The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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« Attention NYC Kitchen Remodelers | Main | Microwave Must See »

Over The Range Microwave - My Love/Hate Relationship

ge%20mw.jpgIt's funny...I looked through my project images, and I think I knew right away that I didn't have an image of a project I'd designed with an over-the-range microwave. I may have used this type of microwave a handful of times, possibly many, in builder projects I've done, but, I've always had a huge bias against them...and I bought one yesterday!

Let me just make it simple and do a pros and cons evaluation:


1. A space saving appliance. For an apartment-sized kitchen, it's no less than a God-send.

(I honestly cannot think of another "pro" to the over-the-range microwave...geez.)


1. It is typically situated at an uncomfortable height. If one is short in height, or a child, it can be difficult to reach in and out.

2. Along with #1, of course, comes the possibility of danger, first, if the container becomes hot, and one is taking it out at this uncomfortable height, but also, if there are items cooking on the stove and one reaches for the microwave. Take care!

3. If the microwave cannot be ducted out, the fan is nearly useless, as it becomes a recirculating fan.

4. Most microwaves are approximately 12" deep, which only cover the rear two burners if the ducted fan is turned on.

5.  The typical 300 cfm fan capacity is a poor performer in terms of ventilating power.

6. Due to the height of the microwave, very tall pots pose a problem in cooking comfortably, including being able to see the contents of the pot.


I mentioned the reasons that I bought one of these in this post. It's definitely a love/hate thing, I'm sure, for many of us.  Image is from GE, which has a whole lot of choices in microwaves. Kelli, in a comment from the original post mentioned, asked, "What's the alternative?"


1. Do you REALLY use a microwave, do you really need one? A good question to ask, in general. 

2. Can you find any other space to build in a microwave? If built in, remember, you must have a trim kit for proper ventilation around the appliance.

3. Can you simply place the microwave (perhaps a small one) on the countertop?

4. Check out GE's Trivection range...not a microwave, but a speedy oven, with microwave technology inside.

5. Perhaps a microwave drawer?

6. Are you rich? Buy a TurboChef.


Much of this discussion depends on if the kitchen is being designed from scratch, or, simply, as in my case, a space is open, and now that space will be filled again with this type of microwave. I can deal with this solution for now.


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Reader Comments (39)

I had one in my tiny NYC apartment kitchen, and I really liked it. It was a godsend. It was amazing how functional our tiny galley kitchen was. We could cook Thanksgiving dinners for 20+ people in that kitchen, and the OTR microwave gave us the counter space that we desperately needed.

This was also in the days when stainless steel was newish, and generally only very expensive appliances came in stainless steel. We found a Magic Chef range at a reasonable price in stainless steel, and a stainless OTR microwave to go over it, and we thought we were IT. That LG you got is cool with the door that opens up. I would have loved that.

For my new kitchen, we are getting a drawer microwave. This is a new development. I was very wary of the drawer microwave as a trendy gadgety thing, but it solves a big design dilemma for us, so here's hoping I like it.

As the cabinets were being installed, we hated the way the refrigerator and freezer were going to look (this has always been a huge issue) and decided we had to do a pretty big redesign right in the middle of the renovation. Scary, huh?

So, smaller fridge/freezer combo where the wall oven and microwave were going to go, freezer and refrigerator drawers next to the range to make up for lost cubic feet from the smaller fridge (and to make up for how far away the new fridge placement will be), and drawer microwave in the island.

We'll see how we like it. But when wall space is at a premium, it offers a nice alternative to the big ugly honking microwave on the counter.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

Jeannie, a redesign mid stream? Your courageous! You're right about the functional aspect of this microwave. The space saving attribute of it often drives this decision. Well, I guess that's obvious. I wrote more in this post, while you were commenting, I think.

Send me images of your kitchen, I'd love to see it. Good luck, I'm sure it will all work out. Better mid stream than living with something you now know is wrong. Sometimes, it's hard to see "on the other side" what something will look like. I really commend you for making this big change.

June 23, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I have one, use it all the time, and hate the thing being over the stove. I constantly burn myself on steam from things cooking when taking things in and out of it. And if something is hotter than I thought, there is no where to sit it. And I cannot tell you how many times I have spilled things because it is nearly over my head and at 5'-5" I am not all THAT short. I hate the stupid thing. If I ever get to build a kitchen, I will build one in the wall at a reasonable height.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

Hi Pamela, very good point...if something is hotter than you thought. That's really where the microwave can be very unpredictable...who can keep track which types of foods or containers do the most potential damage re spilling, heat, etc? Should we first consult an excel spreadsheet? Great point.

June 23, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I just replaced mine, and I must say I absolutely love it! It has a 400 cfm fan, which I find is adequate.

I only ever use the microwave to reheat things, and I live alone, so the size is not a big deal to me. I can't remember the last time I was cooking a meal and using the microwave at the same time, so I don't see that as an issue.

The main thing for me is that I have a tiny kitchen, and I'm just not prepared to give up counter or cupboard space for an appliance I use maybe 3 times a month!

I think as always, you really need to be realistic about the way you cook and use your kitchen.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGinna

Ginna, I only found one 400 cfm microwave, which one do you have? Maybe I didn't look hard enough! Your theories for why you have it are the driving force for most. I think it's all about counter space too.

June 23, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

You forgot one major issue.
The microwave above the stove can get very dirty.
I have seen kitchens where the white microwave is almost brown.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjs

Susan, we may have different options here in Canada.

Mine's a Panasonic, and the spec is here:

And actually I see it's 420 cfm. In any case, for what I do it's perfect.

And JS, it's white, but it doesn't seem to get dirtier than any typical hood fan. It's quick to wipe down, and the filter can be tossed into the dishwasher like normal.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGinna

Believe me, our kitchen would have looked so awful if we didn't make these changes, it is not courageous. Everyone who came in and saw how it was going to look agreed without hesitation that SOMETHING had to change. We were ready to put the fridge in the pantry if we had to. GC was not so happy with our KD. I will say I was pleased with how everyone dealt with it in a civilized way (including us) and just resolved to fix it without getting angry or defensive.

The new design is going to be soooo much better, I can't believe we never came up with this plan before. I'm really not one for the getting the latest and greatest gadget, so I can't believe we will have fridge and freezer drawers and a drawer microwave, but they really solved the no-solid-wall dilemma for us, finally (and expensively). (Hey, at least I don't have a drawer dishwasher. My brother hates his.)

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

We have a simple stainless countertop microwave (to reheat, not to cook) and put it in a high cabinet with a rolldown front.

Over the range microwaves are unknown here in Germany, as are these typical freestanding American ranges with the protruding control panel that gets greasy all over when you fry on the rear burners. (I hate do take off all the knobs to clean the damn thing, LOL).
Whenever I see a kitchen remodel where one of these "dinosaurs" has been installed I think it's too bad they didn't spend some hundred bucks more and have the oven and cooktop built-in. Even more so in small kitchens where a standard range is simply out of scale, imo. But maybe it's just my European way to look at this topic.

One thing's for sure: there will be no range and no over the range microwave in our Florida kitchen remodel!

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

How are these mounted to the wall? Do they sit on a bracket or do they have a case?

June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBest Refrigerators

Another good idea is to utilize a speed cook oven/microwave ...such as GE Advantium...I find people absolutely love them and they can be placed somewhere other than over the range...the "over the range" version is only 12 in deep so can be in other spot that you can accomodate the 30 inches...but in tight spaces like an apt or condo it is a Godsend because it is a second oven as well as microwave. The cabinets would just be shorter above it... I would attach a pix of one I have done but do not think I can do that here? At any rate, it works very well and does not take up counterspace OR need trim kit. I have pix on my website if anyone needs to see it...indetailkitchenandbath.com ...I have received great feedback on doing it this way with no problems. Cheryl

June 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercheryl

I don't have an over the range microwave but have never really thought about it much whether I like them or not.

I have the same kitchen cabinets as in the photo here!

I love pretty kitchens...

July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Emily, glad you stopped by. Lots of pretty kitchens in the blog, I think! It's good you like your kitchen. :)

cheryl, yes, the installation is either a typical over the range type or a bigger/deeper oven installation, which is much more costly. but, it's great to have these speed cook ovens, which are more versatile than just a microwave.

BR, they attach to the wall with a bracket and two long screws up above.

Funny you should talk about a standard range in a small kitchen! That's exactly what we inherited when we bought our apartment. This huge standard range, which really doesn't get used (in terms of its size) and a 3" refrig. Why these big appliances are here, I just don't know, but they do look too big!

Jeannie, I'd love to see floorplans of the before and after. This story is really intriguing to me. I'd love more info. and, I'm glad it is working out much better than you hoped. That's the main thing.

Ginna, yes, we had an ivory one, and it didn't appear to be dirty/greasy, etc., not at all. And, that looks like a great mw, the Panasonic, and I don't think we have that, i looked it up. Thanks for the tip.

js, I couldn't agree with you less! There must be another reason for it. Ours was at least 10 years old, over the range, in this apartment, and there was no hint of brown anywhere. And a lot of cooking goes on in this kitchen too. There may be another reason for that, but I don't think it's a typical problem.

July 4, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Susan..what I was trying to say and may not have said it well, is that you CAN install a micro that is designed for above the range or cooktop in a non-traditional area...meaning the fact that it is 12in deep it can go somewhere else that there is at least 30 in of width...and still be above the countertop etc...it does not have to be JUST a wall oven model....it can be the exact same one you put over the range or cooktop but...not over the range or cooktop!! I hope this makes more sense as it really is a good alternative to over the range or cooktop or wall oven/micro combo. Cheryl

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercheryl

cheryl, thanks for clarifying that. I think it depends on the microwave and its design. Some are so obviously over the range, and to my eye, might look a bit odd, something to be careful of. Others, most others, could work just fine. That's a great point, thanks for bringing it up.

July 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Susan: Original post of mine was referring to the GE Advantium that could go other spot besides over the range. I agree, some of the larger and less attractive ones certainly would look ridiculous anywhere else!! I only mention it because I have found people really love it as it is truly a "second" oven but also microwave so does double duty. It is not a "typical" application so not always thought of when developing a layout.I really enjoy your blog!

July 15, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercheryl at In Detail

I use an OTR microwave quite often in my projects, mainly because I work in an area with a lot of older homes where the kitchens are smaller and homeowners prefer more cabinet and counter space to the perfect location for a microwave. Where more space is available, I frequently use the GE 12" deep model and place it under a wall cabinet, because most of my clients tell me that they don't use the MW for cooking--just for defrosting or heating up a cup of water. If that's the case, they certainly don't need a large appliance that will rarely be used.

July 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergrayslady

I had an over the range microwave but it no longer works. I am trying to replace it but it seems that the newer models are at least 16" high. I need one that is smaller. Does anyone know where I might find one?

November 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Sorry I am so late to this party, but if anyone is still reading - I have had the LG 22" wide over-the-range microwave/vent combo over a tiny 20" apartment sized stove and it was wonderful. The vent was adequate (I had a window in my kitchen) and quiet. I am redoing another small kitchen now and will buy another one to go over a 24" AGA gas range. My only complaint was that the acrylic face on the door could scratch if you rubbed it too hard, so I would soak encrusted spills with a warm wet cloth before cleaning them off. I am really surprised that the European appliance market has not come out with a higher end 24" over-the-range microwave since so many of their beautiful stoves come in 24". My second choice range was the bertazzoni 24".

January 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

Hi Patti I'm also late in the party. I'm not sure if anyone here has tried to use microwave drawers. It's not your conventional microwave where you place them above the fridge or a space on the kitchen bench. Its great in creating more bench space and especially ideal for kitchen islands.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOn Kitchen Design

While I agree that an over-the-range microwave is not the ideal option, please show a little consideration and compassion for those of us with very small kitchens for whom the over-to-range option (especially with charoal filters) is the best we can do for both ventilation and the convenience of a microwave. Not everyone has the suburban kitchen nor the luxury of remodeling. I came to this site hoping to hear pros and cons of various models. How disappointing.

January 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMoniqueDC

Does anyone have a suggestion for what else one might install over a down-draft gas range? Obviously with a down-draft, I don't need a hood. Trying to fill the space with something else.

January 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

I came to this blog because I have been looking for an OTR microwave that has to be 24" wide and 12" deep. I presently have a Jenn-Air electric range top and am going to replace it with a gas cooktop. The cabinets above will only let me install a 24" wide MW...can anyone recommend a good one? If not a MW, then can I get a hood-vent in a 24" wide size, do you think??

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarianne, MS

I've designed kitchens for years and have spec'd OTR micros. I have also had one from the day they were first sold! I love them they are a God send for space.
I am now just being faced with the design issue of a 6 burner stove (48" wide) being used with an over the range microwave.
I am realizing that no one supplies that size micro. and not all manufacturers sell spacers.
How is that problem solved?

August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

Tricia, my first concern is that an OTR microwave will be woefully inadequate for a 36" 6 burner cooktop. I assume this is a regular cooktop and not a professional rangetop. If you still wanted to go that route, you could just have a local sheet metal fabrication shop make up two L shaped stainless steel pieces that would fit along side the microwave, attached to a wood substrate, on each side and underneath. Or, you could put tile along the sides as well as below. Whatever you do, it should be flameproof.

August 24, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Having lived in 21 different houses, I,ve had experience with OTR, in wall, on counter and just about every kind of microwave location possible. IMO, the OTR is the best. We are now remodeling our kitchen and I cannot wait to remove the wall mounted microwave and install one over our range. The person who critisized OTR microwaves because there was no place to sit the hot items being removed, puzzles me. When a microwave is in the wall, there is no where to sit items directly below. I have even dropped very hot items trying to get to a place to sit them down. My vote goes for OTR microwaves anyday.

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatti B

I am moving to Israel and cannot find an OTR microwave for Israel electric source of 240 Volt 50 MHZ
does anyone know where I could find one?
(I have one in Canada and I am VERY sad to be leaving it!)

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEsther

What about the masty grease buildup that occurs inside the OTR microwave ovens? We recently had to replace a fuse on our 4 year old GE Profile SpaceMaker 1800XL that is regularly cleaned and the interior, circuitboards and all internal parts were covered in grease! We're going to replace the OTR microwave with a range hood and buy a smaller microwave oven for the countertop,

November 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArt Zasadny

We've gutted the kitchen and are buying a glass smooth top range...anyone ever dropped an item out of an Over range microwave, damaging the expensive-to-replace smooth glass top?...I still have time to decide to insert and Over range microwave or place a microwave somewhere else. I think Sears makes a good powered vent inside the over range microwave in some models now.

December 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

I am alittle late to this discussion but I'm hoping not too late. Right now I have a wall oven and microwave and a glasstop electric cooktop. I would like to replace the cooktop with a gas cooktop but have a venting problem. My cooktop is on an inside wall below a bedroom so venting to the attic or outside is impossible. I could purchase a gas cooktop w/downdraft but my options are 2. I was thinking of an otr microwave and replacing my wall unit with a double oven. I can't make up my mind which way to go, downdraft or OTR. Any advice???

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

I have had OTR microwaves for 20 years and love the convenience and the space they save. I am purchasing a new condo that just has an OTR fan, and the builder has installed a shelf for the microwave in the upper cabinets. I really dislike these and plan to remove the fan and install an OTR microwave. So, any suggestions as to what to do with the empty microwave shelf?

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCorinne

One comment I would like to add is that you really do need to take care. I went to use the otr microwave when I was cooking on the stove and it made a huge bang like a shotgun blast. I now have damage to both my inner ears. There was never any warning not to use it while cooking on the stove? What would be the point if you can't use it anytime you are cooking? Anyways, just thought I would share. I would never buy one again and I wouldn't recommend that anyone get an otr unless you never use it while cooking on the stove.

June 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnnmarie

I have a sharp carousel OTR microwave and it doesn't handle the steam from cooking. I have also had the problem with the loud crackling...like firecrackers...when I tried to use it while cooking or after. I am now trying to decide whether to replace it or get a hood vent.

July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

We're changing our counters and back splash to granite. We need to remove the old OTR microwave.
Unfortunately, the new microwaves are 16 1/2" high which require 2 feet above the range, where our old OTR unit was only 14" high and required less height OTR, (we have 18"). We cannot find any bands that are manufactured is shorter heights. Any suggestions?


November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I have an OTR unit that is vented to the outside, however, in accidentally overheating a pot that let off an intensive amount of smoke. Turning on the fan to high did not expel the smoke. My kitchen totally was filled with smoke. It is a Magic Chef, and I will at my earliest locate an installer to have it remove. I have been searching the internet trying to fine an QTR microwave vent system that will do the job. If necessary I will replace it with a hood and hope to use the Magic Chef elsewhere in the kitchen, but the weight may make it inadequate. Any suggestions?

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

So I might not just get it, but any new house we look at from open houses or show homes, the microwave is in the island at knee level. Even the house we moved into 3 years ago had that (doesnt now, we put in an over the range microwave and made the area into a pull out recycling center)

So maybe someone on here can explain why they do that. The things I can see and from expereince that suck are

1. Bending over or kneeling all the time to get your food since its not at eye or arm level
2. Spilling your food because of the location, expecially soup
3. Cant see whats happening inside when checking, have to bend down
4. Worry about your kids getting into it if they are younger

The 3 months we used ours at knee level totally sucked, from listed above to some other just what is this here for.

Maybe some of the people on here that are into design trends can help me understand why this feature is now used all the time. Just curious really. Is it maybe any I have seen are just normal microwaves in the space, not the drawer style.

We purposly put 2 OTR microwaves in our last 2 houses because we find that they work well and the location is perfect. The bottom of the microwave line up with bottom of the cupbaords, so its not sticking far down like some have mentioned on here (not seeing the back burners?? Of course if you have just a range hood and put in an OTR you need to adjust the cupbaord and doors above. We did that and it looks great. We tried just replacing without adjusting and yes then they are to low.

Maybe im more of function over fashion, but for a family of 5 that uses their microwave a lot from defrosting to reheating leftovers, I dont see any other way that would work better

May 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKen W

I am VERY LATE to this discussion. I seem to have a problem with being told 2 thinga:
1. Not enough clearance from stove to otr-what is the minimum?
2. Different type of plug-there already is a 3 prong when tbe vent hood comes out
If anyone still following please answer.

July 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlv2hi

Also, the cabinet next to the microwave will hit the microwave when you open it.
I was considering an OTR Micro when we remodel our kitchen because we
dont have alot of countertop space. But it seems to have alot of cons and the only pro
is that it saves countertop space. The wife is only 5" tall and will probably have to get on a chair to use
the thing. I think we will stick with the countertop microwave

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLarry

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