Kitchen Cabinet Clearance Above Stove Top

Installers discuss the rules for installing cabinets or a microwave and vent hood above a kitchen range. November 19, 2005

How much clearance above a stovetop range is required when installing kitchen cabinets and a microwave? The microwave has an exhaust hood underneath it for the purpose of hanging it above a stove.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor A:
The general standard is 66" off the floor to the bottom of the cabinet or microwave. That is if you are using a standard 36" countertop height. This means you have 30" of space between the stovetop and the underside of the cabinet above it. This does not apply to a metal venting system. They can be as low as is convenient.

From contributor B:
The bottom of the upper cabinets is a standard 54". Add the height of your microwave to determine the bottom of the cabinet over the microwave. This will put the bottom of your microwave at the 54" mark. 16-19" is the going height nowadays for modern microwaves, with 17" being the most common size. So, assuming your new microwave is 17" tall, put the bottom of the cabinet you hang the microwave from at 71".

From contributor C:
This has nothing to do with the microwave. The manufacturer will tell you what the minimum and maximum heights are for the ventilator hood. If the microwave is integrated into the hood it just ends up where it ends up. Design around the appliance specs.

From contributor D:
Contributors B and C are correct. I sometimes drill and mount the hardware for those, and the specs recommend 69" plus or minus from floor to top of microwave, or 16"-19" clearance between the range and microwave bottom. If it's a high CFM rated, then you can go 24"-28" between stove and microwave.

From contributor E:
In my experience, no matter where you put a microwave hood combination, your customer will most likely not be happy. Either it is too low and there is not enough stove clearance even though the microwave is at the right height, or the stove clearance is good but the microwave is too high. When the customer decides where he wants it, make sure he signs off on your shop drawings.

From contributor F:
Code can be different depending on your county and city. In the San Francisco Bay Area the common minimum height that the bottom of a hood can be above the top of the burners is 18".

From contributor G:
I thought the minimum in California is 30" above burners, and 18" between lower and upper cabinets. And I agree with contributor E- those microwave/vent combos are a poor choice, worst of both worlds.

From contributor H:
On the last one I had inspected, the inspector insisted that we follow the installation guidelines in the manual provided with the microwave. I agree with contributor C - design around the appliance specs. Personally, I don't like microwaves over a stove because you are reaching over flames all the time. Also, with a wood hood, you'll have to go considerably higher because of combustible material.

From contributor I:
30" to flammable surface minimum above cook top. 24" to nonflammable surface minimum above cook top. If it is a vented hood, then go by the manufacturer’s specs.

From contributor J:
I just read all the responses, and I still do not know the answer. Question: How far must the bottom of an over-the-stove microwave be above the top of the stove?

From contributor H:
Read the manual for the microwave – this will give you the minimum height above the stove. Contributor I is right about 24" being the typical minimum distance between the stove top and the bottom of the microwave exhaust system, but as said before, your real guide is the microwave installation instructions. If memory serves me, some microwave/hoods allow slightly less clearance.

Also be aware that the microwave/vent hood will also give you the maximum distance that the unit can extend from the wall over the stove. Also, your stove installations will give you the minimum clearances for cabinets on each side of the stove.

From contributor K:
I also am trying to get a solid answer on this issue. A customer has asked for my advice. He had an over the range microwave professionally installed by an installer for a big box electronics retailer. The installer has it so low that a stock pot may not fit and has the 400 cfm unit venting into a reducer to 4" duct. The bottoms of the cabinets are barely 29-1/2" from the stovetop and the microwave is rather tall unit.

From contributor I:
The bottom of your upper cabinets is 54" off of finished floor. Your microwave/hood is something like 15-1/8" to 15-3/4" at the front of the unit. Most units hang down 1/8" to 3/4" at the front and more so at the back. The ones I see are about 16" in the back - this is with stock cabinets, like a W3030, W3015 above Microwave/hood, and a W3030.This will give 17"- 18" from your cook top. This is the norm.

I should say the bottom of the cabinet next to the micro/hood is 54"off finished floor. The top of the microwave/hood should be approximately 69" off finished floor, or about 33" above cook top.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor L:

Figure the following that the combination microwave/hood vent unit is approximately 18" tall. Most manufacturers are slightly less than that. Also, they are designed to fit under a 30" wide cabinet. If you have a 36" high stove top (basically standard size), and you want clearance of 18" from bottom of microwave unit to stove top you are looking at the bottom of the 30" wide cabinet (a combustible) being 72" from the floor, and 36" from the stove top. I personally just went through this situation and I'd recommend that you have an electric outlet set at 74" or slightly more to power the unit.

Comment from contributor M:
The standard top of the wall cabinet is 84" from the high point of the floor so all your wall cabinets are lined up at the top. If for example, your microwave is 16" height you can go with either a 12" or 15" wall cabinet above it. This puts the bottom of the microwave at about 17" above the range with a 15" high wall cabinet and about 20" above the range with a 12" high wall cabinet. If you go with a 15" high wall cabinet your microwave will be 1" below the adjacent 30" wall cabinets so your bottom moulding will butt at the microwave. If you go with a 12" high wall cabinet and your adjacent wall cabinets are 30" high you can wrap your bottom moulding back to the wall.

Comment from contributor N:
The 2006 IRC section 1901.1 requires 30 inches from stove to combustibles unless the stove manufacturer requires more.

Comment from contributor O:
I just mounted a GE microwave with a vent and it told me to mount at a minimum of 21" above the stove top.

Comment from contributor P:
I am just into this very problem with a client. The above stove cabinet was ordered for a standard vent hood over an electric stove. They then decided on a gas range. That didn't cause a problem. However, they then decided on a microwave unit above a gas range, and the microwave manufacturer, Panasonic, stated that the unit could be within a minimum of 13 5/8" from the countertop for an electric stove, and 16" for a gas range. Ah ha - now we have a problem! Because of the height of the cabinet, we now need to re-manufacture the cabinet lessening its height by 4". I agree with previous contributors, either the microwave is too tall or the unit too low over the stove to be convenient. Whoever invented these monsters should rethink things!

Comment from contributor Q:
There are many answers posted to this question but I think the relevant discussion can be cleared up this way. Depending on your jurisdiction, the code dictates the clearance above the cooktop to "combustible surfaces." This is normally 30" +/- which explains why prior to hoods or microwaves the cabinets in these areas were higher. The clearance required between the cooktop and a vented microwave/hood is dictated by the equipment manufacturer based upon testing the unit has undergone. The distance between a non-vented microwave and the cooktop can be tricky. Some inspectors say it's not a hood and is combustible so it should be the same clearance as if it were a cabinet. Many will allow the installation down to 24" if the bottom is a decent quality sheetmetal. If you are installing a vented microwave/hood unit follow the instructions. If you are installing a simple microwave, ask your building inspector.

Comment from contributor R:
Wall cabinets start at 54" above the finished floor. Most OTR microwave hood combos are 16 1/2" tall. If you are lining up with a standard 84" cabinet height then the cabinet above the microwave should be 13 1/2" tall. You can go higher up with a 12" high upper cabinet but should never go lower with a 15" high cabinet. Higher up is better than lower.

When planning a kitchen tell the designer all appliance sizes. Installing an OTR in an old kitchen never turns out correctly as it's usually too low because it was designed for a regular hood fan. Above all, definitely consult the owner’s manual. The owner’s manual will show you to line it up with the bottom of the upper cabinets in every picture. Were your cabinets installed correctly the first time?

Comment from contributor S:
As a certified kitchen designer, I follow NKBA guidelines for locating an OTRMW. The bottom is at a maximum of 54" above floor. Considering average height of MW users, I do not want them reaching too high with hot food. The specs from the MW maker should give minimum and maximum heights so you do not void the warrantee with too much heat from being too low or placed over a professional range that pumps out the BTU's, or placing it too high and have worthless ventilation. In practice I have seen the top of the OTRMW at 66", 69", and 72" over a normal range/cooktop (non pro) with 72" becoming the norm for new construction when flanked with 42" wall cabinets; and 69" when flanked with 30" wall cabinets.

Comment from contributor T:
These are all relative (to some degree) of the original question. I think a more direct answer to the original question is: Based on a standard 84" top cabinet height, over the range you can install a 12", 15" or 18" high wall cabinet. An 18" high wall cabinet may allow some OTR units to still meet the manufactures minimum clearance dimension above the cooking surface, however it will likely cramp working space at the cooking surface. A 12" high wall cabinet will easily satisfy required clearance requirements but put the microwave a little too high for convenient use. A 15" high wall cabinet will most likely accommodate and satisfy most manufactures clearance requirements and user convenience.

If you are incorporating an OTR unit in new construction there should be no problem in accommodating required clearances and user convenience. If you want to add an OTR unit to your existing cabinets (like me) you might find you are out of luck without having to make a significant modification to the cabinets. I have a similar issue in trying to accommodate side by side refrigerator - not enough vertical clearance under the wall cabinet. At this point, my most economic option is to raise the cabinet over the fridge and range 4" and fabricate some continuous trim to make the offsets a little less noticeable; or raise the entire run of wall cabinets four inches. Nothing’s ever easy during a remodel.