Over the Range
The most common microwave location, a couple of feet above the range, is the least efficient and the most dangerous. "This placement is bad because it's too high for many people," says Rhonda Moritz, spokeswoman for the National Kitchen & Bath Association in Hacketts-town, New Jersey. "You've got to reach up to put food in or take it out, so your chances of spilling something hot on yourself are greater. You also run the risk of burning yourself on the cooktop." Users who are elderly, disabled or short in stature may have trouble reaching a microwave at this height—or they may not be able to get to it at all. The NKBA's official guidelines recommend placing the shelf or cabinet the microwave sits on well below eye level, at 24 to 48 in. off the ground.
"You can lower an over-the-range microwave so that it's more ergonomically correct, but then you can't use tall pots on the back burners," says Chet Basher, a kitchen designer in Sparta, New Jersey.
This location also isn't conducive to a two-cook kitchen, because it increases the likelihood that people using the microwave and cooktop will be in each other's way. And if all that weren't enough, the advent of the increasingly popular 42-in.-wide, commercial-style range is another reason not to use the over-the-range location. A standard, 27- to 30-in.-wide microwave looks disproportionately small over a 42-in. range, and it also wastes space on either side.
If an over-the-range location still makes sense for your kitchen, be sure there is plenty of open space on both sides of the range to serve as a landing area for items you take out of the microwave, and bring the unit down as far as you can without it getting in the way of pots.