Replace Your Over-the-Range Microwave

An over-the-range microwave in a granite kitchen.

Every appliance has a lifespan and while you’ve probably replaced a refrigerator or dryer by simply unplugging the old and plugging in the new, the same can't be said for the microwave perched above your stove. Since it typically comes with the house, when it’s time to replace a broken or outdated microwave, you’ll need to understand how to go about it. Here’s your step-by-step guide to replacing your over-the-range microwave.

Step 1 - Prep

Before getting started, you may want to move the oven below the microwave out of your way to give you adequate space to work. If this is the case, you will need to pull the oven out, unplug it, and detach it from the gas line if appropriate. Once out of the way, this will allow you to place a step ladder in the work area.

Next, unplug your microwave and evaluate how it is mounted. Most commonly, you will find screws inside the cupboard above the microwave. Unscrew the mounting screws while supporting the microwave. Often, the microwave has secondary support via a wall-mount to hold it in place without the screws. Ask for assistance while unscrewing and lifting the microwave out of place. If it does not slide directly out, try rotating it forward or lowering the front slightly. Once the microwave it out, remove any additional hardware. Your new microwave should come with its own mounting plate so you can remove and discard your old one.

Step 2 - Install a Mounting Bracket

Over-the-range microwave

Unpack your new microwave, ensuring you have all the parts. Locate the studs inside your wall and mark them. This is so that at least one of the screws that holds your mounting bracket in place will go into a stud for security. If your microwave came with a template, tape it to the wall and drill through the template where the holes for the mounting bracket should go. If it did not come with a template, hold your mounting bracket against the wall, level it, and mark the hole locations.

Drill the holes. Make sure if you are not using a template that your mounting position allows enough room for the microwave to fit into the space. If wall tile or another obstruction affects the location of your mounting bracket, you may have to carve out some of the tiles before attaching your mounting bracket. Mount your bracket using the appropriate hardware. If you do not have a stud to mount to, use toggle-style screws. Otherwise, screw into the stud. While tightening your screws, make sure that your mounting bracket remains level.

Step 3 - Put the Microwave Up

With the wall mount in place, it’s time to turn your attention to the cabinet mount. Use the template provided or figure out where the holes need to be for the top of the microwave. This may line up with your previous model or you may need to drill new holes. If there is a gap between the top of the microwave and the cabinet, you can build wooden shim blocks to fill the space and screw through them to attach the microwave. This may require longer screws than those provided. Since you’ve recently removed your old microwave there should already be a hole leading through the cabinet that provides access to the electrical outlet. Snake the cord through the hole. A second person is very useful when putting the microwave into place.

Step 4 - Clean Up the Microwave

Over-the-range microwave

Remember to remove all packing material and wipe the microwave out before use. Attach the new filter to the bottom of the microwave and remove any plastic film from the outside. Plug it in and try it out.

Microwaves have become as common as ovens in modern kitchens. That means you may need to maintain it and even replace it at some point. With a little help from a friend and a few basic tools, replacing an over-the-range microwave is an easy task for the do-it-yourselfer.