Changing an Over-the-range Microwave

Our GE Microwave stopped cooking food recently. Actually, since we moved in, I noticed it would start making strange sounds and stop cooking food more and more often. Apparently, there's some sort of element ("magnetron") that goes bad in these things after some time. The elements are replaceable, though not recommended as user replaceable and the Internet suggests it's often cheaper to simply buy an entire unit.

So it goes.

After a few days without being able to reheat old cooked rice and left-overs, I finally felt I had to do something about it. We went to Lowes and scoped out the selection. A similar replacement microwave would only be $200, which seemed fairly reasonable. Yes, there's fancy ones with some sort of radiant heat options, but if I wanted to cook food I would use an oven. We use a microwave to reheat and defrost food, not cook it. Too bad there weren't any heavy-duty options. Microwaves sell based on cook features, which we would never use, and appearance (stainless steel or stainless look-a-likes are popular), not really on durability or simplicity. Perhaps commercial ones do serve better, but do they work over-the-range?

For $200, you sure get a lot of steel and other assorted heavy parts: I was a little concerned about doing the installation myself, especially maneuvering all that wait, but to pay someone else would be another $140. And Lowe's clerk Brian (or whoever) convinced me "it's really easy" so I forgo the installation fee. I pay and walk out with it. The box its in does not completely fit in my trunk, and I have to strap it down. I unload it, and yes it's heavy.

Monday comes. At Lunch, remember I have yet to install the new microwave. I figure I'd set it up and reheat some rice and leftovers.

The first chore was removing the old one, which was just as large and heavy as the new one. By lifting a chair on top of the range and placing a Thermarest with air in it, I unscrewed the old, and with some additional air and rocking, got it up over the old brackets, let air out, and carried it off.

In the back of over-the-range microwaves is a mounting bracket, and there's screws hanging down from the cabinet to support the front of it. Each microwave company (or model I suppose) uses a different bracket size, so the existing one has to be removed for the new installation.

The bracket requires supporting studs underneath, and I spend a bit of time thinking about where the studs are for my configuration. I do know one corner has a stud, but not the other. And after knock-knocking the surface along the wall, I decide on finally getting a stud finder (a trip to the hardware store) which saves the day. A few holes drilled, some lag and drywall screws and the bracket is on.

There's also holes for the top you must drill, and the paper template they provide isn't exactly easy to tape up, especially if the cabinet underside isn't flat: Mine was a shelf with framing on all sides, so the middle was hollow. Adding cardboard stiffeners kept the template from distorting and I made my holes.

Then comes installation: I turn the page and discover installation requires two people lift the microwave onto the bracket. Ridiculous! There must be some way to do it on your own. So, I think about reversing the "chair technique" I had earlier, and give it a go, but discovered all sorts of alignment issues when lifting it up. Plus, I had no way to lift the back high enough. Instead of using a chair, I used my trusty red tie-down straps and buckles to hoist the Microwave up. Two on each side around the outside, and another two for hoisting on each side did the trick. There were some tricky maneuvers to remove the looped straps near the end, but it felt pretty safe. And I didn't need somebody to hold the unit up as I screwed the top into the cabinet.

Our new Whirlpool Microwave included some Newman's Own Popcorn, which thankfully popped post install. It took me about 20 minutes to clean up the drill shavings, tape, box parts, packaging, accumulated tools, and at 4PM I finally enjoyed my lunch. Now what to do about the old microwave?

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About eliasross

Blogging before the word "blog" was invented.
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2 Responses to Changing an Over-the-range Microwave

  1. Dancho says:

    Ah magnetron…BTW, did you know microwave's not really good at "defrosting" your food?It's because ice won't absorb much of microwave…

  2. genman says:

    You'd think that because microwave ovens have a button for defrosting, they would be more optimal than say, an oven or stove. Thanks for letting me know.

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