We are remodeling our kitchen, and we are going to put the microwave inside of our new island, Below the counter top, Built-in with the cabinets. Our old microwave is an "over the range" microwave which hangs down from the cabinets above the stove.

Our problem is that we're not sure if a traditional countertop microwave can just be put into a space that we're building into the island?

Do we need to account for a certain amount of airflow around the microwave when we try to build in a countertop microwave?

Is there a standard amount of space to leave around the microwave?

Are there specific microwaves that are built for this? (I understand there are under-the-counter drawer microwaves, but we're trying to stay away from that due to cost)

Are there any specific microwaves that we should definitely avoid while trying to do this?

Some manuals talk about "trim kits", how do these work? Do they solve my issue?

Any feedback would be helpful. Thanks!!

  • follow manufacturer's recommended clearances
    – jsotola
    Jan 23 '19 at 4:44

There are three kinds of microwave ovens:

  • Countertop - rely on airflow typically on sides, back or bottom
  • Over-the-cooktop - typically include a fan underneath for cooktop ventilation and may use the same airflow path to also provide ventilation for the microwave oven
  • Wall Oven - like a typical wall oven, does not rely on any ventilation except in the front.

The over-the-cooktop ovens will probably not work for you. You would be paying for extra features (fan and possibly even a light underneath) and they are just not designed for this setup.

The countertop models may work well. You need to check the specifications. For example, I picked a GE 2.2 cubic foot model (essentially at random) and downloaded the installation manual. That referred to trim kits (as you mentioned) which are specifically designed for mounting specific models in a wall. That is exactly what you need. You are then relying on the manufacturer's design for proper ventilation. In the example I looked at it, it appears that the microwave has bottom vents and the trim kit raises the oven slightly so that it can ventilate properly despite being inside a wall or cabinet. Trim kits can be very expensive, so you may find that a "wall oven" will be cheaper.

The first wall microwave oven I looked at (Frigidaire, again essentially random selection) appears to be a countertop microwave oven packaged together with a trim kit - very similar to the GE in design, with vents on the bottom and the trim kit raising up the oven for proper ventilation.

There is a very wide range of prices (and this isn't a shopping site anyway), but just keep in mind that for safety's sake you must follow the manufacturer's guidelines for installation. Don't try to "roll your own" - not when dealing with appliances that can generate a lot of heat very quickly in a confined space.

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