Microwaves Are the Most Awkward Appliances

Microwave Oven Placement

Microwave ovens are the most difficult appliances to place in a kitchen. They are a peculiar size. While upper wall cabinets are typically 12 inches deep and lower base cabinets are 24 inches deep, microwave ovens have many different depths depending on the manufacturer and model. They can range anywhere from 13 inches to 20 inches in depth. Because of these variations, if you place them in the upper cabinet area, they stick out past the face of the other cabinets. And that’s not even the worst of it.

It is hard to find the perfect height for microwave ovens. Sometimes people try placing the microwave in the base cabinets, below the countertop. This gets them out of the way. But when they are place this low, it’s nearly impossible to see and use the controls. And taking bowls and plates of hot food out of microwaves down this low is a recipe for getting burned.

Microwave Oven PlacementIf installing the microwave below the countertop doesn’t work, why not just put the microwave in the upper cabinets and just let it stick out? The bigger problem here is that now the bottom of the microwave is four and a half feet above the floor. That’s much too high for taking hot bowls of soup out of the microwave. It’s another accident waiting to happen. Setting the microwave on a shelf lower than the upper cabinets effectively makes the countertop below it unusable.

I really don’t like the combination microwave and exhaust fan. On the face of it, this might seem like a good way to make the microwave less of a nuisance. But actually, it places the microwave even higher making it more difficult to use.

The only reasonable solution is to either place the microwave oven right on the countertop. Or you could place it in a full-height cabinet with the wall oven, if you have one. If you can, you might create a recessed “niche” behind the microwave so you could push it back a few inches and get the door of the oven align with the doors of the cabinets above it.

Microwave Oven DrawersYou can buy some nice looking microwaves that can be installed with a surrounding enclosure to give a built-in appearance. And you can buy microwaves that operate like drawers, thus letting you place them below the countertop. Some folks like these, but others feel they are clumsy in their own way. Still no one has found the perfect way to handle this awkward appliance. Yet most of us cannot live without one. So, when planning your kitchen design, be sure to give a lot of thought to where you will place the microwave oven. Hopefully you can find the “least bad” place for it.

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Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch

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