Microwaves come in many types and sizes, but countertop microwaves are the most affordable. Yet, if you don’t have enough kitchen counter space for the appliance, your options are quite limited – and often more expensive. Unless you put the countertop oven in a cabinet.
Luckily, you can put a countertop microwave in a cabinet as long as you follow some safety precautions. Countertop microwaves require empty space on all sides and on top for ventilation. As long as the cabinet is large enough to provide proper clearance, you can place your countertop microwave anywhere you want.
Is It OK to Put a Countertop Microwave in a Cabinet?
When reading the instructions of most countertop microwave ovens, manufacturers advise against placing the oven in a cabinet. That’s because countertop ovens have vents placed on top and sides.
The role of these vents is to ensure proper airflow and prevent overheating while the unit is in use. They also expel some of the vapor that builds up inside the oven cavity as you’re cooking.
Ventilation is crucial, or the unit could overheat. Not only can this damage the motor, but it can increase the fire hazard.
That said, you can put a countertop microwave inside a cabinet if the cabinet is large enough to maintain proper clearance.
I can’t say how much clearance your microwave needs since requirements can vary from brand to brand. Panasonic, for instance, requires 3 inches of empty space on both sides and at least one inch on top. Other brands require 3 inches on the sides, one inch behind the microwave, and around 12 inches of clearance on top.
By reading your product’s manual, figure out how large your cabinet should be.
Types of Microwave
While putting a countertop microwave in a cabinet is okay, you might want to consider all your options. There are three major microwave styles.
Built-in microwaves are designed to be installed inside a cabinet. If you have limited counter space and don’t want to risk starting a fire, they are your best option.
Because they are designed for a built-in installation, they have front vents and don’t require clearance on the sides and top. Any clearance that is required is usually provided by the mounting plate or trim kit – this makes them perfect for all types of standard kitchen cabinets.
A built-in variation is the microwave drawer. These microwave drawers also don’t require a clearance that the mounting kit can’t be accounted for.
Cost-wise, built-in microwaves can range in price from a few hundred to over $1,000.
Over-the-range microwaves are the most expensive of all types, mostly because they merge the functions of two kitchen appliances: the microwave oven and the range hood.
Depending on the model, they can have outside venting or carbon filters to deal with the cooking vapors coming from your range cooker. At the same time, you can choose from standard microwave ovens, grill microwaves, combi microwaves, or convection microwaves.
An OTR microwave doesn’t need clearance on the sides and top, but it requires at least 24 inches of clearance from the cooking surface.
Countertop microwaves are the cheapest and most popular microwave type, which require clearance but are the most versatile.
You can place them anywhere you want, as long as there is sufficient space for adequate ventilation on their sides. They also come in more cooking power ranges than all other types and are portable. This makes them perfect for people who need a microwave for a dorm or RV.
Like built-in and over-the-range microwaves, countertop models are available in all types: standard, combi, grill, and convection microwave ovens. Some combine more cooking options than others, and capacities go up to 2.2 or more cubic feet.
You can also choose from several power options, from around 600 to over 1,200 watts.
Disadvantages of putting a countertop microwave in a cabinet
Now that you know that microwave ovens can go into a cabinet, you may wonder what the risks are. Let’s check them out.
Can Cause a Fire Hazard
Placing a countertop microwave in a kitchen cabinet without ensuring proper clearance increases the fire hazard. That’s because the motor can overheat and melt the electric wires.
By overheating, the oven might also set on fire the food cooking inside of it. This is why clearance is crucial.
Can Damage Your Microwave
It goes without saying that overheating can damage your microwave even if it doesn’t start a fire. The motor could burn out, or the cables may come loose.
Difficult to Run the Functions of the Microwave
Another disadvantage of putting a countertop microwave in a cabinet is that of accessing the functions.
Countertop microwaves are not designed for a built-in installation, and the control panel isn’t made to be accessible overhead.
You may also find it challenging to access it if you place the unit in a bottom cabinet. For this reason, the best placement for a countertop microwave in a cabinet is at the same level or slightly higher than the countertop height.
Tips to consider for making a cabinet safer for your microwave
Are you still convinced that placing a countertop microwave in a cabinet is what you want? Here are a few things to consider.
Make sure the cabinet can hold the weight of the microwave
The first thing to check out is the weight capacity of your cabinet, especially if you want to place the unit in a wall cabinet.
Microwaves aren’t the heaviest of home appliances, but they are still rather heavy (some models weigh up to 100 pounds). Kitchen cabinets that aren’t designed to hold built-in appliances can have lower weight limits.
Thus, if your oven exceeds that limit, the shelf could break or the cabinet could fall off the wall.
Make sure the cabinet is wide enough.
Another thing to consider is the exterior dimension of the microwave. Because your microwave is designed to sit on the counter, it could be wider than a standard cabinet.
Kitchen cabinets typically come in 24- and 30-inch widths. However, the microwave also needs clearance – at least three inches on all sides and one inch on top and at the rear. Ideally, you should also provide at least three inches of clearance on top.
Thus, your microwave shouldn’t be wider than 18 or 24 inches, respectively – since clearance is required on both sides, the microwave cabinet should be at least six inches wider than the microwave.
Check the Cabinet Doors
Ideally, you should place the microwave in a doorless cabinet. However, if that’s not possible, check the doors and make sure the hinges don’t come in the way when operating this kitchen appliance.
Locate the Ventilations
No matter how many inches of clearance you leave around the microwave, keep in mind that it will still be enclosed in a rather small kitchen.
Check the cabinet and locate the ventilation holes. If it doesn’t have any, locate your microwave’s ventilation panels and drill some holes in the corresponding spots in the cabinet.
When choosing the cabinet for the microwave, consider how easily accessible it is for you to clean the microwave.
Not only should you clean and sanitize the appliance regularly, but food can get burned if you don’t pay attention. If the cabinet is too high, it will be challenging to operate the microwave, and cleaning it will feel like a burden.
Using a Trim Kit
Some countertop microwaves are suitable to install in a cabinet. They usually come with trim kits that ensure proper clearance on all sides.
If your microwave comes with a trim kit, use one to ensure proper installation. Otherwise, follow the other tips in this article for proper placement.
Lastly, consider the distance from the wall socket and how you’ll manage the cables. Ideally, you should place the unit in a cabinet that is near a wall socket. Drill a hole in the cabinet rear panel or bottom for the cable to pass through, and make sure there is sufficient space behind the microwave to store the surplus cable length.
How to put a countertop microwave in a cabinet?
Installing a microwave in a cabinet isn’t hard, even if it’s a countertop model. Here are a few quick steps to follow:
1. Measure the cabinet
Decide in which cabinet you want to place the microwave and measure its width, depth, and height. If the cabinet has a shelf inside, only measure the height of the slot where the microwave will go.
2. Measure your microwave
Measure the exterior width, height, and depth of your microwave oven. Make sure the width is at least six inches smaller than the cabinet’s width. The depth and height should be at least one inch smaller.
3. Locate the vents and power cord
Check the sides of your microwave and locate the vents. Locate the power cord too. Measure the position of the vents and cord and write them on a piece of paper.
4. Cut the vent holes
Use a hole saw to bore holes into the cabinet bottom, rear, or sides. The holes should be placed in such a way to correspond to the oven’s vents and to let the cord pass through with minimum effort.
5. Install microwave in the cabinet:
Place the microwave oven in the cabinet and run the power cord through the appropriate hole. That’s it.
Alternatively, you can use a trim kit. Follow the instructions that come with the kit to mount it and install the oven.
Other Things to Consider When Putting a Countertop Microwave in a Cabinet
Besides the above, there are a few other things to consider before installing your oven:
Check what type of clearance your microwave needs
Read the product’s manual or contact the manufacturer to determine if your oven needs clearance. Clearance requirements can vary from brand to brand and model to model, so find out the information for your specific microwave.
Make sure the doors open well from inside the cabinet
Most countertop microwaves have a door that opens laterally, generally to the left. Place the unit inside the cabinet and check how the door opens before drilling any holes.
Do not put the microwave in a high cabinet.
As mentioned above, countertop microwaves are hard to operate overhead. You also risk scalding or injuring yourself when taking food out or placing heavy dishes inside the unit.
Protect it from kids
While the cabinet shouldn’t be high, it should be high enough to be out of your kids’ reach. In this way, you don’t risk little fingers operating the unit inadvertently.
Make sure the socket of the microwave fits right.
As mentioned, place the microwave in a cabinet near a wall socket. You should never use an extension cord with this type of appliance.
Microwave Inside Cabinet-Related Questions
What kind of microwave can go in a cabinet?
Technically, all microwaves can go in a cabinet as long as they are the built-in type or the cabinet is large enough to provide proper clearance.
Is it safe to put a countertop microwave in a cabinet?
Yes, it is safe as long as you consider everything I have covered above.
Does a countertop microwave need ventilation?
Yes. All microwaves need ventilation, and countertop microwaves generally have specific clearance requirements that must be respected.
Placing a countertop microwave in a cabinet is feasible, regardless of the microwave model you have. The main thing to pay attention to is the clearance. You should also make sure that the cabinet can support the appliance’s weight and that you can operate it seamlessly.
You don’t have to worry about little countertop space as long as these factors are met.