From ugly to lovely...the fridge edit

DIY: How to build a microcement surround with storage space (beautiful house) for your (ugly) fridge, all for under £150


I wanted to do something about our fridge from the moment we unwrapped it and plonked it in the corner of the kitchen. Our previous slimline, integrated fridge freezer had broken down and we bought this larger freestanding model to replace it because we needed more space to keep up with our ever-growing food requirements (three boys empty the fridge at about the same rate as a plague of locusts - fact.)


The new fridge was great from a practical perspective, but it was big, ugly and looked out of place floating around in the corner of the kitchen.

I was thinking about constructing a slat screen to the left hand side of it which would solve the ugly problem from the side at least, but wouldn’t help the ‘we can’t stop chucking clutter on top of it’ issue, so I went back to the drawing board.


Minimalist japandi style kitchen with microcement worktops

A few months passed, during which time I gave the rest of the kitchen a total revamp. Part of this revamp involved microcementing the worktops & backsplash and adding waterfall ends. During this process (which you can read about here) I fell in love with microcement because of its versatility, cost effectiveness and interesting texture; this led me to incorporate microcement into the design of the fridge surround.


I knew a built-in unit with microcement finish to the fridge unit would improve the flow of the kitchen and to further connect this side of the room, I decided to add doors to the storage area, over the top and paint them in the same colour as the kitchen units that I’d just repainted and also to add matching handles.


Here's what I used... (the below list contains some affiliate links)


Timber

Screws

Saw

Mdf sheet

Glue

Panel pins

Microcement polished concrete kit

Spreader

Sealant

Cupboard door paint -in shade Tea Leaf

Handles

Hinges

Sander

Varying grit sander pads

Screwdriver

Drill


Here's how I did it


1. Building the frame


Note: I'm not an expert at stud-work and I kind of made this part up as I went along. I'm sure professional carpenters would have a few choice words to say about my timber frame, but i figured as it was going to be hidden under mdf sheeting and microcement that as long as it was sturdy and fit for purpose that it didnt matter too much how pretty it was.



  • I measured the fridge and the floor to ceiling height & calculated how wide the frame would need to be to allow for good airflow around the fridge (at least 10cm gap on all sides)

  • I drew the shape of the frame I wanted to build and calculated each measurement that I would need to cut for the timber.

  • Starting with one side first, I remeasured and then cut the pieces of timber I needed.

  • I attached the pieces of timber using long screws and had drilled pilot holes into the wood beforehand. If the wood was going to be on display then I would have gone to the trouble of using a countersink drill bit to ensure that the screw heads were below the surface, but as I was going to be covering the frame I didn't bother.

  • I built the opposite side of the frame in the same way and once they were both in position I attached the joining pieces.

  • I wanted some storage in the top section so made sure there was timber positioned at the required height above the fridge to support a piece of board that would made the base of the storage section. I knew this supporting board would need to be quite sturdy so used a piece of plasterboard that I had already, as this would save money and waste. If I was buying from scratch I would've used thick mdf or ply board (approx 1cm thick for strength).


2. Cladding the frame in MDF

  • Once the frame was complete I clad it in MDF.

  • I actually used two layers of mdf to get the thickness I wanted because to fit a large enough piece in my car I needed to bend it slightly and the thicker mdf (12mm+) doesn't bend. I was keen to avoid joins as the microcement is very thin so imperfections can show through if you aren't careful.

  • To attach the mdf I used a combination of grab adhesive (no more nails is my favourite) and panel pins which I hammered in along the edge and across the middle as this is where the frame was.

  • I covered the side of the surround and the front area that would go around the cupboards with the mdf, basically anywhere that would be covered in microcement. (Ignore the shelves in the last picture above! I originally intended to microcement shelves into the side of the unit but once I started I realised that they weren't going to look right and actually distracted you from the beautiful texture of the microcement which really deserved to be the main feature.

Now for the fun bit...


Before starting on the actual microcement process I glued the edges where the mdf sheets met to ensure that no moisture would be able to get in and cause the frame to separate later on. I also did this where there were any joins or imperfections in the frame.


Top tip: Make sure you cover the floor! I was a bit blasé the first time round(I took the same approach I usually do with painting which is getting really excited and jumping straight in without dust sheets etc), thinking I'd be able to avoid spillages and was wrong.


Priming

- Once the glue had dried, I sanded it lightly to ensure the surface was smooth.

- I then primed the whole unit, referring to the Concrete Lab instructions for the primer dilution ratio. I went over the unit two or three times with the primer making sure that it was really saturating the surface as was conscious that this whole unit was made up of vertical surfaces, meaning that good adhesion was essential.

Note: Once you've finished priming don't throw the primer away as you need it again later in the process.


Mixing up the microcement for layer 1

- While the primer was drying I made up the first batch of microcement, again following the Concrete Lab instructions. (Their kit is great as it contains all the materials you need and comes with helpful instructions. Their YouTube channel is super helpful as has loads of videos demonstrating the products.)

Top Tip: Make up small batches of microcement to take the pressure off

The first time I used it I made the mistake of mixing the whole lot up. I was worried about how to gauge the quantities of the diluted resin mix required for smaller batches so erred on the side of caution and mixed up the whole lot as I knew exactly how much resin was needed for the whole bag. The trouble is, the mix starts to go off and you need to add water to keep it useable if you take longer than about 45 mins to apply. You don’t want to feel rushed so I would advise dividing the bag into smaller batches (say thirds or quarters) and then what I did this time round was make up the resin liquid required for the whole lot in a four-pint milk container (that I had cleaned out beforehand) as you can store with the lid on in between uses and it’s easy to mark on the side of the container how much liquid you will need for each smaller batch.


- Don’t laugh, but I used an old electric cake mixer with only one beater to mix (ever the professional DIYer lol). Anyway, it worked a treat and I can’t stress how important the mixing is. I used the mixer on the dry powder first to make sure there were no lumps etc before adding the diluted resin liquid in stages, mixing at each stage. I found that the beaters didn't reach the very edge of the bucket, so needed to scrape them with a trowel to find the remaining dry powder before a final mix at the end.




Top Tip: I found the microcement much easier to use when it was quite runny. Before using it i thought a thicker mix would be preferable and was surprised at how runny it needed to be.

Applying layer 1

-I used the spreader tool recommended by Concrete Lab (I'd previously used a variety of trowels and spreaders that I already had and was keen to see if their tool worked better) and being really honest it took me a little while to get used to as I'd developed my own technique when I did the kitchen previously. This is why the first few pics look a bit rubbish(!), as I was getting used to a)using the new spreader and b) working on a vertical surface (there were no horizontal worktops to ease in gently with this time round!). I have to say though, once I'd got the hang of the new tool it was brilliant and gave me a lot more control over the texture of the microcement. In fact, it was so good that I didn't need to sand the unit once dry which was such a benefit as sanding does create a certain amount of dust, even with the hoover attachment on the sander I don't think you can totally avoid it.

Texture examples


I found that you can control the texture by how hard you press the spreader and how much you smooth it down. For a very smooth, polished concrete finish apply more pressure and work each area in well. If you want a rougher more textured finish then apply less pressure and use the spreader to create patterns & shapes.




Top Tip: Start at the top - As I mentioned, it’s quite a messy process, so start at the top and work down so as not to mess up the bits you’ve already done with splats and drips.


  • Once I'd covered the whole unit in the first layer I left it to dry.

  • The whole drying process took about 24 hours, but I went back to the edges after a couple of hours and very gently ran the spreader over any lumps and bumps to give a neat sharp line. Don't press hard or it will come off in large chunks, but very gentle pressure means you can avoid sanding once dry.

Top Tip: Don't panic if the first coat isn't perfect as it will be completely covered by layer two. My first attempt on the kitchen worktops had a few imperfections that I was able to sand out before applying the second layer. After practising on the first coat, the second was much easier to apply.


Prime again

  • I'm going to be really honest here and say that I forgot to do this step this time round (whoops!) I did it on the worktops previously so I've created an excellent experiment to measure the importance of primer after the first coat! (So far so good and I'm hoping that bits won't start flaking off the fridge anytime soon).


Applying the second layer

  • I mixed up another batch of microcement and repeated the steps from layer one.

  • I'd really got the hang of the spreader tool by now and really enjoyed the process.



Top Tip: Don't forget to cover the thin edges of the mdf (the bits that will be adjacent to the cupboard doors and the fridge) as this strengthens the edges of the microcement and also means you won't catch glimpse of mdf when you are close up. I found this process really fiddly as the mdf was less than 10mm thick, but it was worth persevering as really added to the overall look at the end.


  • Once I was happy that the whole unit was covered and all the edges and joins were neat I left it to dry again. In the meantime I finished the doors for the front of the unit.


The doors

I'd started this process a couple of days before as the paint needs time to really set otherwise it can scratch.

I cut up an old cupboard door that I had in the garage (see, this is why I keep loads of crap, as you never know when it might come in useful!!).

  • I measured the height and width to be covered by doors and divided the width in half to determine the individual door measurements.

  • I marked the cut lines on the door (measuring twice & cutting once, you know the drill!) then cut along them using my saw. I really do need an electric saw, but never quite get round to buying one!

  • I sanded the edges I'd cut to give a smooth finish.

  • I painted the doors using Rustoleum cupboard door paint in shade Tea Leaf and left to dry. I didn't prime as this door had already been painted previously.

  • Once dry, I applied another coat of the cupboard door paint and allowed to dry.

  • Once dry, I attached the handles using ones that matched the recently revamped kitchen cabinets.

  • I fitted hinges to the side, ensuring they were flush to the side of the door.

  • I held the door in position against the unit and marked the hinge holes with a pencil onto the wood.

  • I drilled pilot holes into the pencil marks.

  • I got someone to hold the door in position for me this time and screwed the screws through the hinges into the pilot holes.

As you can see from the pictures above, I changed the design of the doors. I initially planned them to be larger & simpler but they made the unit look top-heavy so I made the microcement border around them a bit wider and added a border below the cupboards and I think it made the whole thing look more in proportion.


The results

And so you have it, a bargainous DIY fridge surround with storage and a microcement finish all for under £150.


The Costs

Timber - £41.50

MDF - £26

Nails, glue & misc - £12

Microcement - £70 (I used half a 5msq kit & had a 10% discount code which all new customers can get)

Door, Paint & handles - I had leftover from the kitchen revamp.

Sealant - I have this from the previous project too.

Total - £149.50 (would have been approx £200 if I didn't have the leftover bits, still a bargain!)


Sealing the microcement

At the time of writing this I haven’t had a chance to seal the microcement but plan to in the next few days. The sealing process is a bit of a faff and requires a lot of concentration as the process to make up each of the (four coats!) of sealant re syringe measured quantities of parts a and b in conjunction with very precisely timed mixing and shaking of liquids. However, it is all worth it as the sealant is fantastically good and creates a total barrier on the surface which is easy to clean and maintain. I previously used the sealant recommended by Concrete Lab and will do so again this time. You can find the instructions here.

If this has inspired you to get DIY’ing then please do tag me if you share the results on social media, I’d love to see!


Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page).


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Thanks again.

Claire


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