There’s A Secret To Installing A Microwave Range Hood
The “spacesaver” style microwave oven/range hood isn’t a new innovation. In fact, a built-in microwave-hood is as popular an appliance as you’ll find anywhere. And believe it or not they are incredibly easy to install. However, there is a condition that you need to know about – and how to deal with it – if you want to have a happy installation experience.
Because a microwave is somewhat heavy (about 20- to 30-pounds) – depending upon which model you choose – care must be taken to insure that all attachments are as solid as possible. There are two important connections that have to be made: 1) a bracket that mounts to the wall and interlocks with the microwave, and 2) bolts that attach to the top of the microwave through the cabinet above.
The wall plate style mounting bracket is generally a large, flat, u-shaped sheetmetal plate that is bolted to the wall at a point directly behind the microwave. A “J” shaped lip at the lower edge of the mounting bracket interlocks into the bottom rear corner of the appliance. The connection allows the installer to cradle the appliance in the bracket in a tilted position so that the power cord can be laced through a hole in the underside of the cabinet above. Once the cord has been laced into place the unit can then be swung up into position – and a final attachment can be made. Bolts are wrenched into the top of the microwave through holes (that must be drilled) in the bottom shelf of the cabinet above.
Proper placement of the mounting bracket and locating and drilling the holes for the cord and mounting bolts is a simple function of measuring and marking. However, one thing you don’t want to do is mount the back plate to wallboard or plaster. You may eventually find the microwave in your lap. As we mentioned earlier, and as noted in the manufacturer’s installation instructions, the mounting bracket is supposed to be attached directly to the wall studs to insure a solid connection. Thus, when the microwave interlocks into the wall bracket it takes on the strength of the building frame. Unfortunately, the bracket arms don’t always align with the studs in the wall. This is where our installation trick clicks in – making installation almost as quick and every bit as strong even though studs don’t align. You will need the following items to make the job easy:
1) 2 – 30-inch pieces of 1×4 hardwood (last time we did this we used Oak).
2) A half dozen 2- to 3-inch long drywall screws (we use Grabbers because they are less prone to twist off in the hole).
3) Tools needed include a level, a screwdriver/drill, an eighth inch drill bit, a Phillips head screwdriver tip and a pencil.
Here’s what to do when the studs don’t align with the mounting bracket:
Install the two 1×4’s onto the wall (perpendicular to the studs) using the screws to achieve a positive connection. We use two screws into each stud and connect each 1×4 to at least two studs. One of the 1×4 is mounted near the top of the bracket and one near the bottom. Exact positioning in relationship to the bracket is not critical. However, multi-stud connection to the wall is very important. We suggest pre-drilling the hardwood. If your bit is long enough drill completely through the 1×4’s, the wallboard and into the studs as well. We suggest an eight-inch bit.
With the cross pieces in place the wall bracket can then be installed to a solid surface WITHOUT exact wall stud alignment. Basically, the cross-pieces act as offset connection strips. A solid connection without a hassle.
The 1×4’s will cause the microwave to protrude beyond the face of the cabinet an additional three-fourths of an inch. In our opinion, the extra distance is negligible. If the wall is tiled you will need a masonry bit as well. Drilling through ceramic tile, granite or marble can slightly complicate matters, but with the proper masonry bit this is not an insurmountable task. If the material is difficult to drill and the tip of the masonry bit has turned black either get a better quality bit or start with a smaller diameter.
Editor’s Note: Before spending money on a stud-finder locate the studs by pluming up (or down) from the points where the cabinets are attached to the wall.
Keep in mind that the wall mounting bracket and the mounting bolts at the top combine to provide sufficient strength to hold the microwave in place. If the bottom of the cabinet doesn’t have at least a three-quarter inch panel it might not hurt to lay a shelf in the bottom of the cabinet to improve structural integrity. We added fender washers to the three bolts we installed to add holding power.
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