Can You Put an Over the Range Microwave in a Cabinet?

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Installing an over-the-range (OTR) microwave in a cabinet can be a great way to save space in your kitchen. However, there are important considerations to factor in before deciding to mount your microwave in an overhead cabinet rather than over the stove. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about putting an OTR microwave in a cabinet.

Overview of OTR Microwaves

OTR microwaves are designed to be installed above your stove or cooktop. They serve two key functions – cooking and ventilation. Along with the typical microwave heating features, they have a built-in exhaust fan and ventilation system to remove smoke, steam, grease and odors while cooking on the range below.

Many OTR microwave models have attractive finishes so they can act as an accent piece in your kitchen decor. Common widths are 30 inches to match standard size ranges and cooktops. They typically range from 16 to 18 inches deep and have minimum height clearance requirements.

Can You Install an OTR Microwave in a Cabinet?

Yes, you can install an over-the-range microwave oven inside a cabinet with proper planning and preparation. The key requirements are providing adequate ventilation, clearance space, electrical supply, and a safe mounting method.

While this project is certainly achievable, it is more complex than a standard above-stove installation. You need to carefully modify the cabinetry and consider the microwave’s ventilation needs.

Step-by-Step Guide to Installation

Follow these tips for safely and successfully installing your OTR microwave in an overhead kitchen cabinet:

1. Choose an Appropriate Cabinet

Selecting the right cabinet is crucial for properly installing your over-the-range microwave. Locate a cabinet position directly over your stove or cooktop to allow the microwave’s ventilation system to function optimally right above the cooking surface.

Look for an overhead cabinet that is both wide and deep enough to accommodate the typical 30-inch width and 15-inch depth of a standard OTR microwave model. Verify that the framework of the chosen cabinet is sturdy and secure enough to reliably hold the weight of a microwave, which can be 70-90 pounds depending on the unit.

2. Modify the Cabinet for Ventilation

Proper ventilation is absolutely critical when putting an over-the-range microwave in a cabinet installation. You have two main options for allowing ventilation to work effectively: Cut an exhaust vent through the bottom of the cabinet so the microwave can vent directly above the cooktop, attaching a duct to route the air completely outside.

Or, keep the cabinet intact but create empty space between the walls of the cabinet and the microwave itself, adding vents on the front and back walls for air circulation. Be sure to closely consult the appliance manual for the specific ventilation requirements to create a safe over-stove installation. Don’t compromise proper ventilation by incorrectly modifying the cabinet.

3. Leave Adequate Clearance Above

OTR microwaves need open space above – usually at least 2 or 3 inches between the top of the unit and your cabinet ceiling. This allows hot air to dissipate and the vent fan to work effectively.

4. Install Electrical Supply

Microwaves have specific electrical load requirements, normally needing their own 120V circuit. Install a dedicated outlet in the cabinet to plug into. Make sure wiring is in-wall and up to electrical code. Position at the rear of the cabinet for a clean look.

5. Use Proper Mounting Hardware

Since you won’t be mounting directly to a wall, use brackets or a platform designed to hold the microwave securely inside the cabinet. Reinforce the cabinet as needed. Follow manufacturer instructions.

Microwave Usage Considerations

When installing an over-the-range microwave in a cabinet instead of over the stove, keep these usage factors in mind:

  • Controls and interior should remain easily accessible. Install at a height where you can comfortably reach in to use the microwave.
  • Interior lighting may be impacted by the cabinetry. Consider adding lighting above or inside the cabinet.
  • Bottom venting can make the cooktop lighting darker. Use adequate cooking surface lighting.
  • Steam, grease splatter, etc. inside the microwave may be harder to clean without pull-out capability.

Safety Tips

Since you’ll have a microwave housed inside a cabinet, extra safety steps are required:

  • Use all required protective gear – gloves, eye protection, etc.
  • Have appliances unplugged when working on electrical.
  • Follow all building codes and OTR installation manual instructions.
  • Verify the cabinet framework is appropriately reinforced and secured.
  • Use mounting hardware specifically made for encased OTR microwaves.
  • Don’t obstruct vents or impede airflow in any way.

Hiring a Professional

Installing an over-the-range microwave into a kitchen cabinet is a complex project best left to experienced professionals. The intricacies of modifying the cabinetry for ventilation, constructing a sturdy enclosed mount, and wiring electrical make this a challenging job. Handymen or contractors well-versed in enclosed microwave installations are ideal.

Make sure any professional you hire has expertise in areas like: cabinet modification to create proper vents, experience safely installing microwaves in enclosed spaces, electrical skills to handle the wiring, and ability to build strong mounting frameworks.

While a skilled do-it-yourselfer may potentially be able to take on the project themselves, it’s wise to hire a professional electrician, carpenter and installer to ensure everything is done properly and safely.

Trying to cut costs by not using a qualified technician risks the ventilation not meeting requirements or structural work not being up to code. Don’t take chances with the specialized skills needed to mount an over-the-range microwave within a cabinet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about installing an over-the-range microwave in a kitchen cabinet:

Is it safe to put a microwave in a cabinet?

Yes, with proper planning it can be safe. The key is setting up adequate ventilation and airflow. As long as the microwave venting isn’t obstructed and has an escape route following manufacturer specifications, it can operate safely enclosed in a cabinet.

Do you need an outlet inside the cabinet for an enclosed microwave?

Yes, you will need a dedicated 120V electrical outlet installed inside the cabinet to plug in the microwave. Make sure to position it in an accessible spot at the rear of the cabinet. The wiring must be in-wall and meet electrical safety codes.

What kind of support or mounting is needed inside the cabinet?

Framing, brackets, or a mounting platform made specifically for enclosed over-the-range microwave installations. This provides a sturdy base to mount the microwave to inside the cabinet. Reinforce the existing cabinet framework as needed per appliance specs.

Can you use a regular microwave in a cabinet instead of an OTR?

No, regular countertop microwaves are not equipped with the proper exhaust venting essential for installation inside a cabinet space. Only use a microwave designed specifically as an over-the-range model.

What microwave wattage can you use in a cabinet?

Check your cabinet microwave manual for electrical specifics, but most standard OTR models that would work in a cabinet are in the 1000 to 1250 watt range. Higher wattages tend to require more ventilation considerations.


Installing an over-the-range microwave into a kitchen cabinet instead of over the stove is definitely achievable with careful planning and preparation. The keys are creating adequate ventilation, leaving proper clearance, installing robust mounting solutions, and following safety guidelines. While challenging, the result can be a great built-in look that maximizes your valuable kitchen space. With attention to the details, you can successfully and safely put your OTR microwave in a cabinet.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

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