How high should that Microwave be?

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Suburban

How high should that Microwave be?

We've all seen homes where a fire is waiting to happen and lately while showing I've just run into a huge selection of homes with this installation problem.  Some microwaves were barely 8" above the back burner of the stove in an older home with an oversized cabinet over the stove.  What makes people think this is safe?

So, since I really never investigated 'how high', I decided to call the village to talk about current building code.  Guess what, there is none!  Talked to the Fire Marshall who said there should be but at this time there isn't an official height to protect the public against themselves.

microwave stove clearance,Any idiot with a screwdriver and rudimentary electrical skills can install a microwave above the stove and burn their house down.  The pics here are from a foreclosure where the bottom of the microwave was literally melted.  Handle was heat mangled and they started the counter top on fire.  Gee, ya think it was too low at that point?

Depending on the manufacturer there doesn't seem to be a safety standard height recommended only as 'high as possible'.  It also mentions the 'height of the operators'.  So, if you are 'short in stature or height challenged' that makes it OK to lower the microwave and burn the house down?  Don't think so.

So evidently I am the only rational person that is deciding to speak out on this topic.  No lower than the bottom of the cabinets on either side of the stove which is 30" from the top of your cabinets.  My solution is to remove the cabinet above the stove and rehang it higher giving you your needed clearance.  It won't line up with the upper cabinet height but it's better than burning down your house!

Another solution (not mine BTW) but not very cost effective is to take your cabinet to a cabinet maker andmicrowave stove clearance, have it cut down.  Yeah right, as I don't have any idea how much this would cost and most older cabinets are not even wood.  A cabinet maker would laugh you out of his shop when you ask him to re-manufacture your 80's 'euro' style beauty.



Any home inspectors out there with any suggestions, please feel free to chime in with any advice for homeowners too.







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Gay E. Rosen
Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty - Larchmont, NY
As Real as Real Estate Gets!

Lyn: Nice post... It is true.. I have seen low microwaves also...  Best, Gay

Dec 06, 2010 01:00 AM #1
Charlie Ragonesi - Big Canoe, GA
Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros

One of the intersesting things I have recently discovered about my micro wave is that if i leave the door open the light inside gets really really hot after a while. This may be something others can learn from too as well as positioning the thing

Dec 06, 2010 01:00 AM #2
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Lyn, Never ran into this one before.

Dec 06, 2010 01:03 AM #3
Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, CA - Eureka, CA
Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, CA

Hi Lyn, my suggestion is to install an under the cabinet microwave in another location in the kitchen, above a work area is best.  The microwave is lower for shorter people and you do not risk the problem in your photo.  Is there a stove hood in the home?

Dec 06, 2010 01:04 AM #4
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Charlie:  Never thought about the light before but I suppose you could be right on that. Maybe someone else can make a comment.

Dan:  No range hood, just this melted beauty.

Bliz:  Must be just around here but lately I've seen too many.  In fact, one was even lower than this one which is the one I called the village about.

Gay:  You have to wonder if people are concerned about this. If you never use the stove, well then it's ok.

Dec 06, 2010 01:14 AM #5
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Lyn, I am not a big fan of the microwave over the range.  There are safety issues with kids using them as well as the clearance issues.  I have found that many manufacturerers actually do specify minimum clearances---while some are vague.  Certainly any with plastic components would demand more clearance than ones that are all metal.  There are some new requirements that call for a 1/4" space between the top of the hood and the bottom of the wood cabinet (or 1/4" milboard).  I am not sure whether this includes microwave/hood units or not.  Remember the codes are only a minimum standard----so when the home inspector comes down hard on something like this---there might be a good reason---if not a code reason. :)  This issue generally shows up when a hood is replaced with a microwave/hood.  In that case the cabinet above will need to be remodeled.

Dec 06, 2010 01:30 AM #6
Robin Dampier REALTOR®
Coldwell Banker King - Hendersonville, NC
Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source

I never thought of this -- duhhhhh!  I just went and measured mine and it is only 14" above the stove.  My gracious, I can't imagine 8 inches and how close to a gas flame and electric heat that makes it.

Surely there should be some safety guidance for installers/home owners.  At the very least a big warning!

It would be great if the home inspectors, manufacturers would weigh in on this.

Sue of Robin and Sue

Dec 06, 2010 01:33 AM #7
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I am with Charlie on this one.

Often people remove what used to be a range hood and slap a microwave in there because, well, because they have seen it somewhere else and thought it convenient and a counter saver.

While the cabinet's size may have been appropriate for an exhaust hood, it is probably too deep for a microwave.  At minimum the cabinet should probably be replaced with one not so deep so the new microwave can fit there without being too close to the range.

All the manufacturer's have a recommended distance from the top of the range.  And those differences can vary depending on gas or electric for the same microwave.  Their manuals MUST be consulted, but, as Charlie says, all these recommendations are MINIMUMS to follow.  The code is like that too!

Certainly microwaves are MADE to go over the range.  They have additional insulation and the like and are dramatically more costly than a counter-top model for that reason.  But convenience is one thing and common sense another.  I am not a fan of units over the range.

Also, I like Dan's recommendation!

Dec 06, 2010 01:57 AM #8
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Lyn, Just wrote about this same issueyesterday. You mention code and that is where people get misled. With something like a microwave - range hood all most always the installation parameters fall onto the manufacturers specifications...if there are any. Like those other two home inspector guys said above these installations are often retrofits into spaces neverdesigned to accommodate the microwave. I have seen melted units on a few occasions and many more that just seem to be way too close to the cook top. Bottom line the farther away, the better or as I said yesterday keep the hood and have a separate microwave.

Dec 06, 2010 02:13 AM #9
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Sorry Jim I didn't see your post.  This has been in my hopper for some time & I finally got a good pic to add to the post the other day.  It's just rampant in my area.

Jay:  If there are shorter folks or kids alike, I agree you should have a stand alone in another area away from the stove.  Just safer.

Sue:  Fix that thing before your counter top looks like the photos.

I like the convenience of an above the stove microwave but I'm not short by any means.  I can see it being a problem with heavy casseroles, etc.  Could be dangerous but I think melting the underside of the unit is just stupid.

Dec 06, 2010 03:03 AM #10
Myhang Gibson
Myhang Gibson (Premiere Mortgage Centre) - Oakville, ON
Oakville Mortgage Broker

Lyn, great post.. this is something I've not paid attention to before. I think the solution with removing the cabinet above the stove may sound like it makes sense, but in terms of practicality.. especially for shorter individuals (like myself) would not be useful. So, I suppose having a stepping stool close by is also better than burning down your house!

Dec 06, 2010 04:49 AM #11
Michelle Gibson
Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. - Wellington, FL

Lyn - Great topic and warning!  It's amazing how so many people don't have common sense. 

Dec 07, 2010 02:20 AM #12
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Michelle:  No kidding.  Myhang had a good idea for a step stool also.

Dec 07, 2010 02:25 AM #13

If a person is removing a hood and installing an over-the-range microwave instead, move the cabinet up! I've seen pics of kitchens with the microwave cabinet moved up, maybe some extra crown molding or other decorative features added, and it looks really good. It makes the kitchen look more custom.

Dec 05, 2015 04:53 AM #14
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Area Real Estate

Rachel:  That is a great idea but what if there is a soffit above the cabinet? 

Dec 06, 2015 09:45 PM #15
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