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Where To Put The Microwave In A Kitchen – Design & Layout Tips

In every kitchen, the placement of a microwave is an important decision that can impact both functionality and aesthetics. With various placement options available, it’s crucial to choose the right spot that suits your needs and enhances the overall design of your kitchen.

In this post, I’ll explore various microwave placement options, discussing the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for your kitchen.

I’ve avoided stating the obvious and saying you should put the microwave on your countertop. This post is to give you ideas and options for how, and where you can put a microwave in a kitchen that isn’t just on your countertop!

So, let’s dive in!

The Importance of Microwave Placement in the Kitchen

The microwave – it’s a staple in nearly every kitchen, a must-have for people leading busy lives. But have you ever stopped to consider where exactly it should go? The placement of your microwave isn’t just about convenience; it can be a crucial aspect of your kitchen’s design and functionality. As can all appliance locations!

Choosing the right spot for your microwave can free up valuable counter space, improve the flow of your kitchen, and even enhance safety by reducing the need to carry hot food across the room. It’s a detail that might seem small, but it can have a big impact on how you use and enjoy your kitchen.

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Microwave Placement

When deciding where to place your microwave, there are several factors to consider.

First and foremost, think about ease of access. The microwave should be in a location that’s easy to reach for all members of the household.

Next, consider the aesthetics. Do you want your microwave to be visible, or would you prefer it to blend in with your cabinetry for a more streamlined look?

Safety is another important consideration. The microwave should be placed in a location that minimizes the need to carry hot food across the kitchen, reducing the risk of accidents.

Finally, think about ventilation. Microwaves need ventilation to work correctly, so make sure your chosen spot allows for proper air circulation.

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Microwave Placement Options & Ideas

I’ve come up with a range of options and ideas for where to put the microwave in your kitchen. These can work for both freestanding or built-in integrated microwaves depending on the situation and cabinet construction considerations. Hopefully, there’s a microwave placement idea that works for you.

Below the Counter

One popular option for microwave placement is below the counter. This can be an excellent space-saving solution, particularly for smaller kitchens or for those who prefer a more minimalist look. The image below is of a hinged microwave, but drawer microwaves are perfectly suited for installation below the counter (more on those later).

Image – Harvey Jones

Pros:

  • Space-saving: Placing the microwave below the counter frees up valuable counter space, giving you more room for food prep and other kitchen tasks.
  • Convenience: A below-counter microwave is easy to access, especially for shorter individuals or children. It’s also a great option if you prefer not to lift hot food out of the microwave at a higher level.
  • Aesthetics: A below-counter microwave can be less visible in an open room layout, which can contribute to a cleaner, less cluttered look in your kitchen.

Cons:

  • Accessibility: For taller individuals, bending down to use the microwave might be inconvenient.
  • Safety: If you have young children, a below-counter microwave might be too easily accessible, posing potential safety risks.

Considerations

When installing a microwave below the counter, it’s important to consider the construction implications. You’ll need to ensure there’s enough space for the microwave and that there’s a power source nearby.

Also, remember that freestanding microwaves need ventilation to work correctly, so you’ll need to ensure that your chosen spot allows for proper air circulation. Built-in or integrated models are constructed with this in mind so no need for additional ventilation. If you’re considering a drawer-style microwave, be aware that these models tend to be more expensive and may have more specific installation requirements.

Over the Range (OTR)

Not something you see here in the UK (in fact, I’ve never done one). However, in North America, quite a common placement for the microwave is over the range. This option groups the microwave with the stove and cooker hood creating a streamlined look and making efficient use of space.

Where To Put The Microwave In A Kitchen -Over The Range OTR

Pros:

  • Space-saving: An over-the-range microwave frees up counter space, providing more room for food preparation and other kitchen tasks.
  • Efficiency: Grouping the microwave with the stove can create a more efficient workflow, especially when cooking meals that require both appliances.
  • Integrated features: Many over-the-range microwaves come with integrated range hoods, providing light and ventilation for the stove below.

Cons:

  • Accessibility: Over-the-range microwaves might be difficult to reach for shorter individuals or children.
  • Safety: There can be safety concerns with lifting hot food out of a microwave at chest or face level. Additionally, reaching over a hot stove to access the microwave can pose a risk.
  • Ventilation: While many over-the-range microwaves include ventilation features, they may not perform as well as a dedicated range hood, especially for more powerful ranges and cooktops.
  • Aesthetics: Maybe it’s just me but I’ve never liked the way these look. Big, bulky and a bit awkward. Just me?

Considerations

Installing an over-the-range microwave requires careful planning and construction. You’ll need to ensure there’s enough space above your stove and that the microwave can be installed at a safe and comfortable height.

The installation process might also involve running new wiring and ventilation ductwork, which could require professional assistance. Additionally, the microwave must be securely mounted to handle its weight and the frequent opening and closing of the door.

In an Appliance Garage

An appliance garage is a dedicated cabinet space where you can store and use kitchen appliances, including the microwave. This option allows you to keep your microwave out of sight when not in use, contributing to a clean and uncluttered kitchen aesthetic.

Microwave in appliance garage
Image – deVOL

Pros:

  • Aesthetics: An appliance garage can hide the microwave when it’s not in use, contributing to a clean, uncluttered look in your kitchen.
  • Space-saving: This option keeps the microwave off the countertop, freeing up valuable workspace.
  • Convenience: With the microwave in an appliance garage, it’s easy to access but out of the way when not needed.

Cons:

  • Ventilation: Microwaves need ventilation to function correctly, so you’ll need to ensure that the appliance garage allows for proper air circulation.
  • Accessibility: Depending on the design and location of the appliance garage, some people might find it inconvenient to have to open a cabinet every time they want to use the microwave.

Considerations

When planning for a microwave in an appliance garage, it’s crucial to consider the size and ventilation. The garage must be large enough to accommodate the microwave and allow for proper venting.

You’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source inside or near the appliance garage. Depending on the design of your kitchen and the location of your appliance garage, you might also need to run additional wiring.

In the Island

If you have a kitchen island, it can be an excellent place to install your microwave. This option offers a central, easily accessible location.

Where To Put The Microwave In A Kitchen - in a kitchen island

Pros:

  • Convenience: A microwave in the island is often easily accessible, making it a convenient option.
  • Space-saving: This option keeps the microwave off the countertop, freeing up valuable workspace elsewhere in the kitchen.

Cons:

  • Height: Depending on the design of your island, the microwave might be too low for some people’s comfort. This could also pose a safety risk if you have young children.
  • Installation: Installing a microwave in a kitchen island can be more complex and potentially more expensive than other options. Making sure there is power and correct space for ventilation if required.
  • Aesthetics: Again, maybe it’s just me but I like my kitchen islands to be a real focal point and wow factor. I don’t love the look of having a microwave break up the look of the cabinetry.

Considerations

When planning to install a microwave in a kitchen island, you’ll need to consider the size of the microwave and the available space in the island. The island must be large enough to accommodate the microwave while still providing sufficient storage and functionality.

You’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source available in the island. This might require running electrical wiring through the floor, which could involve more complex construction work.

Ventilation is another important consideration. Freestanding microwaves will need sufficient ventilation to operate safely and efficiently, so you’ll need to plan for this in your island design.

Drawer Microwave

A drawer microwave is a type of built-in microwave that’s installed under the countertop. It pulls out like a drawer, providing a unique and convenient option for microwave placement.

Where To Put The Microwave In A Kitchen - drawer microwave

Pros:

  • Convenience: A drawer microwave is easy to access and can be installed at a convenient height. It’s also easy to lift food in and out of, reducing the risk of spills.
  • Space-saving: This option keeps the microwave off the countertop, freeing up valuable workspace.

Cons:

  • Cost: Drawer microwaves tend to be more expensive than traditional freestanding countertop or built-in models.
  • Installation: Installing a drawer microwave can be more complex and potentially more expensive than other options.
  • Repair and Maintenance: Due to their unique design, drawer microwaves might require specialized repair and maintenance.

Considerations

When planning to install a drawer microwave, you’ll need to consider the size of the microwave and the available space in your cabinetry. The cabinet must be large enough to accommodate the microwave and allow for proper ventilation.

You’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source available in or near the cabinet. This might require running electrical wiring through the wall or floor, which could involve more complex construction work.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the height of the installation. The microwave should be at a level that’s safe and comfortable for all users to access.

Integrated into a Wall Cabinet / Upper Cabinets

Integrating the microwave into a wall cabinet is another popular option. This placement can provide a more seamless look that blends the microwave flush with your kitchen cabinetry. I’m talking about built-in, integrated or microwaves with trim kits here. Not a freestanding microwave in an upper cabinet. Although that could also work.

Where To Put The Microwave In A Kitchen - into a  wall cabinet

Pros:

  • Aesthetics: A microwave integrated into a wall cabinet can contribute to a sleek, modern kitchen design.
  • Space-saving: This option keeps the microwave off the countertop, freeing up valuable workspace.
  • Accessibility: Depending on the height of the cabinet, this placement can offer easy access for most users. Just make sure it’s not too high!

Cons:

  • Height: Depending on the design of your kitchen and the height of your wall cabinets, some people might find it difficult to reach the microwave. This could also pose a safety risk if you have to lift hot food out of the microwave at a high level.
  • Installation: Installing a microwave in a wall cabinet can be more complex and potentially more expensive than other options.

Considerations

When planning to install a microwave in a wall cabinet, you’ll need to consider the size of the microwave and the available space in the cabinet. The cabinet must be large enough to accommodate the microwave.

Here in the UK (and I’m sure many other places), you can get integrated microwaves designed to fit into wall cabinets, which are shallower than standard tall or base cabinets. Many manufacturers offer these and most are available in 50cm or 60cm wide options.

You’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source available in or near the cabinet. This might require running electrical wiring through the wall, which could involve more complex construction work.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the height of the cabinet. It should be at a level that’s safe and comfortable for all users to access. They will normally be positioned at the bottom of a wall cabinet, but varying cabinet heights and designs may alter this, so always make sure you can reach it comfortably.

In A Tall Cabinet / Wall Oven Tower

Placing a microwave above a wall oven in a tall cabinet, often referred to as a wall oven tower, is a practical design solution that’s gaining popularity. This option groups cooking appliances together for a cohesive look and functionality.

It’s probably the location and design style I do most often nowadays. Whether that’s a stand-alone microwave or a compact combi oven with microwave function on top of a full-size regular built-in oven.

Where To Put The Microwave In A Kitchen - in tower cabinet

Pros:

  • Efficiency: Grouping the microwave with the wall oven can create a more efficient workflow, especially when cooking meals that require both appliances.
  • Aesthetics: This placement maintains a consistent look in your kitchen, as cooking appliances are kept together.
  • Accessibility: Positioning the microwave above a wall oven typically places it at a convenient height for most users.

Cons:

  • Installation: Installing a microwave in a wall oven tower can be more complex and potentially more expensive than other options. Tall cabinets are expensive and you’ll need to make sure the niche (hole) is the correct size for your particular appliance set-up.
  • Space: This option requires enough wall space to accommodate a tall cabinet, which may not be available in smaller kitchens.

Considerations

When planning to install a microwave in a wall oven tower, you’ll need to consider the size of both the microwave and the oven, as well as the available space in the cabinet. The cabinet must be large enough to accommodate both appliances.

You’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source available in or near the cabinet. This will likely be a larger cable and electrical load, especially if it’s a combi microwave oven.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the height of the cabinet. The microwave should be at a level that’s safe and comfortable for all users to access, and you should avoid placing it too high to prevent lifting hot foods above your line of sight.

Inside a Larder/Pantry Cabinet

Placing a microwave inside a larder or pantry cabinet can be a great option that helps maintain a clean, uncluttered look in your kitchen. This placement is often used in kitchens where preserving a particluar aesthetic is important. Be that traditional or contemporary and minimalist. Basically, you want to hide the microwave completely!

Pros:

  • Aesthetics: A microwave inside a larder cabinet can be hidden when not in use, contributing to a clean, uncluttered look in your kitchen.
  • Space-saving: This option keeps the microwave off the countertop, freeing up valuable workspace.
  • Convenience: With the microwave in a pantry cabinet, it’s easy to access but out of the way when not needed.

Cons:

  • Ventilation: If it’s a freestanding, countertop Microwave it will need ventilation to function correctly, so you’ll need to ensure that the cabinet allows for proper air circulation. Built-in models, the same ones used in wall cabinets will work great here!
  • Accessibility: Depending on the design and location of the larder cabinet, some people might find it inconvenient to reach.

Considerations

When planning to install a microwave in a pantry cabinet, you’ll need to consider the size of the microwave and the available space in the cabinet. If it’s freestanding, you’ll also need to factor in ventilation or a trim kit. Built-in wall cabinet microwaves already have this factored in.

However, you must never have the microwave in use and close the cabinet doors! Even built-in, integrated appliances are not designed for this, and this lack of ventilation can cause problems and overheating with the appliance. So if you’re using it, leave the cabinet doors open!

Again, you’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source available in or near the cabinet. I think it’s always a nice idea to have some power (sockets/outlets) in the back of a larder/pantry cabinet anyway!

And, as always, you’ll need to consider the height of the microwave in the cabinet. It should be at a level that’s safe and comfortable for all users to access.

Get an Oven with Microwave Function (Combi Oven)

A combination oven, or combi oven, is an appliance that combines the functions of a microwave and a traditional oven. This option can be a great space-saving solution and offers the convenience of two appliances in one.

You can get compact ovens with microwave functions as well as full-size ovens with microwave functions.

Oven with microwave function

Pros:

  • Efficiency: A combi oven offers the functionality of both a microwave and a traditional oven, making it a versatile addition to any kitchen.
  • Space-saving: This option combines two appliances into one, freeing up valuable kitchen space.
  • Convenience: With a combi oven, you can quickly defrost food with the microwave function, then switch to the oven function to bake or roast. You can even combine the two to give you the best jacket potatoes, trust me!

Cons:

  • Cost: Combi ovens can be more expensive than purchasing a separate microwave and oven.
  • Maintenance: If one function breaks, you could potentially lose the use of both an oven and a microwave.
  • Learning curve: Combi ovens can have many features and functions, which might take some time to learn how to use effectively.

Considerations

As always, you’ll need to consider the size of the appliance and the available space in your kitchen. Where is it going to work best for your particular layout?

You’ll also need to ensure there’s a power source available. Combi ovens typically require a higher voltage outlet, which will require professional electrical work.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the height of the installation. The combi oven should be at a level that’s safe and comfortable for all users to access. Built into a base cabinet or a tall, full-height cabinet at an appropriate height are your options here.

Where Not to Put a Microwave in a Kitchen?

While there are many places where a microwave can be conveniently and safely placed in a kitchen, there are also a few spots that should be avoided. Here are some locations where you should not put a microwave. These are focused more towards freestanding countertop microwaves:

  • Near Water Sources: Avoid placing your microwave near your sink to prevent accidental spills or splashes from damaging the appliance.

  • Inside a Cabinet Without Ventilation: Microwaves need ventilation to function properly. Placing a microwave inside a cabinet without proper ventilation can cause the appliance to overheat, potentially leading to damage or even a fire risk.

  • On the Refrigerator: Placing a microwave on top of a freestanding fridge can be unsafe. The surface may not be stable, and the microwave could be too high to reach safely. It may sound silly, but I’ve seen it. Don’t do it!

  • Near Flammable Materials: Keep your microwave away from flammable materials, such as paper towels, or dishcloths.

  • In a Corner: Placing a microwave in a corner can restrict ventilation and make the appliance difficult to access.

  • On the Floor: This might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Placing a microwave on the floor is not safe or practical. It can be a tripping hazard and makes the appliance difficult to use.

Safety Considerations for Microwave Placement

When deciding where to place your microwave, safety is always a top priority. There are several safety considerations to keep in mind, including the importance of ventilation and the consideration of height and accessibility.

Importance of Ventilation

Microwaves need proper ventilation to function safely and efficiently. Without adequate ventilation, a microwave can overheat causing all kinds of issues with the appliances and may even lead to a fire.

When installing a microwave, make sure there’s enough space around the appliance for air to circulate. This is especially important if you’re placing the microwave into a cabinet or other enclosed space.

If you’re considering a built-in microwave, look for models designed for this type of installation, as they typically have ventilation systems as part of their design that allows for safe operation in enclosed spaces.

Consideration of Height and Accessibility

The height at which you install your microwave can have significant safety implications. Installing a microwave too high can make it difficult to safely remove hot food, increasing the risk of spills and burns.

On the other hand, a microwave that’s too low might be easily accessible to young children, posing potential safety risks.

When deciding on the height for your microwave, consider all the members of your household. The microwave should be easy to reach for adults while remaining out of reach for young children. You’ll know what’s best for you.

Aesthetic Considerations for Microwave Placement

While functionality and safety are crucial, the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen is also important. The placement of your microwave can significantly impact the overall look and feel of your kitchen.

Visual Appeal of Various Placement Options

Each microwave placement option has its own aesthetic implications. For example, a countertop microwave might be more visible, but it can also be easily moved or replaced to change the look of your kitchen.

On the other hand, built-in options like integrating the microwave into a wall cabinet or a kitchen island can provide a sleek, modern look. However, these options might require more extensive kitchen remodelling.

Similarly, placing the microwave in an appliance garage or a pantry cabinet can keep it out of sight for a cleaner, less cluttered look.

Think about the type of style and kitchen aesthetic you want to achieve. This will help you narrow down and decide which option is best for you.

Use of Trim Kits for a Seamless Look

If you’re placing your countertop microwave into your cabinetry, consider using a trim kit. A trim kit can provide a seamless look, making your microwave appear as if it’s built into the cabinetry.

Trim kits are available in various sizes and styles, so you can find one that matches your microwave and your kitchen decor. Search for a matching kit that works with the particular make and model of microwave that you have.

However, keep in mind that installing a trim kit might require professional assistance, especially if it involves modifying your cabinetry.

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Where to Put the Microwave in a Small Kitchen?

When dealing with a small kitchen, maximizing space and maintaining functionality is key. Here are a few suggestions for microwave placement in a small kitchen:

  • Below the Counter / Drawer Microwave: If you have limited counter space, consider placing the microwave below the counter or installing a drawer-style microwave. This keeps the microwave out of sight and frees up valuable counter space.

  • Combi Microwave Oven: If you’re really tight on space, consider investing in a combination microwave oven. This appliance combines the functionality of a microwave and a traditional oven, saving you the need for two separate appliances.

    It can be integrated into your cabinetry for a seamless look. Just remember that combi ovens can be more expensive, but the convenience and space-saving benefits can be well worth the investment in a small kitchen.

  • Inside a Pantry Cabinet: If you do have enough space for a pantry cabinet in your kitchen layout, this can be an excellent place to hide your microwave. It keeps the microwave out of sight when not in use, contributing to a clean and uncluttered kitchen aesthetic. Just make sure you’ve got that ventilation!

  • Integrated into a Wall Cabinet: If you have wall cabinets, consider integrating the microwave into one of them. This keeps the microwave off the countertop and can provide a sleek, modern look. You can get smaller 50cm wide built-in microwaves for wall cabinets to help with those tight spaces!

  • Over the Range: An over-the-range microwave can be a good space-saving solution. It combines the functions of a microwave and a range hood, freeing up counter space and creating a more efficient workflow. – Personally, I don’t love this option, but some people do, so do what works for you.

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Where to put the microwave in a kitchen.

The placement of your microwave can either enhance or detract from your kitchen’s functionality and aesthetics. A well-placed microwave can improve workflow, save counter space, and contribute to a clean, uncluttered look.

On the other hand, a poorly placed microwave can be inconvenient to use, take up valuable workspace, and disrupt the visual appeal of your kitchen.

So, whether you’re designing a new kitchen or remodelling an existing one, take the time to consider the best place for your microwave. It’s a small detail that can make a big difference in your kitchen’s look and feel.

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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.