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Community and Q&A

Microwave: High or low?

fourforhome | Posted in Interior Design on

My wife and I know the pros and cons of having the microwave over the range (more cons than pros) but don’t have any experience with the microwave under the counter.

What are your thoughts about putting the microwave under the island counter (safety, convenience or inconvenience)?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    If the microwave is under the counter, the interior surface of the microwave (the "floor" of the oven) will be at about 25 or 26 inches above the floor.

    There are two relevant measurements:

    (1) The best height for sliding food -- which might be heavy or hot -- into and out of an appliance. For me, this height is about 31 inches off the floor (the height of a dining room table). Your mileage might vary, depending on the average height of your home's occupants.
    (2) The best height for peeking in a window to see how food is cooking (eyeball height). For me, this height is about 64 inches or 65 inches off the floor.

    The best compromise (to minimize stooping) is a height between these two points (between 31 and 65 inches off the floor ).

    I think that under the counter (26 inches above the floor) is too low, but it might work if the average height of the occupants of your house is lower than average. Every time you check the food, though, you will probably be stooping.

  2. SwitchgrassFarmer | | #2

    There is a thread from last year with this question, pix of our below counter install in it.

    Most of the time I use a microwave "cover" over the food. It prevents spattering, contains the steam and promotes cooking. So looking through the window is a bit moot in my case. (I am 6' tall, at least that is what my driver's license says, might have lost a few 1/8" over the years...)

  3. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #3

    Microwave drawers solve this problem. Another option is to place the microwave on the bottom shelf of an upper cabinet. I was always opposed to over-the-range microwaves, but after living with one for the last two years, it's actually not that bad--at least for what we use it for, occasionally reheating food. If you use it often for cooking you may be better off with a more optimal location. I have often put them under the counter in an island for clients and have never heard a complaint about that location, though it would not be my first choice.

  4. Chaubenee | | #4

    Shoulder level in an appliance garage just to the right of the refrigerator with a landing countertop directly below. As you age, your eyesight deteriorates, and reading the controls when it is in a lower cabinet is a pest.

  5. Expert Member

    Thought needs to be given if you decide to mount the microwave in an enclosure. Our code precludes any appliance garage not factory built and CSA rated with a door switch controlling the outlets.

  6. fourforhome | | #6

    I'm getting very mixed reviews from friends for putting it below the counter. Finding the buttons gets difficult.
    I don't have enough counter to give up space for a shoulder height location, so an over-the-range works, even if it's a little inconvenient. I didn't want to give up the looks of a stand alone hood vent.

  7. brendanalbano | | #7

    Do you have a microwave in your current home? Can you move it onto a stool or a stack of boxes or something to simulate the height of the undercounter microwave and try living with it for a month?

    This way you can learn how you feel about the undercounter height. Otherwise all you can learn is how other people feel about it, which might or might not align with your preferences!

  8. Yamayagi1 | | #8

    I hate over-the-range microwave ovens. Put one in in the last house. BUT, I like having the height optimized for the controls and viewing. Solution? A Sharp "Over-the-Counter" microwave mounted to the bottom of a 24" wide x 16" high upper cabinet. Microwave is made for this application, and even includes counter lighting. 24" wide and 14" High, so matches the bottom of a standard 30" high wall cabinet mounted at 7' to the top. Bottom of microwave (and 30" cabinet) is at 54". Top at 68", about the height Martin suggested. Good elevation for the oven, and leaves the countertop with the same clearance as the 30" cabinet, with lighting as well. M/Ns R-1210 in black, R-1211 in White and R-1214 in stainless. Not quite as big as an over the range, but good for most of us. No, I do not work for Sharp, just planning this solution for the home I am building in Gloucester.

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