Can I Use Over-The-Range Microwaves as Countertop?

Over-the-range microwaves are all the rage these days, with a wide variety of different sizes and models available. These over-the-range models come with a variety of benefits, but there are reasons why someone could possibly want to take it down from above the stove. But can you use one of these microwaves on the counter?

Over-the-range microwaves can be used as countertop microwaves, but it is not recommended. Doing so can create safety issues with heat, and since over-the-range microwaves are not designed to be put on the counter, they can be wobbly and unstable when not mounted properly.

If you want to know why you shouldn’t use an over-the-range microwave as a countertop microwave, keep reading There are a few things in particular that someone should know before trying to do so.

Using an Over-the-Range Microwave on the Counter

One of the biggest issues that arise when trying to use a range microwave as a countertop model is convenience. Because the bottom of many over-the-range microwaves is not perfectly flat or level, it stands to reason that when using it propped up on a flat surface like a countertop by itself, it will be wobbly and unstable. This can become either just a nuisance, as nobody likes a wobbly microwave, or a safety hazard, as the microwave may slide around when you try to open and shut it, potentially causing it to fall off the counter and land on your foot.

Another issue that can come up when using one of these microwaves this way is heat. Since over-the-range microwaves were not designed to be used on the counter, they often get rid of heat differently than their countertop counterparts. This heat can build up underneath the microwave and cause damage to the area underneath it or even cause a fire in extreme circumstances. This is due to the design of these microwaves, as range microwaves have vents underneath them rather than on the sides.

This issue is only made worse when the vent fan or surface lights are turned on. These issues are simply not present when using a microwave in its intended place.

One other consideration when deciding whether or not to use an over-the-range model on the countertop is that by doing so, you will be wasting many of the features that they come with, not to mention defeating the whole purpose of their existence. These microwaves, when installed properly, function as a replacement for a cooking vent hood, without taking up any additional counter space. The microwave surface lights are also pretty nifty, but they are useless when the unit is placed on the countertop.

Benefits of Using a Range Microwave

A range microwave is most definitely worth the extra effort to either install it yourself or pay someone else to install it, although the process is relatively straightforward. Some of the benefits that over-the-range microwaves boast include:

  • Surface lights that serve as an extra cooking light or even as a night-light.
  • A vent fan that can (to a certain degree) replace your typical range hood fan in getting rid of smoke and any other potentially toxic vapors and fumes released from cooking.
  • Since it sits off the countertop, it makes space for any cooking appliances you might want to use down on the counter and frees up food prep space.
  • Children have a harder time reaching it, making it safer than a countertop microwave if you have low counters.

Drawbacks of Over-the-Range Microwaves

  • They can be harder to reach than countertop models
  • They require installation
  • The vent fan isn’t as powerful as a range hood fan

Why It’s Better to Buy a Countertop Microwave than Use an Over-the-Range Microwave on the Counter

Considering that all the benefits of an over-the-range microwave disappear when using it on the counter, what makes the most sense is to just purchase a countertop microwave right from the start. Not only are they better designed for the countertop (they have legs to make sure they sit evenly on the counter), but in most cases, they are also significantly cheaper than an over-the-range microwave of similar quality.

Over-the-range models also just don’t look good down on the counter and may detract from the look of your kitchen when used in such a fashion.

How to Install an Over-the-Range Microwave

If all that is holding you back from using your over-the-range microwave properly is the setup, don’t worry. The steps to install an over-the-range microwave are relatively simple, and read as follows:

  1. Take off the knobs of the oven so that you don’t actually turn on the stove during installation.
  2. Open the microwave box and remove all the items inside.
  3. Remove the screws from the back of the microwave that are keeping the wall bracket attached.
  4. Make sure to install the charcoal filter for the vent.
  5. Prepare the microwave venting by arranging it either back or up or to recirculate depending on your kitchen.
  6. Drill holes in the cabinet above your microwave after measuring how far apart you need them.
  7. Attach the microwave to the mounting bracket.
  8. Start the screws above your microwave by hand and then finish installing them with either a manual or powered screwdriver. This is necessary in order to keep the microwave in place for a long time.
  9. After this, your microwave should be good to go!

Watch the following video for a visual representation of these instructions.

Other Microwave Types to Consider

If you are struggling to find a way to make your over-the-range microwave work well in your home, you may just need a new type of microwave. Here are some alternative types of microwaves that might work better for you.

  • Low-profile over-the-range microwaves, which are skinnier in order to take up less vertical space above the stove.
  • Under-the-counter microwaves are a newly popular type of microwave that can be pulled out just like a drawer, and they can be really good if you already have a range hood above your stove and still want to save counter space.
  • Wall oven and microwave combinations are also an increasingly popular setup in modern kitchens. They look really sleek and can help you maintain one style throughout your kitchen.