Countertop vs Built-In Microwaves

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Updated August 18, 2022

If you are shopping for a new kitchen appliance, you may be comparing countertops vs built-in microwaves. The best microwaves, after all, can typically be placed on a counter or in a pre-existing nook. Keep reading to learn the differences between the two.


  • Countertop microwaves are simply placed on a countertop, saving counter space, whereas built-in microwaves rent inside of a pre-made enclosure.
  • Due to the nature of design, built-in microwaves are bulkier, heavier, and more expensive, though they offer a pleasing built-in look.
  • Countertop microwaves are generally easier to maintain and clean, as it is easier to reach inside for cleaning.

Differences Between Countertop and Built-In Microwaves

The most obvious difference between the two is where they are placed in the kitchen. Countertop microwaves, as the name suggests, generally rest on a counter or atop another steady surface. Built-in microwaves, on the other hand, get placed in a pre-existing nook in the kitchen, which will preserve kitchen space. Other than that, the differences are minimal and depend on the make and model of the microwave. The same cannot be said, however, when comparing convection ovens vs microwaves.

On the other hand, you might want to compare OTR vs countertop microwaves and microwave drawers vs built-in microwaves.

Insider Tip

Experiment with your microwave’s settings to find the perfect amount of time to cook your desired ingredients.

Before moving on, you might be interested in specific model types and how they match against each other. A few we can recommend include the GE Profile 1.1 cu. ft. vs GE Spacemaker 1.1 cu. ft. microwave, and the Thermador microwave MBES vs MCESS. Keep reading to learn more about the two microwave types.


Countertop models are much easier to install, as you can just place them wherever you want, so long as they have access to a power outlet. Built-in microwaves need an enclosure to rest inside. This nook may need to be professionally built by a contractor, who will need a trim kit for the wall. You will need space enough on the kitchen counter to handle a countertop blender, which is one of the chief advantages of a built-in microwave, as building a nook allows you to essentially create the necessary space. When it comes to cooking speed and cooking power, you will find many similarities between the two, which cannot be said when comparing the cooking speeds of ovens vs microwaves.


Built-in models tend to be more difficult to clean and maintain than countertop microwave ovens, as they can be tougher to reach inside. Countertop microwaves can easily be unplugged and cleaned at will. The same can be said when it comes to repairs and overall upkeep. It may be easier to simply replace a built-in microwave than to have it serviced.


If you are looking to move a microwave around from room to room or elsewhere in the kitchen, a countertop microwave is your best choice. A built-in microwave oven is designed to fit into pre-made enclosures, so they are heavier, bulkier, and harder to reach than countertop microwaves. Countertop ovens are better for those who rent their homes or for those who move around a lot.


Do built-in microwaves need ventilation?

Yes. Part of the installation process will be adapting the trim kit to ensure there is proper ventilation.

How long do built-in microwaves last?

Built-in microwaves, otherwise known as over-the-range microwaves, can last just as long as countertop microwaves, anywhere from three to five years.

Are built-in microwaves safe?

Yes, so long as the trim kit is made for a proper installation, over-the-range microwaves are perfectly safe. As a bonus, you’ll save on counter space on the kitchen counter.

STAT: A microwave is a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter corresponding to frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz respectively. (source)

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