Everything You Need to Know About Microwaves

Ron Nanberg | Tue, Nov 19, 2019 | Kitchen Remodeling

Choosing the right microwaveThe microwave is one of the most revolutionary and life-altering appliances to hit the kitchen in more than 100 years. It was well-timed in terms of women’s launch into the workplace, allowing busy couples and non-cooks in the family to put nutritious and tasty dinners on the table in exponentially less time than most home-cooked meals.

Today's microwaves are marketed with a wide range of functional options (including grilling, steaming, and convection features). However, like its larger, oven counterpart, microwaves are clunky squares or rectangles, and ideal placement is a common topic of debate for many homeowners. Should it be tucked away as if it doesn’t exist? Or, should the microwave be featured as part of the functional kitchen work triangle?

These and other questions should all be addressed prior to finalizing your kitchen's official design.

Choosing the Right Microwave For Your Chicago Kitchen Design

This post is designed to cover everything you need to know about microwaves. In order to keep it timely and relevant – whether you’re reading it in 2020 or 2030 - we’re covering the basics of microwave types, locations and considerations. However, we’ll leave specific details about makes, models, and serial designers to you and your kitchen design team.

The Basic Microwave Types

Microwaves come in big and little packages. And, while smaller microwave designs may appeal to homeowners that don’t use them as often – keeping them less in the line of sight – we recommend taking the long-view before settling on a smaller sized model. If you have little ones at home or you plan to age-in-place, a microwave that’s slightly larger than your current, preferred size may come in handy down the road when cooking/reheating larger items is a more frequent occurrence.

There are six basic types of microwaves, and most of them are available with all of the bells and whistles.


Microhoods tuck right underneath the kitchen hood, above the stove/range top (something to consider if smaller children want to be part of the kitchen equation). The microhood is especially popular in smaller kitchen designs, where there isn’t a much countertop or open cabinet space to offer other placement options.

This option is also appealing to those who use their microwave almost as much as – or more than – their stove top. It puts it right inside the work triangle, and non-cooks typically don't care about a fancy-schmancy hood. However, if kitchen ventilation is especially important to you, or if you fry foods on your stovetop fairly often, you may want to think twice about microhood options. The hood ventilation on these models is filtered but typically re-routes back into the kitchen space, and the top/front of the microwave is prone to grease splattering.

Undercounter microwave

Like the microhood, this option is another space saving option. Undercounter microwaves may be the preferred option if you have a smaller kitchen, or simply want to get your microwave up and out of the way, but desire a more powerful or designer hood.

Countertop microwave

While some abhor this option because it contributes to countertop “clutter,” others prefer the more mobile, versatility offered by countertop microwave models. If you’re designing your kitchen on a budget, you’ll appreciate that countertop microwave options typically have smaller price tags.

Cabinet microwave

This microwave is installed inside the cabinet banks themselves - replacing shelves. This is a more integrated option than microhood or countertop options. Cabinet microwaves do eat up cabinet space, decreasing storage space. However, today’s customized cabinet interiors typically account for this space and then some when it comes to reclaiming wasted space in your outdated cabinetry.

Microwave drawer

These are some of the newest microwaves to hit the market. They are one of the most expensive microwave models available, and they're typically installed in lower-cabinet boxes. Microwave drawers can also be installed in a kitchen island or peninsula. Like cabinet microwaves, microwave drawers are more integrated than other options, popular with contemporary and streamlined design enthusiasts.

Read, The Pros & Cons of a Microwave Drawer, if you’re considering this option.

Convection Microwave

These are a wise choice for both chef aficionados and those who loathe cooking. Why the latter? Because convection microwaves provide some of the benefits of convection ovens, but with far less work. Thus, the non-cook benefits from higher-quality microwavable food without actually having to cook it. These are also great for small kitchen owners who enjoy backing (yes! you can actually bake with the right microwave...)

Where Should I Put My Microwave?

Once you’ve decided on the type, it’s time to figure out the best placement for it. This question typically revolves around the tenets of kitchen functionality.

Some of the things to consider are:

It's hinged on the left Just like refrigerator and oven doors, your microwave’s door needs to open and close accessibly. However, unlike refrigerators, you don’t have a choice in how it’s hinged because microwave doors are always hinged on the left. You don’t want a microwave with a door that bangs into things, is awkward to open, or that requires you to make any extra steps or maneuvers to access/use it. Pencil in the door swing and make sure you have enough room for yourself and others to move around when it’s in the open position.

Who uses it? If you don’t use the microwave all that often, make sure the ones who use it have a voice in the matter. If younger children do the bulk of the microwave cooking/reheating, install it so it’s within easy reach to prioritize safety and minimize spills. You may take the opposite approach and get it up and out of the way to discourage little ones. However, keep accessibility in mind if you plan to age in place or have a multi-generational household.

Cabinet or counter space? Which do you value more? If you have ample countertop space, but less cabinet space, you’ll probably prefer a countertop version. On the flip side, if you never seem to have enough countertop space for your kitchen needs, a cabinet microwave or microwave drawer keeps countertops free of extra appliances.

During the initial kitchen remodel planning phase, pay careful attention to how your microwave gets used. The information you glean by objectively observing daily kitchen routines better informs your Chicago kitchen remodeling team as they design a kitchen that’s customized to your household.

Contact Kitchens & Baths Unlimited to begin designing a kitchen remodel that ensures everything – including the microwave – finds its best location.