Can you put a countertop Microwave in a cabinet?

Having a microwave in the kitchen these days has become an absolute necessity. It frees up a lot of our time spent in the kitchen. But at the same time, it comes with the added baggage of occupying a lot of our valuable countertop space, which might be even more precious if one lives in a house/apartment with a small kitchen.

Suppose you are a cooking enthusiast who, like me, loves spending time cooking and baking in the kitchen or even someone who prefers a minimalistic look to their kitchen. In that case, you understand the importance of having a vast open space available on your kitchen counters.

Electrical appliance manufacturers presented the solution to this problem by providing built-in kitchen appliances, which in recent years have become all the rage. However, sometimes their accessibility becomes a bit difficult because of their high costs.

So how do you solve this problem? Do you sacrifice your counter space, or do you sacrifice your budget? What if I told you there is a way where you can get the best of both worlds, all it needs is a bit of clever planning and you can use your countertop microwave by keeping it in a cabinet.

Can you put a countertop microwave in a cabinet?

Yes, you can put your countertop microwave in a cabinet, provided you follow the necessary safety precautions to ensure your own safety and the microwave doesn’t get damaged, i.e., providing adequate ventilation around the microwave, making sure proper wiring is done to prevent electric hazards and making sure your cabinet can hold the weight of the microwave itself.

Is it safe to put a countertop microwave in a cabinet?

Under certain strictly followed circumstances, yes, a countertop microwave may be safe to be used in a cabinet.

I admit I like the sleek look of the built-in microwaves, along with the added bonus of freeing up prime countertop real estate. But the price tag that comes attached with it isn’t for everyone.

This is why many people opt for shortcuts like trying to keep the countertop microwave in specially designed cabinets.

But you can’t just simply pick up and keep your microwave in a cabinet and be done with it. There are certain factors that you need to keep in mind while installing a countertop microwave in a cabinet. What are they? I’m listing them down below.

What factors to consider when putting a countertop microwave in a cabinet?

Microwave manufacturers usually design countertop microwaves keeping in mind the factors that would affect their operation while being placed at a kitchen counter. So when they are placed in a closed space like a kitchen cabinet, some modifications are necessary so as not to affect their performance and prevent any other kind of kitchen hazards.

Ventilation

A countertop microwave has vents built into the sides and back to let out heat while cooking. Placing it in a cabinet can block the vents, which means the microwave would be unable to release steam and possibly affect its performance.

How to work around this? Ensure that your cabinet has plenty of empty space on all sides for an adequate airflow all around the microwave while it’s operating. Sometimes manufacturers will also list the minimum space clearance required in their manuals. 

Usually, it’s 3″ of clearance on both sides and the top. And 1″ clearance in the rear. The front edge of the microwave should sit at least 3″ or more back on the shelf to avoid accidental tipping and falling down.

Doors or no doors

Consider what type of cabinet you would be installing the microwave in. Will it have doors to close it or would it be just an open shelf?

If you decide to place it in a cabinet with doors, make sure that there is plenty of space and the doors don’t slam into the microwave’s doors.

Good Shelf support 

The other thing a countertop microwave needs besides good ventilation is good shelf support when it is placed inside a cabinet. Countertop microwaves are generally bulky, weighing anywhere from 20 lbs to 55 lbs depending on the size. So providing them with good support is essential. 

When installing your microwave in a cabinet make sure that the supporting shelf is not bending and is thick enough to hold the weight of the microwave. If needed, add additional supports to make sure it is stable.

Damage-proof shelf material 

Keep in mind the nature of which your cabinet material is made. When a microwave operates, steam and moisture are released from its vents which if remain trapped in closed quarters with wood specifically can damage it over a long time. 

To prevent this, make sure that the is plenty of space around the microwave and cabinet and wipe down the sides of the cabinet after each use.

Install a trim kit

Consider having a trim kit installed around your microwave when it’s placed in the cabinet. Not only does having a trim kit make your microwave look aesthetically appealing while inside the cabinet, but its actual purpose is to protect the microwave from dust, and elevate the microwave bottom to allow proper circulation. 

However, trim kits are not a one size fits all solution. They have to be customized according to the size of your microwave. When buying one, make sure you find one that is specially created for your model of microwave.

Accessibility

Before moving your countertop microwave into a cabinet, you must first decide where it will be placed. 

A shelf too high or too low can be an annoyance for you as well as a potential hazard when you take out hot foods while operating the microwave.

Wire management

One of the most important things to consider when placing a countertop microwave inside a cabinet is to know where you will be connecting the microwave. There should be a power outlet nearby, and you should make a hole at the back of the cabinet to allow the power cord to pass through.

Make sure you select a cabinet for the microwave with a power outlet nearby, as I wouldn’t recommend using an extension cord to power a microwave. This setup is recommended because microwaves need to be connected to a grounded power outlet.

The disadvantage of putting a countertop microwave in the cabinet:

Even though I have mentioned above that countertop microwaves can be easily used as a built-in if certain protocols are followed. However there may be some exceptions to this rule.

Not all countertop microwaves are created alike. Some microwaves are just meant to reheat, while others can grill or even bake. This all depends upon what kind of cooking mechanism your microwave employs. 

Convection microwaves use a heating element that allows them to grill and bake food as you would in a normal oven. Because of this, they tend to get very hot while operating, hotter than a solo microwave oven would. 

So unless you have clearance from your manufacturer, I wouldn’t recommend using a convection microwave in a cabinet as it may cause a great deal of damage to the wooden shelving and possibly affect the microwave’s performance.

Conclusion

Having a countertop microwave doesn’t have to prove to be problematic. If you plan well and follow proper instructions and safety precautions, you don’t have to sacrifice counter space to have this necessary tool in your kitchen.

It is something that you can easily do yourself; however, if you don’t feel confident enough then you can always ask for help from an experienced workman.