Can You Use a Countertop Microwave as a Built-in?

If you love cooking, you know how important it is to have enough working space on your kitchen countertop. That’s one of the reasons why most people are going for built-in kitchen appliances.

Another reason most individuals are going after such appliances is to get units that suit a minimalistic interior design style. Microwave ovens are great examples of this.

Built-in microwaves don’t take up your countertop space and are easy to access. But what do you do if you already have a countertop microwave? And remember, the units (built-ins)can be a little pricey.

So, can you use a countertop microwave as a built-in? Well, you can. But you have to follow all the necessary safety precautions to ensure that your microwave and cabinet do not get damaged.

In this post, we step in deeper into the topic of using a countertop microwave as a built-in, looking at things like how to install the countertop into a cabinet and whether it’s safe to do so.

Things You Can do to Make Your Cabinet Safe for a Countertop Microwave

Can You Use a Countertop Microwave as a Built-in

Using your countertop microwave oven in a cabinet is possible instead of spending money on a built-in one. Remember, although built-in models are specifically designed for this purpose, they come with a higher price tag.

And since there are some ways to work around with your countertop microwave oven to achieve the exact results, why not give it a try?

When looking to install your countertop microwave into a cabinet, consider the following safety factors:


You need to ensure that your microwave is adequately ventilated after installing it into the cabinet. This will protect your appliance from damage.

One thing to note about countertop microwaves is that their ventilation is different from built-in models. Countertop ovens come with vents on the top or sides, while built-in models are vented at the back.

Therefore, when putting your countertop unit into a cabinet, you have to ensure that there’s enough space on the side for adequate airflow around your microwave.

Robust Cabinet

In addition to boasting enough ventilation space, the cabinet you choose to put the microwave in has to be strong enough to support the weight of your microwave.

When installing the microwave, check to ensure that the shelf you’ve placed it on isn’t bending and that it’s secure on its supports. Add extra supports to the shelf if you doubt its strength.

It’s also advisable to select a place in your cabinet that you can access with ease. You don’t want to have any accidents when working with the microwave right? This will happen if your microwave is placed too high.

You can also not place the microwave in a very low cabinet if you have kids. Kids are playful and can accidentally hurt themselves when trying to operate the unit if left unsupervised.

Using a trim kit

Trim kits are specifically made to help you install a countertop microwave into a cabinet. They give you a built-in look while protecting the oven from dust and grime.

A trim kit consists of a trim frame and an upper, lower, and rear duct that encases the microwave in the cabinet cut out. You need to use the trim kit designed for your microwave so that the kit fits the microwave and provides proper ventilation.

Cleaning and Maintenance

A countertop microwave is very easy to clean, but things get a little complicated after putting it in the cabinet. This is because although cleaning your microwave’s interior is still relatively easy, the exterior is a lot harder to get to.

And with time, dust and debris can build up on your oven’s exterior and potentially clog it up.

With the blocked vents, your microwave won’t ventilate itself properly, a situation that can lead to overheating and eventually breaking down.

Therefore, when installing your countertop microwave in a cabinet, ensure that you take it out for cleaning every few months. This way, the vents can stay clean and enable your microwave to keep functioning correctly.

Wire Management

You need a place to plug in your microwave for it to work. Therefore, if there’s a power outlet at the back of the cabinet, it’ll come in handy.

You need to connect the microwave to a grounded power outlet. If the power outlet is a distance away, you’ll need to cut a small hole in the cabinet to pass the plug and plug it in. Avoid using an extension cord or a power bar.

How to Install a Countertop Microwave in a Cabinet

With basic DIY skills, you can install a countertop microwave into a cabinet with ease. All you need is a few tools to help you carry out the process and, if possible, an extra pair of hands.

To install a countertop microwave as a built-in:

  1. Remove your cabinet doors, if any.
  2. Insert the microwave into the cabinet’s cavity.
  3. Using a tape measure, measure the ventilation clearances around the microwave while making the marks so you’ll know where to put the microwave later.
  4. Remove the microwave from the cavity again.
  5. Using your drill, make a hole at the back of the cabinet (on the side nearest to the power outlet). The hole should be big enough for the power chord to fit through.
  6. However, if there’s a plug at the back of the cabinet, skip this step.
  7. Clean the microwave before putting it back in the cavity.
  8. Lastly, plug the microwave into a power outlet and reattach the cabinet doors if you removed them initially. That’s it! Your countertop microwave oven now functions as a built-in.

Advantages of Using a Countertop Microwave as a Built-in

  • You get a chance to create more space in your kitchen. With more space, preparing meals for your family becomes easier. You’ll also enjoy your cooking time.
  • Putting your microwave in the cabinet makes it safer for kids. You can lock the cabinet, making it difficult for kids to access it.
  • Installing a countertop microwave in a cabinet minimizes bending down. With proper installation, it should always be at your eye level.
  • Using a countertop microwave as a built-in will make your kitchen appear more modern.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Yes. Just ensure that the shelf is strong enough to hold it, has enough ventilation, and that there’s proper wire management.

Does a countertop microwave require ventilation?

So, yes. All microwave ovens require adequate air clearance on both sides, the top and the rear, to function properly. A countertop microwave requires good ventilation as well.

How much space is required around a microwave?

For adequate ventilation, keep 3” of space around the unit’s top, rear, and sides and the area you intend to install the microwave. The shelf should have a 3 inches breather and not more.

Can I put my countertop microwave in a cupboard?

You can put the microwave inside your cupboard, but first, you need to ensure that it’ll fit once plugged in and that there’s enough ventilation.


From the discussion above, it’s clear that you can use a countertop microwave as a built-in. All you need to do is observe all the safety measures during installation(1).

This will increase your microwave’s lifespan and keep fire accidents at bay.

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