One of the most difficult decisions many faces when building or designing a kitchen is deciding where to put the microwave. Which type of microwave is best? And where exactly is the best location?
Before beginning to make a decision, you probably want to analyze how you use your microwave and how it relates to the rest of your kitchen layout.
Typically, a kitchen will have a nice working triangle. The best layouts will take you from the fridge, to the stove/oven, and to the sink without any obstructions.
The microwave is often overlooked in this plan and usually gets placed as an after thought.
But in today’s world, the microwave is an essential everyday appliance. As such, it is important to plan your kitchen layout accordingly.
Things To Consider:
Microwave’s relationship to the refrigerator. – Leftovers are one of the most frequently microwaved items. Having a microwave close to the fridge makes this activity easier.
Microwave’s relationship to the pantry – If you or your family is the type that likes to heat canned goods, having a workspace within close range to the pantry will serve you well.
Microwave’s relationship to the oven/cooktop – If you or someone in your family enjoys cooking, a microwave may be more of an essential cooking tool and less of a reheating device. In this case, having the microwave near the ovens or cooktop may come in handy.
Microwave’s relationship to your height – The most comfortable placement for a microwave is at shoulder height. This offers the most ease of use and ease of cleaning. However, given that there are likely to be multiple users within a household, the location is likely best set at a comfortable compromise for all parties.
With the constant improvements to appliances, microwaves continue to change in style and convenience. There are so many options available, but there is no one correct answer. So instead, let’s take a look at each option and break down the pros and cons of each.
One of the most popular kitchen trends for this decade is having the microwave drawer. The placement is usually just beneath the countertop, which makes it very easy to access.
Perfect for inserting in under countertops. This comes in handy when you don’t have enough overhead or countertop space to designate to a microwave.
Being able to see over the tops of containers is convenient. This is a plus when children will be using the appliance. It is also great for shorter folks. If you’ve ever struggled with overhead microwaves, you can appreciate this concept.
Cleaning up a microwave drawer is a breeze. Spills are easy to reach because the mess comes to you instead of struggling to reach inside.
These are relatively expensive, and typically only come in the mid-to-high-end brands.
They also provide an enticing feature for little fingers. Something to consider if you have very young children that would enjoy beeping buttons. (However, most of these do come with a child safety door lock).
This is probably going to be the most economical choice, but most people don’t really want to have a large appliance sitting on the counter. There are options though. A customized cabinet can provide a nice home for a countertop microwave.
Countertop microwaves are easy to replace if they malfunction. If you have ever needed to toss a microwave because you could not remove the burnt smell of popcorn, you can appreciate this.
They can be easily transported. This makes them perfect for renters and is one of the must-haves for college students.
A countertop microwave takes up a lot of countertop space, and if you end up customizing the cabinets to fit this style, you will cancel out the savings that would have otherwise been realized.
Over-the-stove microwaves are the most common installed microwave. It is the go-to version for all builder’s grade homes.
With an over-the-range hood, you get the benefits of both a microwave and a vent hood. Because these two features are combined, the space savings can be a plus.
There is no concern with small children playing with this type of microwave, because it is outside of their reach.
Even though over-the-range hoods take the place of a vent hood, don’t expect to get odors vented to the outside. These will only filter the air and recycle it back into your home.
They can also be difficult for younger children and shorter people to use. If you prefer to see what you are cooking, this may not be the best option for you.
In addition, these can be extremely inconvenient to clean. Most people require the use of a step stool to maneuver the interior.
Microwave Oven Combo
Usually, these microwaves come as a microwave/convection oven combo. This means you get the benefit of both a microwave and an oven.
You can get a streamlined look by having the microwave and oven stacked. If you are tight on space, this combination could serve you well.
Some brands are now making these with oven doors. That means that you get the convenience of a pull-down door as opposed to swing doors.
With this version, you can easily fit your microwave within the kitchen triangle. This keeps the microwave in a convenient space that is within the proper work zone.
If you want the standard in-wall double ovens, you would need to have the extra space to spare. If there is not enough wall space to have both double ovens and this type of microwave, you may find this set-up a bit disappointing.
When combined with double ovens, the microwave is often forced into a too high position for most users.
Not to be left out of the mix, the under-mount microwave comes in handy for many situations. This space-saving under-mount fits nicely beneath these rather narrow cabinets and is relatively inexpensive.
It gets the microwave up off the countertop, leaving some much-needed workspace. In smaller kitchens or kitchenettes, a hanging microwave can mean the difference between having a microwave or not having one.
They provide a semi-custom look while still being easy to access in the event that repairs are needed.
These are relatively easy to remove for transport. This can give a renter an alternative to the standard countertop microwave.
They can be mounted just about anywhere. While under the wall cabinet is the most common placement, you could hypothetically mount these in many locations.
These are not as child-friendly as the drawer microwaves, and many may find them unattractive if not wrapped within an enclosure.
These tend to be on the smaller side for microwaves. If you are looking for a full-sized microwave, you may have a hard time finding one in this option.
More Placement Options:
All the above are your basic installation options for microwaves. However, you don’t have to go with the typical location for any of the above.
If you are more inclined to have a super custom kitchen, you can really get out of the box and place your microwave in a spot that is specific to your needs. Let’s take a look at some of the other placement options.
Appliance garage – This works best with a countertop microwave. It is a great way to tuck an unwanted eyesore out of the line of sight.
Custom built-in – place anywhere you want. Perfect for people who want a specific height. Usually placed in line with the wall cabinets.
Butler’s Pantry – Get’s the microwave out of the main workspace. If you like to keep your kitchen streamlined, you may prefer to place the microwave in a completely different zone. A butler’s pantry may be the solution.
Scullery – Traditionally found in homes that frequently have caterers coming in for meals, but more and more people are opting to include these high-end features in their own kitchens.
Island – An island microwave is convenient because it is centered within the work triangle. This can combine the benefits for both cooking and reheating and is a good location for chefs and/or a chef wanna-be.
Coffee or Breakfast Bars – These are super trendy right now. Having a microwave set into the coffee/breakfast bar really completes it. Perfect for on-the-go morning people, but may not be the best option for multi-purpose use.
Pantry – If you have a large pantry, consider utilizing that space for your small appliances and your microwave. This helps to keep the kitchen neat and tidy. It is a great way to have a semi-scullery setup.
There are many microwave location options, as well as many different types of microwaves. Hopefully, this article has helped anyone struggling to make a decision. I personally prefer drawer microwaves, but every person is different, as are their needs.
On your comment of the over the range microwave and hood combo; you said it could only recycle the air back into the kitchen.
I have installed many of these and they all had the option to vent outside as well. You are right though, I don’t really like these either, mostly because they are not very good at venting.
Thanks for the comment. You are correct, they can be connected to an outside vent. I did not mean to imply that outside ventilation is impossible with these, just that the results are minimal at best. To clarify, they can be vented to the outside. However, most have too low a CFM to adequately pull everything outside. This can, in some cases, make the effort and expense of installing duct work an unnecessary expense. But thanks for bringing my attention to the fact that my wording is unclear. It takes astute viewers like you to provide me with a good checks and balances system. ;-)
How long do most Drawer Microwaves last? I’m worried about installing one and then having to find another one with the exact measurements for replacement if it were to quit.
Rachel Lynn says
I installed mine in 2013 and it is still working like new. I did have to replace the noise filter in it once. On the whole, I would say they last quite long. If you needed to replace one that didn’t fit exactly in the cutout, you would either have the opening recut larger, or if you need a smaller opening, just pull the face frame off the cabinet and install a new one. Both are relatively easy fixes as long as you don’t have to match a specialty stained finish.