How To Turn An Old Broken Refrigerator Into An Awesome Rustic Cooler

How To Turn an Old Refrigerator Into An Awesome Rustic Cooler

Here's One Awesome $40 Project That Any DIY Warrior Will Love!

Don’t abandon that old broken refrigerator just yet! With a few old pallets and a few tools you can turn an old broken fridge into a really awesome cooler that’s great for any backyard or outdoor activity.

This is an easy weekend project that can be done over a day or two and best of all it’ll cost very little to make because you’ll be recycling most of the materials you’ll need. So if you’ve got some standard tools and a little DIY know-how, here’s how to make an awesome cooler you’ll enjoy for a long time.


  • 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.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

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
  • Caulking
  • 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.

Step 2: Breaking Down the Pallets


Breaking Down the Pallets
Breaking Down the Pallets

Breaking down the pallets can be a bit of a challenge considering how well they're put together. The method that seems to work the best or me is to cut through the deck boards where they attach to the side stringer boards of the pallet. This leaves only the middle stringer and the deck boards attached and with a bit of leverage and some hammering you can easily separate the deck boards for use in your project.

Step 3: Processing the Pallet Wood

Processing the Pallet Wood

Once the pallets were dismantled, the next step was to process the deck boards so that they were 25.75″ long (the width of the refrigerator. To do this we assembled a quick jig for the cop saw that allowed us to index the boards to the correct length quickly so that all of the wood could be processed as efficiently as possible. We also left a few deck boards uncut so that they would be long enough to use for trim pieced in a later step.

Click the “Next” Button below for Steps #4-6 For Turning An Old Broken Refrigerator Into An Awesome Rustic Cooler


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