How To Retrofit A Cabinet For A Microwave

As the first step towards a small remodel of our kitchen, adding an over-the-range microwave has made a huge difference already in how we’re able to use our kitchen and counters. However, we had to reconfigure the cabinet above the stove to make this a reality, and of course we are sharing the steps with you…

If you, too, would you like to go from this:



To this:


But aren’t sure what to do about the cabinet that’s in the way of a perfect-height (as in, able to use a canner or lift pot lids without banging your knuckles…) over-the-range microwave?

Then read on for the steps we took to retrofit our too-low cabinet to hold a microwave:


Our cabinet was not a separate box, but a part of the whole wall cabinet, so after removing the old range hood (not vented, as we have a Jenn-Air range) our next step was to consult with a knowledgeable friend of ours who loaned us this tool to cut out the bottom of the cabinet. It’s called a “plunge saw.”

Which sounded really weird to me. I guess in “man-tool-land” this is what you call a saw that can cut right into the wood cleanly.

The wood on the front of the cabinet was a 1 x 2 finish piece that we (OK, have you figured the “we” here really just means Brian?) removed before using the saw to cut flush against the side cabinet. Our goal was to be able to cut the bottom out cleanly and then be able to just move it higher and create a new cabinet.

Or would it be just a shelf then?


There is a learning curve to using new tools, though. That black spot? That’s where the blade burned the wood (as in smoke filling the kitchen…) as it was trying to “plunge” between the two cabinets.

Apparently, the wrong blade got left on the saw.

Brian replaced it with the correct blade and had the bottom cut out fairly cleanly in a short amount of time.


Now comes the part where you debate for the longest time about the height you want the thing to hang.

Get out all your biggest pots (including the canner, if you use one) and have someone measure the space you need not only to have the pot sit there, but also lifting the lid to look inside, and taking things out. Really think about how you use your stove top and not just where others put theirs. You get to customize your microwave!

When we decided how far we wanted the bottom of the microwave to be from the stove top (22″ for a total of 38″ from the top of the stove to the top of the microwave – the recommendation in the directions was only 30″), Brian used simple “L” brackets to re-mount the cabinet bottom to the right spot. Oh, and he added another 1/2″ because the directions seemed to indicate another 1/2″ was needed for installation or something.

As you can also see in this picture, the old range hood was hard-wired. We turned the electricity off to this before initially removing the hood.


Luckily, Brian has learned to do some basic electrical work through our remodels and we decided the best option was to place an outlet into the corner of the new shelf for the microwave’s cord and plug. Our other option was to put the box on the very top of the cabinets, but we would’ve left a really large hole for the plug to fit through that would’ve been visible while standing in the kitchen.

The electrical box we had was bright blue, so he spray painted it white, hooked it up and attached a white switch plate.


This metal plate is supposed to attach to the wall for the microwave to sit on, but we had a 1/4″ space created by the wood backing of the upper cabinet that was left after cutting out the bottom. Brian found this scrap piece of plywood that just fit.

Lesson? Keep your scraps! You never know when they might come in handy.

Other lesson? But don’t keep too much ’cause you don’t want to be featured on another edition of “Hoarders”…


How to get the large plug from the microwave up through the shelf into the new outlet? Drill a larger hole.

Oh, and see that “L” bracket towards the back? Yeah, Brian had to take that off after trying to shove the (heavy) microwave in place a number of times and realizing it was getting hung up on just this bracket.

Best laid plans and all that…


Mount the microwave into place according to the instructions, which involved a lot of grunting and saying things like “what’s wrong? Why won’t it go in?” around here. We also found out that the extra 1/2″ wasn’t needed, so our “customized” microwave is actually sitting 1/2″ higher than we had originally measured.

Oh, well. I’m about 5′ 6″ and I can see inside fine- it might be too high for shorter folks, although our 5′ 4″ daughter doesn’t have a problem with it. In my book it’s better than being too low, because I use the stove A LOT more than the microwave.

Also, you might notice how grainy the pictures are becoming. That would be because our morning project had now progressed to nightfall (granted, pre-daylight savings) and it’s impossible to get a good picture at night in our house.


I realized that even with the electrical box painted white it doesn’t look too nice up there with the cord and wood that has always been inside cabinet doors. We’re planning on created a false back with the beadboard when we do our backsplash. Just something I can push into place and remove when needed.


In the meantime, a plate and some teapots distract the eye and covers the outlet. We also simply leaned a primed piece of 1×2 in front to hide the raw edge until we’re ready to finish it off.

Yeah, we’re pretty good at putting things off for later. It’s one of our specialties, actually.

And am I glad we took the time to raise the cabinet instead of just attaching it at the lower height (which would’ve been OK, according to the 30″ recommendation)?


Every time I lift the lid to my stockpot! See the bottom of the cabinet to the left? The microwave would’ve actually hung 3-1/2″ below that! I would not have been able to lift the lid like this, which I often do to let the water drain that accumulates in the top and save it from going all over the counter.

And can you imagine trying to lift jars out of a canner? Or to check on a soup or stock?

It was SO worth it.

Has anyone else faced this issue? How did you solve it?

-Jami

This is linked to Strut Your Stuff Thursday and Tutorial Tuesday.

     


 


  

Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Hi

    It looks great :)

    We live in a tract home/cottage wanna be. We had the standard yuck cabinets that came with our home. They were kind of an ash color. I wanted butter yellow walls and white cabinets. My husband painted the cabinets in the bath and they looked ok, however, not something that we wanted on display in our kitchen/living/dining area. So later he stumbled on the idea to use beadboard on the kitchen cabinets. He used a product from Home Depot that comes in a package of 4 or 8 pieces. It was not as heavy as real bead board, however, still had the depth to it to not look cheap. He cut it out and placed it between the trim and then primed and painted the whole thing white. He also cut out 3 panels to put in glass.

    The cabinets look so professional. You really could not tell that they did not come from the factory that way.

    You might want to consider this product for doing your back splash. You could also do the cabinets in bead board and do something else for the back splash. My husband would be glad to give you any tips about it.

    Either way, I am looking forward to seeing how your kitchen turns out. Ya’ll do beautiful work.

    Joy

  2. Anonymous says

    So glad you posted this, it was so nice to see it be done. We doing essentially the same project. One difference is that ours is not against a wall but only a cabinet back (if that makes sense). My husband is pretty hand, he’s an electrician so I don’t worry that he can’t do it. However, it was nice to have a visual to look at. Your concerns were the same as mine, the height issue because I cook and can.

    Linda

  3. Anonymous says

    I’m about to do the same thing, but I think I will have a professional carpenter do it. Thanks for posting this though, it was quite helpful!

    Scott

  4. Anonymous says

    Thanks for posting this. We are having this same issue with our kitchen. We will need to build something similar to get our new microwave up..this is exactly what I need to show my husband.

  5. says

    We are just about to do the same thing, except we need to find out if there is a vent behind the current exhaust hood, and whether or not it is hard wired. Thank you so much – I needed the visual confidence booster – wish us luck! :)

  6. says

    Thank you for this! We are about to do the same thing, and are not sure if there is venting or if the existing hood/fan is hardwired or not. I needed this great visual confidence booster – wish us luck!

  7. Anonymous says

    Thank you for sharing…our project is very much like this and we’ve just been scratching our heads trying to think what to do.

  8. betsy justis says

    HURRAY!! My husband is a photographer and very visual. He needed this to see how our new micro could fit. We have a grey (yes, elephant grey!) hood fan (that vents back into to the kitchen for goodness sake!) and a cabinet to take out and he could not visualize how the new bigger microwave could fit it we took out the cabinet. This is just what he needed! One more weekend project…..!

  9. Michelle says

    We have this same challenge with our new microwave. What a great idea (and tutorial) you have! What did you do for venting tho? Our old one vented out the top, through the cupboard.

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