I have an over the range (OTR) microwave, and am about to tile a new back splash. I'm not sure which way to go:

  • Tile behind the microwave and then install the microwave
  • Install the microwave first and then tile up to the bottom of it

If I do the later I'm concerned that the additional ~7/16th of an inch lip of the tile will lock the microwave in place.

Anyone have experience with this particular scenario that can shed some light on the correct route?

2 Answers 2


I tile behind the ones I do. First this takes little time. The top couple inches don't have to be perfect. I try to make everything look nice but in the grand scheme of things this is a few minutes of work and you already have the tiles, thinset, grout, and tools going so just do it.

Some issues I have come across not tiling:

  1. The top row is almost always slightly slanted and the cuts can be hard to make look nice.
  2. If you switch microwaves (the new OTR micros don't last long) and it doesn't reach the tiles what do you do?
  3. If the microwave goes past the tile then your install can be slightly slanted back. When you have tile behind there it is easy to jam the microwave in knowing you have a flat surface.
  4. If you decide to take micro out and go with a hood you probably won't have enough leftovers to get all the way up.
  • 1
    +1 on this. Your house may last 100 years. Your microwave, not so much. The new one won't be the same size.
    – Bryce
    Oct 19, 2013 at 18:04

Follow the microwave manufacturer's directions. All of the OTR microwave installation instructions I've ever seen require you to securely fasten the microwave to the wall by drilling into studs. Not only that but a good chunk of them that I've seen (and have installed a couple myself) require you to bolt a metal mounting bracket to the wall.

Doing this through tile comes with a serious set of challenges that include properly drilling all the way through the tile into appropriate studs (which you will have to find through the tile if you don't remember to mark the stud locations).

You also haven't touched on venting-- in some installations you may find yourself venting horizontally through the back of the microwave, in which case if you tile first, you will need to cut through the tile anyway and take into account the extra depth added by the thickness of the tile when you determine how long your vent duct needs to be.

In all, this means that if you tile first, you will be putting many holes in the tiles. Not only that but the mounting bracket for the MW will probably scratch and damage the tiles as well. Finally if you don't take great care in properly securing the microwave through to the structure of the wall, you will have a very unsafe installation.

For these reasons, and following the manufacturer's instructions, you usually do NOT put finish wall coverings behind an OTR microwave. Instead you should purchase sufficient extra tiles for your backsplash and then keep them in storage. If and when you need to replace the entire OTR MW with a different one, then you can add tile to cover any bare wall showing.

  • Both answers make good arguments. Thinking about what I will need to do to install one in my own house, I think a compromise might actually be the best solution: Tile (or whatever wall prep you're doing) high enough that the treatment's edge winds up behind the microwave but short of vent and mounting points, and make sure you have bought enough spare tiles to extend upward later if needed (and stored them where they will be found!)
    – keshlam
    Mar 18 at 22:00

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