Are you redesigning your kitchen and considering a built-in microwave in the kitchen island?
While this placement is becoming more popular, there are several drawbacks.
This guide breaks down the pros and cons of putting your microwave in the kitchen island. You’ll learn how the placement of a microwave impacts safety, space, accessibility, maintenance, and more.
You’ll also learn what kitchen design experts say about this topic.
Use the links below to navigate the guide:
- Pros of a Microwave in the Kitchen Island
- Cons of a Microwave in the Kitchen Island
- What Kitchen Design Experts Say
- What Homeowners Say
- Bottom Line: Is a Microwave in the Kitchen Island a Good Idea?
There are several benefits to installing a microwave in the kitchen island, such as creating more usable space and improved accessibility. Let’s review these advantages in more detail.
While some kitchen appliances are beautifully designed, microwaves aren’t usually the most attractive device in your kitchen.
When you put the microwave in your island, you will only see the front, letting your cabinets, counters, light fixtures, and other elements shine.
Your kitchen will also have a more streamlined or uniform look because the microwave doesn’t break up the lines of your upper cabinets.
Every kitchen could use more counter space. Putting your microwave in the island instead of on a counter frees up space for food preparation or storing small appliances such as a toaster, blender, or juicer.
When the microwave is installed in your island, you can prepare food on the counter while someone else uses the microwave without getting in each other’s way.
You also won’t need to worry about anyone bumping their head on upper cabinet units, which often happens when the microwave door is left open.
Alternatively, if your microwave is fitted above your stove, moving it into your island creates more clearance above the stove or install a better exhaust fan or vent hood.
Additionally, if you’re preparing a meal on the stovetop and need to microwave something, you won’t have to reach over hot or steaming pots and pans.
And similar to the situation explained above, if you’re cooking on the stove and someone else needs to microwave something, they can do so without getting in your way.
Similarly, higher-end in-island microwaves often have a wider range of features, such as locks, ergonomic buttons, and soft-close doors. While these features increase convenience and are appealing, they often come at a higher price.
Drawer microwaves, often built into islands, operate on new technology that doesn’t require a turntable. And, without that spinning glass plate, there’s one less part to clean.
If you opt for an island microwave instead of an over-range unit, you can install a vent hood in its place. Today’s stoves are more powerful than ever, so maximizing ventilation over the range is essential.
Although most over-range microwaves do a decent job venting steam and smoke, they aren’t as effective as larger vent hoods.
And finally, a microwave in the island is more accessible than counter or above-the-stove units if you’re shorter than average or use a wheelchair.
If you’re not tall, the lower position can make cleaning easier and reduce the risk of spills.
Reaching up to remove a hot bowl of soup from a microwave over the stove can lead to spills and be a major safety risk. With the microwave placed lower in the island, you can reach down and lift the bowl without the risk of spilling it on you.
While there are many benefits to putting a microwave in a kitchen island, there are some potential downsides to consider as well. Let’s take a look at each drawback, one at a time.
The biggest downside of putting a microwave in the kitchen island is the high cost. Built-in microwaves and microwave drawers are significantly more expensive than countertop and over-range units. Not only is the appliance itself more costly, but installation is too.
According to HomeAdvisor, installing a built-in microwave, which is the type you’d install in a kitchen island, costs between $290 and $5,000, with an average price of $2,650. As you can see in the table below, that’s significantly more expensive than installing other types of microwaves.
|Microwave Placement||Average Cost (Microwave & Labor)||Average Cost (Microwave & Labor)|
|Countertop||$50 – $320||$190|
|Below-cabinet||$140 – $450||$300|
|Over-range||$150 – $570||$360|
|Built-in (island)||$290 – $5,000||$2,650|
Exact pricing depends on the brand, model, and installer fees (which vary by region).
Another significant drawback of putting a microwave in the island is the danger it can create, especially if you have young kids. Small children might play with the buttons or treat the microwave as a toy and put non-food items in it, which could start a fire.
Some microwaves have a door lock feature – typically a button sequence – but kids are more technologically savvy than ever and can often figure out how to get past it.
Another downside of having an in-island microwave is a lack of ventilation. Drawer microwaves or built-in microwaves, the two types that would go in an island, typically don’t have any ventilation mechanism to the outside like over-range microwaves.
If you’ve ever overcooked popcorn or burnt something in the microwave, you know ventilation is critical to clearing smoke and odors.
You also have fewer options for kitchen island microwaves. Instead of choosing the best microwave overall, you need to find one designed to be fitted into kitchen islands or microwave drawers.
Sharp is the only manufacturer of drawer microwaves and will be for a while because they own several patents on the design. Many other companies sell microwave drawers, but they’re all made by Sharp.
As mentioned in the pros section above, a kitchen island microwave is more accessible to shorter people or those who use wheelchairs.
However, if you’re tall or have back issues that limit your movement or prevent you from bending over, fitting a microwave into your kitchen island might not be the best option. It can be a pain to bend over and put food in and out, especially heavy dishes.
Another con to having a microwave in your kitchen island is that you’ll need to crouch or bend over to keep an eye on your food. For example, oatmeal or soup might bubble over and spill if it gets overheated.
If your microwave is in the kitchen island, you’ll have to crouch down to clean it, which takes much more effort than cleaning a counter unit. You have to get low, or even sit on the floor, to see the microwave’s ceiling.
Unless you’re stooping down to peer into your microwave every time you heat something, it’s more likely that a small mess will go unnoticed, which could lead to extra scrubbing later as food gets baked onto the inside.
Installing a microwave into a kitchen island isn’t a task for novice DIYers. You’ll also need to create a recessed area to fit the appliance and ensure electrical outlets with the proper voltage are in reach.
I contacted several kitchen design companies to get their expert opinion on this topic. When I connected with each, I asked:
What are the pros and cons of putting a microwave in the kitchen island? What are the main factors to consider?
Together Design & Build, a design and remodeling company in Austin, Texas, said, “Microwave drawers and built-in microwaves look attractive and go well in a modern kitchen. However, they’re significantly more expensive than other freestanding microwaves.”
Signature Kitchens & Baths of Charleston, a design company in South Carolina, said, “With a microwave built-in under the counter, you will have to stoop to read the buttons/screen and to get hot food out and up to the counter. A microwave drawer is easier to access but still requires bending.”
Kitchens Baths & Beyond, a kitchen remodeling company in South Carolina, said, “Microwave drawers are great because they’re hidden from line of sight, and you only sacrifice a small amount of cabinet space for it. I highly recommend putting the microwave on the island if you have that option.”
Lincoln Design Studio, a kitchen design firm in Chicago, Illinois, said, “Microwaves on the lower cabinets are trending, but many complain about their functionality — it can be awkward to lower food into it and difficult to clean. The benefit is that there’s one less appliance in the normal sight line.”
Hamilton Bryan, an appliance showroom and retailer in Wichita Falls, Texas, said, “The only negative I can think of about drawer microwaves is that there’s no turntable. Although some people prefer that since the turntable is another piece to clean.”
What Homeowners Say
The homeowners in favor of an island microwave say:
- There’s no risk of dropping hot food on yourself
- It’s easy to check if something is boiling
- They come in larger sizes that can fit casserole dishes and platters
- Young kids can reach and use it (they can’t reach above the stove)
- It opens up space on your counter
The homeowners against an island microwave say:
- It’s too low, and bending over to clean it is awkward and annoying
- You can’t vent them to the outside
- It’s dangerous if you have young kids or pets
- They’re way too expensive
Now that you know the pros and cons of having a microwave in the kitchen island, it’s time to decide if this is the best place for your appliance.
There are plenty of upsides. Installing a microwave into your kitchen island creates more counter space and allows multiple people to use the kitchen without being in each other’s way. It also keeps one of the less attractive kitchen appliances out of sight, creating a sleek and streamlined appearance in your kitchen.
But there are also downsides to consider. Kitchen island microwaves are expensive, both in terms of the price of the appliance and the additional installation costs. Small children can access the door and buttons, creating safety issues. And the lower position makes it difficult to monitor food, safely remove hot plates, and clean.
Ultimately, installing a microwave in your kitchen island depends on your circumstances and preferences. If you don’t mind bending over and aren’t worried about kids messing around with it, putting your microwave in the island is a great way to free up counter space and streamline the look of your kitchen.
If you’re mainly concerned about function, having the microwave at or around eye level is a better option.
Find out how much a kitchen island microwave will cost by comparing the appliance prices on Amazon and HomeDepot.com and get free no-obligation quotes on installation costs from local contractors on HomeAdvisor.com.
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