Installing an Over-the-Range Microwave

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Installing an Over-the-Range Microwave

Posted by Alexandria on January 7, 2022

Although professional chefs may disagree, microwaves are one of the kitchen’s most underrated appliances. Whether you’re a college student living in tight quarters or a parent with three kids to feed, a quick and simple microwaved meal can be a true life-saver.

But what to do when the microwave oven you’ve had for fifteen years finally shorts out? Time to think about a replacement, which means figuring out how to install an over-the-range-microwave pronto. Follow this step-by-step guide to learn how to replace and install an over-the-range microwave oven.

Select the Right Over-the-Range Microwave

Just like most things in the consumer economy, a plethora of microwave product options exist. Regardless of whether you want to learn how to install a Whirlpool microwave, Samsung microwave, or another available brand product, there are some general guidelines to follow when shopping.

Typical microwave ovens tend to come in three distinct sizes: compact, mid-size, and full size. Appliance installation experts point out, though, that no set standard height, width, and depth measurements exist across the board for microwaves. This lack of consistency means that making sure the microwave you purchase will work with your existing kitchen’s setup should be top-of-mind for buyers.

Over-the-range microwaves differ from countertop microwaves. Most over-the-range models double as range vents, which means that they help suck up exhaust fumes from stove cooking. They sit above your stovetop and free up counter space. Fortunately, most over-the-range microwaves are designed to fit into a 30-inch wide space, a good metric to keep in mind while shopping.

It’s a good idea to measure your existing microwave before pulling out the pocketbook. The need to replace an over-the-range microwave can sometimes overwhelm practicalities, and the last thing you want is to buy a new microwave and realize it doesn’t fit into its allotted space. Pulling the ‘ole tape measure out is a good place to start your over-the-range microwave install.

Understand Venting Options for Over-the-Range Microwaves

Perhaps one of the trickiest parts of microwave installation is getting ventilation right. Typically, two venting options exist for over-the-range microwaves. The first relies on a vertical duct that blows exhaust into the outside air in an upwards motion. Alternatively, horizontal vents push air through a maze of ductwork in the adjacent wall.

Knowing which option is right for your kitchen depends on how existing ductwork is set up. Before installation, determine whether your current ductwork setup snakes upwards or sideways, If you’re unsure, you can always ask an installation expert from RC Willey for assistance. Sometimes, adjustments need to be made to your ducts, which is traditionally done with the addition of transition fittings or vent collars. Regardless, know precisely how your microwave’s ventilation will work before lifting a new one into place.

Prep Your Space for Installation

Even more important than the set-up itself is preparation of the area you plan to use for your new over-the-range model. Ensuring you have enough space for the new microwave is critical.

It’s a good idea to have the following tools easily accessible when prepping your space:

• Measuring tape
• Phillips screwdriver
• Drill with an array of drill bit sizes
• Masking tape
• Scissors
How to Install an Over-the-Range Microwave

Experts like the National Kitchen and Bath Association recommend that microwave bottoms should be placed no higher than 54 inches from the floor. Similarly, make sure your over-the-range microwave has enough clearance above the stove, which should be at a minimum 20 to 24 inches.

Similarly, having enough space between the microwave’s top and the kitchen ceiling as well as a large enough width between wall cabinets is key before attempting installation. Most over-the-range microwaves need overhanging cabinets above them so they can be properly fastened. Another point to keep in mind when learning how to install over-the-range microwave ovens is whether your kitchen has a backsplash. If so, the microwave needs to sit at least 2 inches above it.

This may go without saying, but remove your existing model before attempting to replace it with a new over-the-range microwave. Notice how your old microwave attaches to the bottom of the overhanging cabinet. Remove any screws, any existing mounting brackets (particularly since new microwaves come with their own custom installation instructions), and the microwave itself.

Set up Your Microwave’s Electrical Connection

Over-the-range microwaves require some electrical wiring to be set up before use. The overhanging cabinet above your over-the-range model will serve as the primary space for both mounting and any electrical cords that hook up your microwave. It may also house some venting ducts, depending on your setup.

How to Install an Over-The Range Microwave Electrical Cord Although most over-the-range microwaves come with detailed manufacturer instructions on how to position necessary wiring, you should not attempt this step of installation if you have any doubts about how to safely setup electrical components. As with anything involving electrical wiring, accidents can happen, and you should consider hiring a certified professional to assist.

Install Mounts for Microwave

Once your measurements, overhanging cabinet, and electrical wiring plan are in place, it’s time to finally break open the box for your newly purchased over-the-range microwave. Your microwave will come with paper templates that contain further instructions on how to install over-the-range microwaves. Tape one template to the back wall behind your microwave’s space and another to the bottom of the overhanging cabinet (included manufacturer instructions should make it clear which template goes where). For a visual, check out this quick video below.

Once the templates are set up, you should see on them specific spots to drill holes. These holes will be used for power cords and venting, so it’s important to drill them precisely where the templates indicate. For optimum support, take time to find studs on which you can drill. A standard stud finder tool will work well for this process, but you can also tap lightly across the wall with a hammer to listen for the solid thunk that indicates a stud. At minimum, the stud should be roughly 2 x 4 inches, and you should aim to drill as close to the middle of the stud as possible. Your over-the-range microwave oven installation will run more smoothly if the mount is solidly supported to begin with.

After drilling, mount the metal bracket included with your over-the-range microwave as shown in the manufacturer instructions. It’s critical to make sure the mount is supported by wall studs before moving onto the next step in the installation process.

Configure Ductwork for Ventilation

Although you already should have determined whether your ductwork lies horizontally or vertically, it’s time now to finally connect it all up with your microwave. All ductwork used in conjunction with your microwave needs to be metal. Any plastic options offered by hardware stores should be avoided in this instance.

Hopefully your ductwork is already more or less configured, but if not, ensure that your duct length stays below 140 feet. If the duct is longer, air flow may not circulate appropriately. Ideally, your ducts will primarily be straight. Having to use adapters, elbows, and roof caps could impede airflow. Ultimately, if you are unsure whether your ducts are set up properly for an over-the-range microwave installation, it’s best to get in touch with a professional that can help guide you through the process.

Lift and Install Your Over-the-Range Microwave

Once your ductwork and electrical setup is complete, you are finally ready to position and install your new over-the-range microwave oven. You should not attempt this step alone; this is where having a helper that can support the microwave’s weight while you hook it up is important for efficiency and safety’s sake.

First, you should double check that your microwave is in working order. Occasionally, microwaves can be damaged in transit or, if you’re installing a used over-the-range model, broken. Not only is your time wasted by installing a defunct microwave, but it could also be a hazard, particularly once hooked up to the electrical outlet.

Next, with the assistance of your helper, lift the microwave to its designated spot above the oven. Slightly tilt the microwave so you can position it with the appropriate mounts as instructed by the manufacturer. Most over-the-range microwaves should come with mounting bolts that you can then thread through the drilled holes. Make sure the microwave is as horizontal as possible throughout this process. Once you are finished tightening mount bolts, fit the microwave’s lower edge as closely as possible to the cabinet’s bottom.

Snake the electrical cord through the appropriate hole in the overhanging cupboard. Before plugging it in all the way, connect your oven’s vent outlet into the ductwork. Make sure all joints are sealed with metal tape. After plugging in and testing your oven, gather the electrical cord into a bundle and safely place it in the overhanging cupboard.

You did it! Of course, if your microwave isn’t turning on as expected, you can always call on an RC Willey professional to help. Note that certain manufacturer instructions may differ from those given here. That’s ok — when in doubt, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations first. Interested in purchasing an over-the-range microwave? Check out‘s selection today.


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