gutter. Put your 3″ screws into the center of your 2″ x 1/4″ slats cut in the length of the top and bottom halves. Also put the screws about 6″ from each end.

Next, screw your 4″ x 1/4″ slats (cut already to the height you want for your ice chest) into the 2″ x 1/4″ slats using 3″ wood screws. Specifically, use two of the screws for the top slat and three of them for the slat on the bottom. Aim for a duplicate design for the top and bottom.

Repeat the process for the doors on top that were once the fridge and freezer doors. If you want to add legs, now is the time to do so. The height and style of the legs are totally up to you.

If you want to create a support for the ice cooler, you can do so too. As well, add glue along with the screws if you want extra strength.

For a collection of 16.000(!)  woodworking plans, take a look here.

6. Put in the drain plug

Ensure the location you choose for the drain plug is low on the side and won’t get bumped. Drill a hole into the ice chest that is big enough to accommodate a 1/2″ x 1″ nipple, which you will connect to a 1/2″ elbow.

That elbow then connects to clear 1/2″ tubing that is 30″ long. This tubing joins to a 1/2″ x 3″ nipple, which then links to a 1-1/2″ garden hose spigot.

Check out this guide to installing an ice chest drain plug for additional pointers for this part of the project.​

7. Final touches

Now you just have to move your ice chest to the place where you want it to sit permanently. Fill it with ice and load it up with the items for tonight’s barbeque. 

If you would like the doors to ​stay open while you rummage through the cooler, then add hinges to the two doors. If you have old cabinet hinges you’re not using at home, just put in those to save a few bucks. Attach them to your lid first and then to the base of the the ice chest. If you want to go more upscale, use hydraulic hinges that open and close gently.

This DIY project is a great way to reuse a refrigerator you have just sitting around unused at home. Turn an old fridge into an ice chest following these 7 steps. You’ll amaze your friends and family. Your new ice chest is arguably even cooler than the fridge was in the first place (yes, we’re punny, we know it!).

Are you looking for another way to reuse an old item? Take a broken guitar and DIY it into innovative shelving with our instruction guide!