Instead of wasting precious countertop space by buying a freestanding countertop microwave or replacing your range hood with an over-the-range (OTR) microwave to maximize your kitchen space, you could instead invest in a built-in microwave oven for the ultimate space-saving convenience.
What is a built-in microwave anyway? What is it built into exactly? How does it differ from countertop or OTR? Learn the truth about these microwaves and more by reading the rest of this guide.
What is a Built-In Microwave?
A built-in microwave is a microwave designed to be put inside your kitchen cabinets. It’s called as such because it’s “built in” the cabinet, which allows for easy storage. Obviously, ventilation and overheating are concerns, but they’re addressed during the installation process.
Built-In Microwaves vs. Other Microwave Installation Types
Compared to over-the-range microwaves, it doesn’t have to double as your hood vent while also being a microwave. Compared to countertop freestanding microwaves, it has to be installed right into your cabinets for storage convenience when all is said and done.
By choosing a built-in microwave installation that integrates the appliance with your existing kitchen cabinets, isle, or wall, you’ll end up with a more space-saving and modern kitchen arrangement that makes meal prep all the more efficient.
Doesn’t Getting a Built-In Microwave Require Major Kitchen Remodeling?
Not necessarily. There’s actually no pressing need to do a full kitchen remodeling job in order to install a built-in microwave. Instead, you simply need to match the size and depth of your cabinet with the size dimensions of your built-in microwave of choice.
In many kitchen interior designs out there, you only need to replace at most a single section here or cut out an opening there to adapt or adjust your existing cabinetry and make ample room for a built-in model.
What Do You Need to Watch Out for When Installing a Built-In Microwave?
Even though countertops are mobile and can be added anywhere in your kitchen, they take up valuable space when used as countertops. You can conserve space by mounting these units on a cabinet or shelf to get the built-in look.
Pay Attention to Your Installation Location Relative to Microwave Size
You need to pay attention to your installation location and the size dimensions of your microwave to ensure a perfect fit without having to dismantle your cabinet or remove its panels.
The beauty of built-in microwaves is that you can integrate them into your kitchen by sticking them inside a cabinet or storage unit. There are a number of flush installation styles, you can use in order to mount or push the appliance into the cabinet as seamlessly as possible.
Installing Your Built-In Microwave Oven in Places that Make Sense
The built-in microwave can be installed at a comfortable height by making sure there’s some leeway or space behind and above him for venting purposes or placing him inside your lower cabinets instead of upper ones.
Quite a number of built-in microwaves are placed near the oven or wall in order to create an easy way to move the dishes inside and outside the heating appliance.
You may also like: Where to Put a Microwave in a Tiny Kitchen?
Built-In Microwave Buying Guide 101
Built-in microwaves give your home kitchen a more customized look. It allows your fixtures such as cabinets and appliances to work together in a more integrated manner, as though they belong in a special showroom package and some such.
Let’s now talk about shopping for the ultimate space-saving built-in microwave for your kitchen needs.
Different Microwave Installation Styles Available
When installing a built-in microwave, you need to choose not only its location in your kitchen. You also need to consider its style and size.
There are several built-in microwave styles available. They include the following.
- Under-counter microwave drawers.
- Drop-down door models that serve as a wall oven complement.
- Built-in style countertops placed inside cabinets (trim kits included).
- Upper cabinet built-in microwaves (overhead).
- Lower cabinet built-in microwaves (under the counter).
Take Note of the Different Door Options As Well
Built-in microwaves also offer the following door options.
- Right-to-Left Swing Out: This style is common in OTR and countertop microwaves. They swing like an ordinary single door in your house, opening from right to left because the right panel is the control panel.
- Drop-Down Door: Many OTR microwaves adopt this draw-bridge style of door that’s mostly used in conventional ovens as well. They’re helpful because they can hold hot dishes for you so that you don’t accidentally drop them.
- Slide-Out Drawer: This one and the drop-down option are preferred by built-in microwaves because of their space-saving nature. Like a cabinet drawer, this microwave door type slides out for your convenience over your cabinet base of operations.
Taking the Microwave’s Exterior Features into Consideration
There is a multitude of ways to get the built-in microwave installed in your kitchen. It mostly depends on the features, power, and size of your microwave as well as the way you prepare meals by cooking or baking,
For example, avoid pull-in handles for your microwave because they can get in the way of closing those cabinet doors. Get a model with a push-button door instead. Your microwave door should also have swinging room where you place it.
You should also consider the cabinet width you wish to install the unit in. Built-in microwaves typically have widths ranging from 24 inches to 27 inches to 30 inches. It’d be easier if your cabinet matches those preset widths and has just enough depth.
Using a Countertop and Turning It into a Built-In Microwave
You can give your countertop microwave a built-in look that functionally keeps it off of your countertop for storage and usage inside your kitchen cabinets (whether it’s up above or down below). With that said, some countertops are more ideal for built-in conversion than others.
Preferably, get a unit with an oven-style drop-down door if you’re going to face the unit above-head at your upper cabinets. As a rule of thumb, remember that your microwave should at least have 2 inches of clearance on all sides for ventilation’s sake.
Trim Kits and How They Can Make Built-In Installations Seamless
You need trim kits in order to seamlessly incorporate your countertop into a cabinet or shelf. Otherwise, you might wish to invest in a purely built-in microwave that can only be used for cabinet installation.
- Trim Kit Investment Makes Sense: You can invest in trim kits to adjust your cabinetry or shelf space in such a way that the gaps around the appliance are closed off for a seamless look and functionality.
- Trim Kit Sizes: These trim kits are available in 30 inches, 27 inches, or 24 inches in width. Make sure their finish matches your microwave’s finish though. However, they’re not technically built-in microwaves per se.
Drawer-Style Under-Counter Microwave Ovens
Another way to add a built-in microwave inside your home or restaurant kitchen is availing of a drawer-style under-counter or undercounter microwave. These devices are installed in your lower cabinets for easy access. They’re also tucked out of your way, thus freeing up your upper cabinets.
- A Microwave Version of Cabinet Drawers: An undercounter microwave drawer extends and retracts from the cabinet it’s installed in, which is similar to how cabinet drawers that pull out from their base on slides work.
- A Convenient Design for Meal Prep: This microwave type’s design makes it easy for a homeowner to stir or check meals while they’re being microwaved. What’s more, the countertop is available nearby to place the hot dish after removal from the unit.
- Get an Under-Counter Microwave with an Auto Touch Feature: Having an auto touch feature on something like the KitchenAid 24-Inch Under-Counter Microwave Drawer allows you to open and close the microwave drawer at the push of a button for easy hands-free access.
An under-counter microwave, in contrast to a countertop microwave that’s been repurposed as a built-in microwave, works best as a drawer-style microwave and can’t be used as a freestanding microwave. There’s no “either or” option here.
Types of Built-In Microwaves by Usage
Built-in microwaves, particularly commercial units, they’re categorized in accordance to power and how often they’re used as well.
- Light-Duty Microwaves: A built-in microwave with a power of 1 to 1.1 kilowatts (or below). It can be used up to 50 times every day. Most mini or solo microwaves fall under this category.
- Medium-Duty Microwaves: A built-in microwave with the power of 1.2 kilowatts to 2 kilowatts. These units can take being used 150 times in a day.
- Heavy-Duty Microwaves: Commonly seen in hotel or hospital restaurants as well as caterers and cafeterias, these units have more than 2 kilowatts of power and can be used 200 times daily.
Sizes and Capacities of Built-In Microwaves
Your built-in microwave should match the cabinet size with 2 inches of space on all sides for better ventilation. They should also have the following capacity options.
- 3 Cubic Feet to 0.8 Cubic Feet: A microwave interior of this size can fit in things like measuring cups, mugs, plates, small bowls, and ramekins. It can also accommodate high-temperature food pans with ¼ and ⅙ sizes as well as petite oven-safe chinaware.
This microwave capacity is usually seen for mini or solo microwaves or use in RVs and dorms.
- 8 Cubic Feet to 1.0 Cubic Feet: Like with OTRs, most built-ins fall under this capacity range thanks to the extra depth provided by most shelves, drawers, and cabinets. These accommodate high-temperature food pans with ½ and ⅓ sizes and plastic takeout containers.
It’s also able to house medium-sized bowls, plates, and microwavable containers made by the likes of Tupperware or Rubbermaid.
- 1 Cubic Feet to 1.6 Cubic Feet: If you have particularly deep cabinet spaces, you can maximize them by availing of these heavy-duty microwaves with huge capacities. You can put in family-sized platters and bowls at oven of this size and deepness.
These microwaves can take in most oven-safe plastic muffin trays, full-sized baking or food pans, and standard-sized to family-sized plates, dishes, pans, or other similar containers.
OTR Microwaves vs. Built-In Microwaves
An OTR microwave isn’t a type of built-in microwave even though you technically build it into the range hood or cabinets above your stovetop gas range. A built-in has more freedom installation-wise. You can install it in any cabinet or shelf in your kitchen, even those not directly above your stove.
The OTR microwave unit can only be placed above a cooktop or stove. They often combine the microwave with a range hood and stove light. The device doubles as a range hood with its high CFM (200-400 CFM) exhaust fan.
Why Built-Ins are Better Than OTRs
Even though they’re a highly popular option to save kitchen space, OTRs can limit your interior design choices by pairing up your stove and microwave.
Most people wish to upgrade their microwave into a built-in unit without remodeling their kitchen at all. OTRs are perfect for such wishes since they merely replace the space formerly occupied by your existing range hood, with the unit service as the new range hood.
Many built-in-ready countertops require a trim kit at most to fit into most cabinets and shelves out there. A good under-counter microwave oven is worth the installation fee and labor.
If you’re lacking kitchen real estate due to your large refrigerator, countertop coffeemaker, and stove and conventional oven combo, you can reclaim some precious work surface area by simply putting your microwave behind a cabinet or drawer your kitchen is sure to have.
Hopefully, you have deep cabinets though, in order to fit a sufficiently large microwave with at least a cubic foot of capacity. Otherwise, you’ll have to avail yourself of a well-vented mini microwave model with 700-watt power and 0.7 cubic feet of interior capacity.
Panasonic and Greystone Built-In Microwaves are Our Top Picks
Panasonic is our best overall choice that got awarded as “Amazon’s Choice in Countertop Microwave Ovens by Panasonic”. It’s a countertop that can be used as a built-in stainless steel microwave with 1.25 kilowatts of power and 1.6 cubic feet of capacity.
Meanwhile, the Greystone built-in microwave is our budget choice that’s available for under $200. It’s a fine choice featuring 0.9 cubic feet of interior space and 900 watts (or almost a kilowatt) of energy consumption.
- “Built-In Microwave Buying Guide from KitchenAid“, KitchenAid.com, Retrieved June 9, 2021