I use this analogy to illustrate to you that over-the-range microwaves (OTR) are riddled with safety, planning, universal access, cabinet finishing and installation problems. Now, I’ve recommended my share of OTR’s in my day, and they have always been the absolute last resort, and only three times, I swear. In each and every situation the kitchen was smaller than 150 square feet, and in each and every situation there was no other placement option or realistic resolution.
Now, I could bore you up the wall with Kitchen Planning Guideline #17, #21, #22, #23 and #24, but let me make this simple: Over-the-Range Microwaves are a poor investment and are not safe. Here’s why:
- INSTALLATION - As illustrated by Image 1, the specifications for a correct OTR installation puts the appliance at 13 ⅛” above the cooking surface. Most OTR’s are incorrectly installed at 18” above the cooking surface.
- VENTILATION - OTR’s have a small capture area at the very back (toward the wall) of the appliance. OTR’s max out their use-fullness at 600 C.F.M. (cubic feet for minute) which means they are designed for light cooking. Combine that with the very rear location of the ventilation, they can not adequately capture indoor air contaminants such as grease, steam, and smoke for normal use.
- ACCESS - The centre of the OTR is just over 56” above finished floor, which is safe to access for some people over 5’ - 10”, but with the average female height at 5’ - 4” it puts half of our species at an infinite disadvantage. I certainly do not want to see my 85 year old darling Grandmother lifting out anything heavier than 3 lbs., let alone anyone else who has an accessibility concern. The 13 ⅛” installation above the cooking surface is less than a bookshelf height, and because the appliances are 18” deep (or more) it proves a tremendous challenge to access controls on your cooking appliance.
- NOT SUITABLE FOR ALTERNATE FUELS - The OTR does not come wider than 30-inches, which also means that your cooking appliances can not be larger than 30-inches. Because OTR’s have a maximum of 600 C.F.M., they are not safe for fuel sources other than a standard electric range.
- LIGHTING - Because an OTR is a two-in-one appliances, the lighting provided to illuminate your work surface (the hot top of your cooking appliance) is pushed to the back, just in front of the ventilation. This will not light your cook surface. This is in-adequate.
- STYLE - The OTR hangs below the cabinet and this is ugly. Way to ruin the kitchen. Most OTR’s are installed at the incorrect height because the designer or the consumer do not want to see the 10-inch drop below the cabinet line. Not only is this ineffective, but the appliances is almost useless - except for that microwave function.
Corey S. Klassen, AKBD BFA is a Vancouver based interior designer specialising in kitchens and bathrooms. He is design writer, instructor, and wild yogi. You can view his design blog at http://designkula.ca and his personal site at http://coreyklassen.ca.
Images are courtesy Corey S. Klassen, AKBD BFA