First DIY: installing an over-the-range microwave

We accomplished our first DIY project last weekend!  And we didn’t even have to get the first-aid kit out.

We installed (read: nailed to the wall) a venting microwave above the oven. The idea is that the microwave has a built-in extractor system which you turn on when you’re cooking on the oven below. Because this is a ‘recirculating’ system, we didn’t have to cut any holes in the wall or the roof.

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Initially we weren’t planning to do this ourselves.  I called the handyman who apparently had ‘done everything you can see’ in the house.  Unfortunately the handyman was ‘very busy’ and would call me ‘soon’.  So when he didn’t (and, still hasn’t) we decided to just get on with it.

The instructions provided were comprehensive and easy to follow, and once I’d had a look at some youtube videos (this one, and this one), I was confident we could do it.

Before we’d even bought the microwave we’d made sure the hole it was going in was the right size (yes) and that the cupboards were properly nailed to the wall (they didn’t move when we pulled hard).

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Then we opened the cupboard above and discovered the electrical socket for the microwave was missing.  So we booked the electrician to come the Monday after our install.  He was recommended to me by a Caltech academic (they definitely know what they’re talking about!) and he actually came, and actually did a good job. Bonus.

The cupboard also had some mysterious thing in it, which I think could be a spice rack. Any ideas?

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Anyway, it was disgusting, as was the whole inside of the cupboard, so I unscrewed the spice-rack thing and scrubbed the cupboard.

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Then we unpacked the box.

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The next job was to find a stud in the wall so that the microwave, which is really heavy, would have some support.  Luckily we’d already bought a stud-finder ($10, home depot) so we put it to good use.

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We also had to find the center line of the space for the microwave, and draw a big line down the wall (this was much more important than I appreciated at the time).  We used the spirit level a lot.

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The instructions came with some handy templates, with the idea being you stick these onto the wall, and use them to work out where to drill your holes.  Brilliant.  You line up the template with the center line (see, important!), then draw a line along the bottom of the template for the next step.  In this process, using the spirit level to make sure the line was horizontal, we discovered that the wall has a bow in it at the stud.  The spirit level see-sawed over it. Those builders 111 years ago, I don’t know.

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Folding to the right size and sticking on the bottom-of-the-cupboard template was almost harder than the whole rest of the job.  Sellotaping something to the underside of a cupboard shouldn’t be that difficult.

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The next job was to get the microwave out of its box and turn it on its front, so we could get at the ‘plate’ which is what the microwave bottom hooks onto at the wall.  This is the flimsiest piece of metal you could imagine.  Here it is, attached to the microwave, for shipping.  The many holes are there to give you a chance that one of them lines up with a stud.

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Then we lined up the plate on the wall, and marked our holes. The first hole we drilled was in drywall and had to be huge because they wanted us to use one of the supplied toggle bolts.

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I managed not to get a picture of the final holes, but here’s one of the preliminary holes. In drilling we discovered the right hand hole also sort of lined up with a stud so with a bit of angled-drilling we got the screw into it.

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Somehow I didn’t get a picture of the wall plate attached to the wall.  😦

Then we drilled holes in the cupboard above for the top screws.  Again, this is a preliminary picture.  Obviously the hole in the middle needed to fit a plug through it so it ended up a lot bigger! We also realized once we got the microwave in our arms that we actually needed three screws along the front, so we had to get the template and drill out again.

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Then it was just a matter of picking up the microwave (which took two of us), hooking it into the flimsy hooks in the wall plate, and holding it up so one of us could get the screws in through the cupboard.  It took two tries but we got there.

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I’m not going to say it was a perfect job – I was a bit conservative on how close I put the template to the bottom of the cupboard above so there’s a small gap.  But other than that, it’s more or less horizontal along both axes, and it hasn’t fallen down yet.  I’m going to call that a success.  And it only took a whole day.

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