Filed in Custom Home, Kitchen, Pantry — May 30, 2023

FIVE Reasons to Choose a Countertop Microwave in a Custom Kitchen

When we were building our home, one of the most debated topics for my husband and I was the microwave placement, and you might be surprised to find out that we opted for a countertop microwave in our custom kitchen, specifically in our walk-in pantry, as opposed to a built-in microwave.  I know that choice is the exception and not the norm, but having been in the house for four years now, we are still happy with our decision.  If you are currently building a home, remodeling a kitchen, or considering either, I hope I can offer you some clarity on your decision through our experience.


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Five Reasons to Choose a Countertop Microwave in a Custom Kitchen


Where Should I Put my Microwave in my House?

At the time we were building, the trend was to put the microwave in the kitchen island.  Because of our symmetrical kitchen design, this was the only logical built-in option within the main kitchen.  However, before we got to that conclusion, we considered the following options for microwave placement:


  • Over the Range—This option was an automatic “no” for the simple fact that I knew I wanted a beautiful range hood, and having the microwave there would look less elevated.


  • Over the Oven—This was where our microwave was located in our previous house, and it presented some problems when it came to people’s heights, either the microwave was too high for some or the oven too low for others. It looked nice and integrated, though.


  • In an Appliance Garage—The aversion to this option was based on a matter of taste. To me, the cabinets for these appliance garages always look forced—they are squeezed between the top and base cabinets and cover the gorgeous countertop, or they hinge open like your microwave is stepping into the driver’s seat of a luxury sports car.  I could never see the type of cabinetry that is used in most appliance garages in my grandmother’s kitchen.  Maybe that was the issue for me?  Appliance garages feel too modern.


  • Below the Counter—This idea was heavily evaluated. For our space, the island would have had to be the microwave’s location because of the symmetrical design we had for our two banks of cabinetry. Neither of us had ever had a microwave below the counter, so we were questioning—How would it feel reaching down to grab a hot item? Would there be accidents?  Would it feel too low and awkward for my husband, who is almost seven feet tall?


  • On the Countertop—Gasp! Could we even consider this “old school” way of housing a microwave? Well, it could not go in the main kitchen and eat up that counter space, so we had to consider the walk-in pantry.


These last two options became our debate.  Do we do a countertop microwave in the walk-in pantry, or do we do a built-in microwave in the kitchen island?


Why Hide the Microwave?

One option was to hide the microwave, and the other option was to treat the microwave as an essential appliance.


Countertop Microwave on Organized Pantry Shelves


Is a Microwave a Necessity?

My husband and I spent a lot of time evaluating and recalling when we actually use the microwave.  The list included popping popcorn for movie nights and heating up leftovers.  We do not really use our microwave to cook food, and the monotony of leftovers really leads us to not have a lot of them.  Was the microwave, therefore, essential to us? No, we assigned the microwave the same value as a crockpot or blender, neither of which we want on display in our kitchen.


Let the Imported Range be the Focal Point of the Kitchen

Though the microwave placement was up for debate, the type of range was not.  For years, I have wanted a Lacanche French Range, and I wanted its timeless beauty to be the focal point of our kitchen.  To accomplish that goal, we decided to do paneled appliances—the refrigerator, the freezer, the dishwasher, and a secondary drawered refrigerator, so everything else faded away to the imported range.  A panel-ready microwave was not an option on the market, so we started to lean heavily towards the countertop microwave option and hiding it.


What is the Disadvantage of a Built-in Microwave?

With built-in microwaves being the trend at the time of our new home build, we wanted to think through the reasons we would go against the trends.  Two disadvantages kept coming up as we talked to our network and conducted our own online research.


Built-in Microwaves are More Expensive

Built-in microwaves are more expensive than countertop microwaves.  A countertop microwave ranges in price from $50 to $150, depending on capacity, finish, and features.  A built-in microwave ranges in price from $500 to $2000.  If you are looking for a way to cut a little cost in your build or remodel, opting for a countertop microwave is a way.


Built-in Microwaves are Harder to Replace

Another negative to consider when looking at getting a built-in microwave is they are harder to replace.  Within hours, I could have a replacement countertop microwave, but a built-in microwave requires a professional to replace it.  Then, there is the possibility that you cannot find a replacement that works with your dimensions, and you have to add in a secondary professional to address the cabinetry.


Where do you put a Countertop Microwave?

All of the above factors considered, and our final decision was to have a countertop microwave in the walk-in pantry.


Place the Microwave Near Convenient Foods

The pantry as the microwave location made sense because the pantry stores those long-lasting and convenient foods that would lend themselves to microwave use.  If we were sick and wanted to quickly heat up a can of soup, the microwave was right there.  If we were having a movie night and wanted a bag of popcorn, the microwave was right there.


organized pantry shelves, featuring a countertop microwave


Place the Microwave Near the Fridge

Now, we lucked up and the pantry entrance is right by our fridge.  The floor plan came before the microwave placement decision. If the fridge was not convenient to the pantry, I am sure we would have days on which getting to the microwave would feel like it took too many extra steps.  If you are considering a countertop microwave in the pantry, make sure you have your fridge nearby to make heating up leftovers convenient.


Make Sure There is Electricity and Room for Venting

Additionally, most walk-in pantries do not have an electrical source.  You will need that and space for your microwave to vent properly.  Our walk-in pantry was designed to have a few butler pantry features but at a lower cost.  The bottom shelves are counter-depth and counter-height, allowing for a sturdy surface for the countertop microwave and room for ventilation.  Electrical outlets were added at counter-height to allow us flexibility of use in that space.


Five Reasons to Choose a Countertop Microwave Over a Built-in

Like I mentioned from the beginning, we are happy with our decision to put a countertop microwave in the pantry.  If we were to build another home, this would be our decision again—choosing a countertop microwave over a built-in microwave.  Especially, with the increasing popularity of steam ovens and the potential for microwaves to become obsolete in the future, we are happy with our decision. Hopefully, if you are building or remodeling, our experience has gotten you closer to a decision for your home.


Again, we chose a countertop microwave over a built-in microwave in our custom kitchen based on FIVE reasons:


  1. An over-the-range microwave would look less elevated and not allow for a unique and beautiful range hood.


  1. An over-the-oven microwave means that the microwave is too high and the oven too low for some people; plus, it is more expensive and harder to replace.


  1. An appliance garage feels too modern for the kitchen design desired and will hide the beautiful countertops.


  1. Ideally, the investment and high-design piece (imported range) should be the focal point of the kitchen, not a lesser item.


  1. A microwave is not an essential appliance for this household and does not need to be built-in and permanent.


Five Reasons to Choose a Countertop Microwave in a Custom Kitchen


Related Posts, Pages, and Sources



  • If you want to see what decisions we made in the rest of the house, check out my home tour.


  • If you are shopping for your kitchen, be sure to check out the “Kitchen” board on my Amazon Storefront.



If you want to chat, I would love to in the comments.—Where is your microwave located?  Are you pleased with its placement? Why or why not?

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  1. Ellen says:

    I’ve always put my microwave in the pantry
    Builders all thought I was nuts. Only really use it to reheat coffee and melt butter

    Great minds think alike 😘

  2. Carol says:

    THANK YOU! You just settled my decision on where to put my microwave in our new build. I had this thought but after reading your post I 100% sure now.

  3. Angela says:

    I gasped when I saw this post! I bought a very old, very small home and am an avid cook. Having a beautiful kitchen was a must for me & putting a microwave which I use similarly to you was a factor. It’s an appliance that I rarely use, so why give it space in my kitchen? I had a weird space that I turned into a pantry that looks very much like yours and measured out and built a space for it there. Like Eileen, my contractor thought I was crazy. It’s perfect and I’ve never regretted that decision.