February 20

What is a Built-In Microwave? Definition and Uses


Author: Gisele Perez
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Built-in microwaves are a specialized type of microwave oven that have a fixed place in the kitchen perhaps in a cabinet or over the counter. As a result, the kitchen counter looks neat and well managed as well.

They work like a conventional countertop microwave but blend into the kitchen’s interior more perfectly.

If you are finding it difficult to choose the right microwave and want to know “what is a built-in microwave”,  keep reading.

We have designed this article to be a comparison between the conventional countertop and built-in microwave. We will compare both designs and help you choose one that suits your needs the best.

Also Read: What Size Microwave do I Need?

What is a Built-in Microwave?

What is a built in microwave
Built in microwaves fit into a fixed placed in your cabinetry or the walls. Source: Amazon.com

A built-in microwave is just a microwave that performs your daily cooking tasks as a countertop microwave does. The difference lies between the design and installation.

The built-in microwave is fitted in a specific place. It’s a microwave that is installed in your kitchen cabinet or wall and thus it frees your counter space and enables you to make the microwave a part of your kitchen’s interior design instead of just a random appliance that you put on your countertop and here are the best built-in microwaves on offer.

It is neatly tucked without coming in anyone’s way.

Also Read: How does a Microwave Oven Work?

Difference Between a Built-in and Countertop Microwave?

Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Microwave Oven
A typical countertop microwave oven. Source: Toshiba EM925A5A-SS

Let’s take a look at how a countertop microwave oven differs with a built-in design.

1. Price

If we compare the price range of any countertop microwave oven with a built-in design, then the later is a bit expensive.

Countertop microwaves come in a lot of variety. The price range is also affordable. There are some expensive models, but for those on a budget, there is a lot of variety to choose from.

As compared to the countertop designs, built-in models are expensive. They are costly and are specifically designed to fit in a place. So even the low budget built-in model microwave can put a dent in your wallet.

Besides the price of the microwave, the built-in design requires special installation. Therefore, you will incur extra installation charges as well depending upon how and you plan to install the appliance.

2. Installation

Countertop microwaves are easy to place. You don’t need any specific place. All you need a is a free countertop space on your kitchen.

Built-in microwaves are fixed in one place. They require professional installation. Therefore, if you aren’t experienced yourself, you may need to hire a licensed contractor to perform the job.

3. Versatile

Countertop microwaves are versatile when it comes to placement or movement. You can easily move the microwave as per your convenience.

The same is not the case for built-in units. You cannot change their place or move them around.

4. Size

Countertop microwaves are more versatile when it comes to size as well. They come in all ranges. You may find very small to medium or extra-large designs depending on the size of your family or kitchen.

Built-in microwaves are generally available in larger sizes only. They are not available in very small sizes and thus, may be an overkill for small families or people living alone.

Advantages of a Built-in Microwave

GE Built in Microwave

Here are a few advantages of Built-in microwaves.

1. Quality

As we said earlier, built-in microwave oven come in specific size and designs. In other words, they have a standard to follow when it comes to quality as well.

They are a bit expensive, but you end up with a better bargain as they are quality products with more long-lasting use.

2. Blends in Kitchen Interior

Fixed design of microwave blend into your kitchen’s interior perfectly. If you have a specific theme or interior of your kitchen, the cabinets and built in microwave area should give a perfect unified look.

3. Clear and Neat Space

With a fixed microwave you have all kitchen counters free for other kitchen appliances or utensils. It leaves more room for working.

Built-in microwaves are perfect for smartly designed kitchens that aren’t large but have everything tucked neatly at their designated places.

5. Onetime Expense

Since you are investing in a quality product one time, it saves you from cheap options. Cheap appliances may be easier to afford, but they are not a long term solution for your kitchen.

Soon they may need to be replaced which in turn puts more burden on your finances, let alone the frustration this causes.

Disadvantages of a Built-in Microwave

Here are a few disadvantages of a Built-in Microwave.

1. Expensive

The price factor is the main disadvantage of built-in designs.

You may prefer to settle on an inexpensive microwave with a suitable size in the countertop model that won’t incur any installation charges as well.

So the price of built-in microwave is a significant deterrent for many of us on a tight budget.

2. Variety

Built-in designs come in a specific form and size.

They do not offer much variety. Also, only a few brands offer built-in microwave ovens. This further restricts your choices.

3. Portability

You cannot move them around as per your convenience.

Built-in microwaves are fixed in one place. Therefore, you cannot move them around without incurring some serious renovation charges.

4. Restrictions

Not only are you restricted by the lower amount of variety available for built in models, you are also restricted when you decide to replace.

If you ever have the need to replace your old built in microwave with a newer one, you will need to make sure you find the same sized appliance to fit into the wall or the cabinet perfectly.

5. Difficult to Repair

The built-in microwave is difficult to repair as compared to a countertop design.

Since they are a bit of novelty, you may incur extra charges to repair as compared to a normal countertop microwave oven.

Also Read: Where Can I Recycle My Microwave?

6. Precise Measurement

For choosing a built-in microwave, you have to be very particular about the size of a microwave.

It should be of an exact size, or it won’t fit in perfectly. That reduces your choices considerably as you are looking for a model with accurate dimensions.

Final Words

Choosing between a countertop and a built-in microwave depends on your individual needs and requirement.

In this article, we learned about what is a built-in microwave and compared it thoroughly with a regular countertop model.

If you already have an established kitchen, you do not have much choice but to choose a countertop microwave.

However, if you are renovating your kitchen, you may choose a built-in design that not only saves space but gives a more neat look to your kitchen.

You may need to evaluate your costs and the benefits of installing a built-in microwave.


1. Whats a built in microwave?

Built-in microwaves are a specialized type of microwave oven that have a fixed place in the kitchen perhaps in a cabinet or over the counter. As a result, the kitchen counter looks neat and well managed as well.

2. What is the difference between built in and countertop microwave?

The difference between the countertop microwaves and the built-in microwaves is that the countertop microwave can be placed on top of the kitchen counter, whereas the built-in microwave is installed in the cabinet's wall or corner.

3. Can you use a regular microwave as a built in?

Yes, it is possible to install a countertop microwave in a cabinet unit with caution. Each is designed differently in terms of vent placement, as countertop microwaves lack the wooden frame that surrounds built-in microwaves. Regardless of the design differences, you can use your regular microwave as a built in.

4. Does a built in microwave need ventilation?

Yes, adequate ventilation is necessary, even more so if the microwave is built into a cabinetry wall. If you're set in a cabinet-wall location but lack the necessary depth in your cabinets, the undercabinet shelf is an excellent alternative.

5. How do you install a built-in microwave trim kit?

Install the top bracket on the microwave oven's top, with the tabs on the top and sides of the bracket fitting squarely against the microwave oven. Drill pilot holes through the top bracket's holes. Nine bronze round-head screws are used to secure the top bracket to the cabinet. Trim kit is now completely installed.

About the author

Gisele Perez

When not giving in-home, hands-on cooking classes, or developing recipes, Gisele "cooks" wonderful posts for us. She writes about various topics related to cooking appliances and cooking methods.


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