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Microwave ovens are one of the most popular kitchen appliances, and approximately 90% of Americans own it.

A microwave oven is a staple kitchen appliance that is used for quick and convenient cooking. The multiple cooking modes provide versatility and a number of cooking options, while the convenience cooking controls of the microwave provide the facility of easy food preparation. There is a mind-boggling array of microwave ovens in the market. If you are planning to buy one, then you would need to take into consideration the kitchen space, cooking needs, and design of the microwave.

One of the key factors that you need to consider is where you want to place your microwave. While incorporating it in the kitchen design, do you prefer placing it on the counter, or would you prefer a built-in microwave that can be mounted to a cupboard or wall? Understanding the difference between countertop and the built-in microwave ovens can help you make the right decision when choosing the perfect appliance for your needs.

Countertop Microwave Ovens

Countertop Microwave

Available in a variety of sizes, countertop models are to be placed on the kitchen counter. Although they are considerably cheaper as compared to other types of microwave ovens, the price may vary based on the power and features of the oven. The best part about these ovens is that you can place them anywhere. Apart from the versatility in terms of placement, countertop microwave ovens have the advantage of having zero installation costs. They are commonly available, and have the best variety when it comes to features, such as capacity and preset functions.

Design: These ovens are designed to rest on your counter. Manufacturers have come up with a wide variety of sizes to suit the small countertop space.

Installation: Installing these ovens is really easy. All you need is an electrical outlet for the plug point and some countertop space. Unlike built-in variants, there is no extra cost of installation, or the need of a licensed electrician for the installation.

Space Required: One of the disadvantages of a countertop microwave oven is the space required. People with small kitchens and having limited counter space can find the oven a real hindrance in the kitchen.

Portability and Replacement: Freestanding ovens have the advantage of being easily accessible. You can place the microwave in a place which is convenient for you. Also, replacing these ovens is easy. Unlike built-in models that are permanently fixed to the spot, the countertop models offer the advantage of easy portability.

Price: Although the price can vary based on the type of model, its features, size, and design, these models are cheaper than the built-in ovens.

Built-in Microwave Ovens

Built-in Microwave

If you are tired of a huge microwave taking up valuable countertop space, then a built-in microwave oven is a good option for your kitchen. This microwave can be neatly tucked into a wall or cabinet to get some counter space free in the kitchen. It looks great because it integrates with the cabinetry. It is usually installed over the kitchen range or oven.

Design: Not all sizes and designs of microwaves can be installed into a cabinet or wall. There are a very few manufacturers that provide microwaves that are standardized to match the width of most ranges and the depth of most cabinets.

Installation: The key hurdle for a homeowner is installing these units. You will need the services of a licensed contractor who can ensure that proper installation is done. The microwave should be safely bracketed into a space in the existing cabinetry. While installing, it is important to check if the microwave and oven are properly vented to prevent a potential fire hazard.

Space Required: This type of microwave oven provides some free countertop space which can be extremely useful in a small kitchen.

Portability and Replacement: The limited capacity constraints and the fact that it is permanently installed in the cabinetry means that replacement becomes extremely troublesome. If one part of the oven stops working, you will need to replace the entire unit. Moreover, when you want to change your microwave, you will need to find an appropriate replacement that is of the same shape and size as the previous model. Access of the overhead microwaves is also difficult for kids.

Price: The custom-installed microwave units are expensive, and most of the built-in models are available in the range of $500 to $1,000. Moreover, having the installation done by a professional costs quite a few bucks as well.

Apart from these models, there are countertop microwave ovens with trim kits. These convert a regular countertop model into a built-in microwave version. They are relatively cheap, costing around $100 to $500.

Freestanding Vs. Built-in Oven: In a Nutshell

Differences
Differences Countertop MicrowaveBuilt-in Microwave
DesignPlaced on countertopInstalled in cabinets and walls
InstallationNeeds an electrical outlet and counter spaceExpensive installation done by licensed contractor
Space RequiredNeeds countertop spaceInstalled in cabinets
Portability and ReplacementPortable and can be replaced easilyVery difficult to replace
PriceCheaper compared to built-in modelsExpensive

What to Choose

If you have ample counter space and do not want to spend all the extra money on custom-built microwaves, then a countertop microwave would work best for you. However, if you have an extremely small kitchen and need to utilize all the available space, a built-in microwave works best for you.

Choose the microwave wisely. Even if you want the built-in version, try opting for a countertop microwave with trim kits. This will save you the extra bucks, while also providing you with more countertop space.