What Is a Good Microwave Oven Location?

Microwave Oven Placement

A major challenge in kitchen design is finding a good, or even acceptable, microwave oven location. Microwaves are the most difficult appliances to place. They are a peculiar size. Upper wall cabinets in a kitchen are typically 12 inches deep and lower base cabinets are typically 24 inches deep. But not so for microwave ovens. These come in 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 within the upper cabinet, they stick out past the face of the other cabinets. But that’s not even the worst of it.

Microwave Oven Drawers

Microwave Ovens Get Placed at Awkward Heights

It is hard to find the perfect height for the microwave oven location. They are the most convenient to use when they are placed between the countertop and the upper cabinets. But that uses up precious countertop space. Sometimes people try placing the microwave in the base cabinets, below the countertop. This gets them out of the way. But when they are placed this low, it’s nearly impossible to see and use the controls without crouching down. And taking bowls and plates of hot food out of microwave ovens down this low is a recipe for getting burned or spilling the soup all over the floor.

If 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. Creating a microwave oven location on a shelf lower than the upper cabinets makes the microwave easy to use. But it effectively makes the countertop below it unusable because there just is not enough space between the top of the countertop and the bottom of the microwave shelf to be useful.

A Combination Microwave and Range Hood Is Another Poor Solution

I really don’t like the combination microwave and range hood. 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. With a microwave oven located this high, you won’t be able to see the food inside of it.

The Only Microwave Oven Location Options that Work

The only reasonable solutions are to either place the microwave oven right on the countertop or place it in a full-height cabinet with the wall oven, if you have one. If you put it on the countertop, you might be able create a recessed “niche” in the wall behind the microwave, giving you room to push the microwave back a few inches and get the door of the oven to align with the doors of the cabinets above it. This improves the appearance of the microwave and opens up about twelve inches of countertop space in front of the microwave that can be useful when taking food in and out of the microwave.

If you have a large enough kitchen and a wall oven, the microwave can be placed in the same tall cabinet as the wall oven. With a single wall oven, you should be able to place both the oven and the microwave at convenient heights, one above the other.

Built-in and Enclosed Microwaves

You can buy some nice looking microwaves that can be installed with a surrounding enclosure to give a built-in appearance. This will work nicely until the microwave breaks down and you need to replace it. Make sure your new microwave will fit within the enclosure you already have.

Microwave Oven Placement

A Microwave Drawer

There is one other microwave oven location that is really quite nice. It is below the countertop but does not have the usual problems a typical microwave would have in that location. Consider a microwave “drawer.” These are specially designed microwaves that open and close like a drawer with a push of a button and a nudge of your hand. They open and close slowly and smoothly, so the food doesn’t spill off the plate or out of the bowls. And the controls are on the top edge of the drawer making them easy to see and operate. It is an elegant solution to a vexing problem.

No one has found the perfect way to handle the awkward microwave oven. 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.

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

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Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch

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