Over-the-range microwave and open shelving

calizzyDecember 28, 2013

So, i like the look of the hood over then range and then some open shelving on both sides. However, I have a less than a year old nice over-the-range microwave that I hate to get rid of just to satisfy the current "hood craze." Is it possible to keep my microwave over the range and then still have open shelving to the left and right? Will this look ridiculous?

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"... the current "hood craze."..."

It's not a "hood craze", rather there was an "over the range MW" craze a few years ago that ignored the lack of safety and lack of functionality (for both usage and work flow) of these appliances.

Rarely is there a "need" for an OTR MW. In most cases, a real hood (that actually does what it's supposed to do) and a separate MW (that's both located where it functionally makes sense and is not a safety hazard) is doable. The rare cases are when a kitchen is so small there is no other place for a MW. Unfortunately, in these cases it usually means there is no decent venting.

Are you redoing your kitchen? If so, do you really want to plan around an appliance that won't last more than a few years and will have to be replaced with yet another of the same kind? Instead, why not get a real hood and mount the OTR MW over the counter someplace else? This will allow you to lower it to a safer and more user-friendly operating height as well as place it where it functionally makes sense for workflow.

Will open shelving look "right" next to an OTR MW? I don't know. However, I don't like open shelving next to a range if there isn't decent venting b/c items stored on the shelves will develop a layer of gunk very quickly (caused by grease, steam, etc. landing on the items and then dust, dirt, etc. settling on the greasy/damp surfaces and adhering to the surface) unless used and washed frequently.

Whatever you decide (it is your kitchen, after all), good luck!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 12:54AM
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Why is an OTR MW a safety hazard? Too close to the burners or too high to reach? Seems fine for me.
My issue is that even the most powerful MW exhaust fan is less effective than a cheapo hood. Functionality in terms of location works for me because I pre-nuke things and then pop them in the oven.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 10:50AM
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Sophie Wheeler

It's too high and interferes with the cook if anyone else tries to use it. Honestly, I'll say that the open shelving is much more of a "craze" than the OTR. Too many people don't pay enough attention to the ventilation needed in order to help keep all of that stuff out in the open clean. Then they get tired of cleaning stuff before they can use it. There is also a certain commitment to aesthetic presentation of utilitarian objects that has to be kept up if you don't want a cluttered mess look. That can be a lot more exhausting than merely shutting the plastic cups behind opaque doors.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 11:07AM
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I'm 5' 5" and I could never use an OTR mw. My mw sits on a self 18" over the counter. This is the highest point that is comfortable for me to use.

This is from NKBA, . Microwave Oven Placement: The ideal location for the bottom of the microwave is 3 inches below the principle user's shoulder but no more than 54 inches above the floor. If the microwave is below the countertop the bottom must be at least 15 inches off the finished floor.

54" above the floor is way to low over a range. Again for me that is the max I feel comfortable taking hot things in and out of the microwave.

OTR mws do not have to be installed OTR. Put in on a shelf, mount it under a shelf, in a cabinet, etc.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 11:35AM
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I have a small galley and an OTR MW is the only option that makes sense for us. It's only difficult for me when I have to pull something heavy out when I Use the convection since I am short. Having to step aside for two seconds for someone to use it while I'm cooking is not a big deal...guess I'm used to the close quarters.

Maybe it's just me, but even when we had the cheapo builder hood, the only time I turned it on was if I burned something. Do most people turn their hoods on every time they cook?

As for the open shelves...for me they would just be dust/grease collectors and be one more thing to have to keep up...not to mention having to keep them "staged" and looking nice all the time.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 12:31PM
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Hm, just measured: The bottom of the OTR MW is 4" below my shoulder and about 54" above the floor. Distance from range top to MW is about 17.5".

Anyways, since I highjacked the thread for this detour, here are some pics:

However, what you could do for starters is to just remove the doors and see how you like that, like this:

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 2:31PM
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I have a cheapo hood ($200 or so) that works great. And no, I don't turn it on every time I cook. I couldn't stand the noise. I just use it when I'm frying meat (infrequently).

I don't care for OTR MWs, but I can see that sometimes you have no other choice. I have a small kitchen and mine's on the counter. It would be an otherwise unused spot.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 3:13PM
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Having lived for years with an OTR microwave...I'm really looking forward to a real hood. Open shelves next to the truly-useless filtering capabilities of an OTR-Micro? Really? Seems like all the grease & ick that get over my cabinet doors above & to sides of OTR-Micro would get all over your dishes/glasses/shelves. I love open shelves--have 'em in my kitchen & they're fine--but near a OTR-Micro ventilated stove? Wouldn't work for me.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 3:59PM
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These are some really helpful comments. Maybe I will skip the open shelving. I have always had an over the range microwave, and thought that countertop microwaves were cheap, but I will put more thought in to it.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 5:12PM
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What does the cabinet above your OTR MW look like? Mine is greasy despite degreaser and lots of elbow grease. However, it may depend on your cooking/frying habits. In my case, I sure wouldn't be able to have open shelves.

Is there a way that you could build your OTR MW into a cabinet, or get a new MW and build it in?
Something like this:


    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 5:21PM
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Does a mounted microwave need venting? If I were to mount it elsewhere, do I need to have it vented?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 6:39PM
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Below is a link to a discussion of that topic. I would imagine that hanging it under a counter should work, especially with a recirculation kit. If, however, you want to put it on a shelf, you'd need some rubber feet to be able to open the door.
Can somebody answer whether a recirculation kit is necessary, either way?

Here is a link that might be useful: using OTR MW somewhere else

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 10:13AM
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Sophie Wheeler

OTRs have to be hung from cabinets. Not necessarily over a cooktop though. And you don't need a recirculating kit for any of them if you're not using them as a recirculating vent. All that is installing them with the damper in the closed position and putting in a charcoal filter. If you won't be turning on the fan, then all you need to do is have an electrical outlet in the cabinet above it so you can plug it on. The position of the damper is irrelevant if you won't be using it for anything.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Thanks for clarifying re. fan and recirculating kit. Why do you have to hang them from a cabinet? if you put little rubber feet underneath them, shouldn't you be able to put them on a shelf?

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 3:32PM
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Elraes Miller

The main requirement is a dedicated circuit. I talked to an appliance guy a while ago and he said there was really no issue with putting an OTR on the counter or in a cupboard. I didn't take too much of what he said to heart, think it is best to check with an appliance repair/install guy. Using an OTR anyplace has some codes involved.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 8:02AM
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