In this instructable I'll be showing you how to turn an old broken refrigerator into an awesome rustic cooler, great for parties, bonfires, and all of types of outdoor festivities. This project is easy to tackle and best of all it doesn't cost a lot to build as most of the materials are recycled or reclaimed. This is also a great weekend project as it should only take a day or two from start to finish and doesn't require any specialized tools beyond standard wood working tools like drills, drivers, and saws.


  • It can be used as a small or large cooler depending on the size of your party. Intimate get together with friends? Just use the freezer space to chill a few beverages and some snacks. Big Ol' Shin Dig? Open both the freezer and fridge spaces to create a huge cooler to chill all sorts of beverages and goodies. Just add ice.
  • Sturdy flat topped lids are just the right height to double as an impromptu table or food preparation area.
  • 4 heavy duty casters allow for the cooler to be easily moved
  • When left open, the indoor fridge shelves serve as a great place to sort condiments or extra stacks of cups.
  • After use the cooler can easily be drained of melted ice via a drain value installed in the bottom of the cooler.
  • it looks great!
  • It's only $40 to make (if you happen to have an old broken fridge laying around, if not hit Craigslist).
  • Front chalk board lets guests know what you have to drink/eat.
  • Sturdy handles and rope lid supports make the cooler easy to open and keep the lids from opening to far.

And if you enjoy this project please consider voting for it in the "Before & After", "Summer Fun", and Summer Food and Drink" Contests. Thanks!

Step 1: Tools and Materials


One of the best things about this project was the cost of materials, pretty much nothing! The broken refrigerator was left in the basement of my little sisters new home, and the pallets for free to take from a local business. Really the only things that had to be purchased were a few cans of spray paint, some caulking, a few plumbing fittings, two 2" X 4"s, and some casters. All told, the cost of this project was somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 and considering how big this project is I think that's pretty cost effective.

Old Refrigerator - Make sure the Freon has been properly removed, more info on this in step 4.

Pallets - You'll need about 4 pallets to get enough wood for this project.

Screws - 1 1/4" wood screws work well for this project


Liquid Nails

Casters - To make it move.

2" X 4"s - For framing in the bottom of the fridge and to build the base the cooler sits on.

Misc PVC/Brass Fittings - Used to construct a drain at the bottom of the cooler for easy draining after use.

Rope and Eye Bolts - To keep the cooler lids from opening too far.

Black Spray Paint


The tools for this project are pretty standard and are things that most people who like to dabble in making and wood working probably already have sitting in their workshop.

Drill/Driver - Pilot holes and driving screws.

Chop Saw - Useful to cut perfect 90 degree ends on the prepared pallet boards.

Circular Saw - For breaking down pallets.

Sander - for knocking down rough edges on pallet wood and for roughing up the fridge for painting.

Caulking Gun - For plugging holes in the refrigerator to make it waterproof and for applying liquid nails.

Pry-Bars and Hammers - For breaking down pallets into usable lengths of wood.

<p>I called around to have a broken fridge removed from my basement.. NYC estimates came in around $100 - $150 to remove.. WTF.. After extensive search (aka google) for a solution I stumbled on this pix read every word. Two weeks Im almost done. </p><p> later..A few minor touched this weekend and I am done. This Idea ROCKS!!!!</p>
<p>This would also be an attractive unit to pack with insulation and use as a Wonder Oven and remembering our family get togethers this would have had numerous dishes cooking or staying hot and handy (a turkey/ham, Baked Mostaccioli etc). I would opt for using chopped straw pillows rather than foam pellets though... Reusing with Style and imagination! </p><p><a href="http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/slow-cooking-with-the-amazing-wonder-oven/" rel="nofollow">http://www.backdoorsurvival.com/slow-cooking-with-the-amazing-wonder-oven/</a></p>
<p>has anyone asked about what you do to deter mold? I have a fridge in the garage that i hardly use and if i store it with the doors closed it gets mold.</p>
<p>Mold grows where there is food for the mold. if you're getting mold in an unused fridge, it's feeding on old food particles. It just needs to be scrubbed and sanitized with bleach, 1 Tbsp/gal water will be fine and food safe, and should deter any new growth.</p>
<p>We have an old fridge and an old freezer, both rarely used. Simply chock the door open a few inches with a board or rolled up towel, then loosely tie a rope around the fridge door to hold it in place and keep the door from swinging open. It only needs to be open far enough to let air go in and out so that it will dry, and you will be mold-free!</p>
<p>We have an old fridge and an old freezer, both rarely used. Simply chock the door open a few inches with a board or rolled up towel, then loosely tie a rope around the fridge door to hold it in place and keep the door from swinging open. It only needs to be open far enough to let air go in and out so that it will dry, and you will be mold-free!</p>
<p>Wouldn't cladding a little, or massive, chest freezer, already leak proof with a spring loaded door in place be a better appliance to use?</p>
here's my take on it, ply as the sides and angle iron to frame off the lids
<p>I agree with themanwoaname's question. What to do to deter mold in the future??? Aside from that...excellent instructable! I definitely plan on doing this :)</p>
<p>We have an old fridge and an old freezer, both rarely used. Simply chock<br> the door open a few inches with a board or rolled up towel, then <br>loosely tie a rope around the fridge door to hold it in place and keep <br>the door from swinging open. It only needs to be open far enough to let <br>air go in and out so that it will dry, and you will be mold-free!</p>
<p>I have an old fridge and this looks like a project for me... I'm looking forward to the finished result yah!!!</p>
<p>I made this one out of a camp trailer fridgerator.</p>
<p>I voted for it! Very neat idea! Cant wait to try it out myself! </p>
<p>Congratulations on the win :~)</p><p>Well done!</p>
<p>Thanks CraigRJess!! And thank you very much to everyone who voted, commented, and supported this project, you guys rock!!</p>
This 'ible is an AMAZING idea!!! I am extremely excited to try my own version out :-D (I'm also extremely tempted to head out to the kitchen right now and &quot;accidentally&quot; break our refrigerator so I can build one, but I'm pretty sure my wife would ground me from ever going in there again if I did lol). The question of ice was brought up before, my refrigerator is 14.25 cubic feet, and if my math and the information I was given is right, that's about 280 pounds of ice... Did you happen to have an ice shelf in yours?
<p>Haha, I'm glad you liked the project! Yea probably not a good idea to break the fridge, when I explained the hot sand bending process to my fiance' the first thing she said was that I'd be grounded from the kitchen if I ever used one of her good pans for something like that, so i'm sure the wrath from fridge destruction would be much more severe. Oh and yes I did build a shelf inside my cooler to take the pictures as I wanted the food and beverages to sit up high so the cooler would look really full. normally I'd just fill the cooler 1/4 full, or fill it with a combination water and ice, or I'd fill plastic totes with ice and then set them down inside the cooler, all three of which would be great solutions and would prevent the need for a dump truck full of ice. Thanks for your comment!</p>
Thank you for your 'ible :-) This is, to date, one of the absolute best I have come across :-D my boss, two of my coworkers, brother, wife, and I ABSOLUTELY love it :-) (I've been telling everyone I know about it lol)
<p>Voted! I was going to do this with a cooler, but I love this idea way more! Great job!!</p>
<p>Project looks great and would be a fun deck addition. I was wondering however how much ice is required to fill the fridge up to the top? Did you fill it completely or did you build shelves or something to reduce the overall volume?</p>
<p>that is really awesome! I love the rustic look, and its so useful. great job man! </p>
<p>I think this is wonderful! Thank you</p>
<p>Quick question... did you shallow up the holes or are you just dumping in enough ice to fill that 3ft deep hole? Very cool idea btw! :)</p>
Excellent instructions, one thing i may have missed reading - what did you use to divide the &quot;freezer&quot; section from the &quot;refrigerator&quot; section? And did you seal it so one section didn't seep to the other?<br>Thanks!
Its a full size fridge layed on its back with the freezer and fridge already separate
Thanks, in the 'dismantling the refrigerator&quot; pictures it shows that division being removed and electrical parts removed. The next part shows either a glass shelf or a grid shelf in place of the original divider, with no explanation of the steps after the electrical parts removed. It goes into freon removal, so I was curious
<p>Hi MicheleF,</p><p>That's a good question and probably something I should have explained better in the instructable (I'll do an edit to include this information ASAP). When the fridge was dismantled we had to remove the shelf that separated the freezer and the fridge so that we could pull out the wiring. Once the wiring was out we replaced the shelf and used caulking to seal around it so that the two chambers would be separate and as watertight as possible. Thanks for the great question.</p>
Thanks, that works!
<p>Awesome project ! I am always in favor of re-using stuff (like the old 'fridge and pallets ) to make something useful ! But , yes , the freon needs to be removed by a trained HVAC technician , and properly recycled . A suggestion - the casters you used would only be useful on a smooth concrete floor . Wider , larger diameter wheels would roll much easier over gravel , etc . ( you can't roller skate on gravel , but you can ride a bicycle there ) You may want to add handles to the ends of this project to make it easier to carry and move around . Also the possibilities are endless on modifications . for instance , you could cover the larger door with a piece of formica or similar material ( like used on kitchen counter tops ) or even sheet vinyl floor material . Anyway , Thanks for a great idea !</p>
Great project! I was thinking of doing a smaller version with a medium size cooler. I was going to put legs on it so it would be higher up, but this is really cool, and has got some gears spinning in my head. I love that I get inspiration from other projects on this sight! Thanks!
<p>I love the repurposing of the refrigerator! And boy could the right-hand side handle a BiG party!</p>
<p>WOW!! Really great idea! Nice job writing up the tutorial for the rest of us to follow!</p><p>Clear, well explained step by step progress along with nice photos! Great job as always!!</p>
<p>Great idea! We are looking at making a kegerator in the same fashion and doing the pallet wood on it. Question, how much weight does it add?</p>
<p>The wood does add a good bit of weight, no doubt about that. I couldn't say exactly what it weighs but it does take two strong guys to pick it up and move it, which is why wheels were a very necessary addition to the design. Thanks for your comment!</p>
<p>Great idea. </p><p>Now I wish I had an old fridge, though I've a large cooler already and I don't host large parties.</p><p>An idea for some might be to consider adding a lock for when not in use lest neighbors think you're trying to entrap kids.</p>
<p>Yes, I, too, was concerned about children trying to &quot;hide&quot; in this. I think this is an absolutely wonderful idea. Love the idea of using it as a food prep area. You can purchase sink cutouts.</p>
<p>Thanks for the compliment Angela. I'm really interested in the idea of adding a sink on. I actually have a sketch pad full of half rendered ideas of how to make it work most effectively sitting here beside me.</p>
<p>That's a good point Toonces. The nice part is that it would be cake to add a shackle point for locking the doors closed as the wood siding lines up perfectly on the lids and sides of the fridge. Thanks for the great idea!</p>
<p>That's pretty great! Now fill it with homebrew kegs and start serving some suds!</p>
<p>Great idea!</p>
<p>So Awesome Great Work </p>
Nice idea of recycling an old fridge. But as AC technican I can tell you that there is no legal way to remove the refrigerant in diy. Most fridges have no connection to test if they are still under pressure. To get hooked in the system there is a special tool needed which punches a hole in the pipe and closes the same time. Also a set of gauges, a recycling pump and bottle is needed to make all save. At least a job for AC guys. While cutting a still filled system liquid refrigerant will blow and evaporate with up to -(subzero) 42 degree Celsius. So you can burn your fingers, hands and in the worst case your eyes. Also in more modern fridges the evaporator is foamed in the case and has to stay in. So there's no way to remove the complete system untouched. <br>Anyway nothing against your great project. But refrigerant systems can pollute the environment and harm the ozone layer too if you didn't let recycling the system.
<p>Given those facts, is it it your professional opinion that the refrigean could be left in the refrigerator as long as exstreme care was given not to puncture the coolant lines?</p>
<p>Well, there is no difference between a switched off or defect fridge and one where the pipes left untouched for this project. Refrigerators where build to keep the refrigerant inside for the time period of their life. Sure, leaks can happen in operation due bad soldering or welding points or vibrating tubes. In this case the refrigerant mostly disappears in a long time period. </p><p>To ask your question, if you build this project leaving all refrigerant components in place, there is, in my opinion, no risk for human and environment. But keep in mind, that the complete fridge can not operate in horizontal position.</p>
<p>I love this Instructable. Great idea and great job. Thanks.</p>
<p>I LOVE this! I have a broken fridge and a big backyard event coming up. Instead of getting the fridge out of the yard I can repurpose it. Thanks for the clear detailed instructions.</p>
<p>Matt this is one of the very best projects ever presented in Instructables. Wow, what a great job. If I saw this 30-40 years ago I would be out scouting for for a fridge. Well done.........</p>
<p>This is an awesome project. I think I'll make one for my daughter. she has a pool and the large side would would be great to store pool toys.</p>
<p>I sent a link out to cousins and friends&hellip;. and now it's on a few 'to do' lists. I get to look cool by association.</p><p>You got my vote for the Summer Fun contest because that there fridge can hold a ton of summer fun.</p>

About This Instructable




More by Matt2 Silver:Entertainment Center to Awesome Kitchen Play Set Zelda Inspired Foldable Leather and Canvas Belt Pouch DIY Big Peg Board Shelving System 
Add instructable to: