How to Install an Over the Range Microwave with Tile Backsplash

Installing an over the range microwave oven with an existing tile backsplash can seem daunting, but with proper planning and preparation, it can be done successfully. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install an over the range microwave oven while working around a tile backsplash.

Choose the Right Microwave Oven

When selecting a new over the range microwave, be sure to measure the existing space and choose one that will fit appropriately.

Consider the following:

  • Width of the cabinet space – Standard ovens are typically 30 inches wide. Measure to make sure you have at least that amount of space.
  • Height from the cooking surface to the bottom of the cabinet – Most over the range microwaves require at least 15 inches of clearance.
  • Depth – Try to select a model that is not deeper than the existing cabinetry. Standard depth is usually 15 inches.
  • Ventilation needs – Make sure the CFM rating on the microwave is suitable for proper ventilation. Higher BTU ranges require higher CFM fans.
  • Electrical requirements – Microwaves need their own dedicated electrical outlet supplying at least 15-20 amps.

Select an appropriately sized microwave that will provide sufficient cooking capacity for your needs while fitting well within the allotted space. Choosing wisely now will save headaches later.

Prepare the Installation Space

Before installing the new microwave, prep the space by removing the old unit and anything stored in the way. Have the following ready:

Tools Needed:

  • Tape measure
  • Stud finder
  • Drill with assorted drill bits
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Screwdriver
  • Duct tape
  • Utility knife


  • Framing lumber – 2x4s or 2x6s
  • Drywall screws
  • Washers
  • Toggle bolts
  • Metal ductwork

Make sure you have gathered all necessary tools and materials before proceeding with installation.

Plan for Installation Above a Tile Backsplash

The key consideration when installing an over the range microwave oven above a tile backsplash is allowing proper ventilation space between the top of the microwave and the bottom of the cabinet.

There are a couple approaches to achieving this:

Option 1: Remove a Portion of the Backsplash

If the tile backsplash is set in a way that it can be safely removed, consider taking out at least the top few rows of tile where the microwave will be installed. This creates the necessary ventilation gap.

Use a utility knife to carefully score along the grout lines where tiles need to be removed. Break tiles out gently, trying not to disturb surrounding tiles. This may take some time and patience.

Once the tile is removed, the microwave can be installed directly beneath the bottom of the upper cabinet. Make sure to leave at least 2 inches of venting space.

Option 2: Build Out Framed Shelving

If removing the backsplash is not an option, you can frame out additional space with shelving. This involves:

  • Cutting 2×4 or 2×6 lumber to the width of the cabinet opening
  • Anchoring the boards above and below where the microwave will be installed
  • Installing plywood shelving

The shelving essentially creates an false floor that builds out the space to allow proper ventilation above the microwave before reaching the tile backsplash. The plywood shelving can be finished with laminate or tile if desired.

Carefully measure and construct the framing so that there is at least 2 inches of venting space above the new microwave.

Install the Mounting Plate

The manufacturer provided mounting plate needs to be securely installed within the cabinet opening before placing the microwave.

Follow all instructions provided with the microwave. Typically, this involves:

  • Holding the plate centered in the opening at the desired height
  • Leveling and drawing plumb lines to mark screw positions
  • Drilling pilot holes
  • Driving provided screws through the plate and into the wall studs or supplemental blocking

Make sure the mounting plate is perfectly level and securely anchored before moving on.

Prepare the Electrical Connection

Microwaves require a dedicated 120V, 60Hz, AC only electrical supply with a fuse or circuit breaker rated for 15 or 20 amps.

Here are the steps for electrical prep:

  • Turn off circuit breaker before beginning electrical work
  • Remove existing wire cover plate on rear wall
  • Install a UL listed/CSA approved strain relief bracket
  • Thread the power cable through the strain relief plate
  • Attach the ground wire (green) to the green grounding screw
  • Connect black power wire to the L terminal
  • Connect white neutral wire to the N terminal
  • Reinstall wire cover plate

Do not restore power yet – this is done after the microwave is mounted.

Adapt the Ductwork

For proper ventilation, the microwave needs to connect to outside exhaust ductwork. Flexible metal ducting is typically used.

  • Remove existing ductwork above old microwave
  • Attach one end of new ductwork to outlet collar on back/top of microwave using duct tape
  • Run ductwork to outside vent outlet
  • Secure all connections with duct tape to make air tight

Try to minimize bends and keep the ductwork as straight as possible for optimal airflow.

Mount the Microwave

With the mounting plate securely installed and electrical and ductwork adapted, you are now ready to mount the new microwave.

  • Carefully lift microwave into opening, lining up holes with mounting plate
  • Insert provided bolts through holes and tighten
  • Open microwave door to access interior mounting holes
  • Drill through microwave cabinet top into interior holes
  • Insert bolts and washers through the cabinet and tighten

Test to make sure the microwave is centered, level, and firmly secured.

Install Vent Grates and Filters

Snap vent grates into place over top vent outlet. Check that provided charcoal filters are correctly seated in their slots to help remove smoke, odors, and grease.

Connect Electrical Power

Restore power to the dedicated microwave circuit at the main breaker panel. Verify that microwave clock, lights and fans are all operating correctly.

Finishing Touches

  • If any gaps exist around the microwave, install trim molding to provide a seamless interior look.
  • Remove all dust and construction debris.
  • Reinstall original cabinet doors and drawers.
  • Run the microwave through heating and ventilation functions to verify proper operation.

With some careful planning and the right techniques, an over the range microwave can be installed to vent properly while working around existing tile backsplashes. Take it slow and follow all manufacturer instructions. Soon you’ll be enjoying the convenience of your new microwave.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about installing over the range microwaves with tile backsplashes:

How much ventilation space do I need between the microwave and tiles?

Most manufacturers recommend at least 2 inches of space between the top of the microwave and any combustible material like tiles. This allows for proper airflow and ventilation.

What if I don’t have enough depth to build out shelving?

You may need to explore smaller, shallower microwave options if you don’t have enough depth for shelving. There are some low profile models available that require less overhead ventilation space.

Is it safe to remove sections of tile backsplash?

Removing tile can be done safely if care is taken to score grout lines and break tiles out cleanly. Be very careful not to put too much torque on remaining tiles and damage what you aren’t removing. Go slowly.

How is ducting affected when installing near backsplash tiles?

Try to adapt your ductwork so that it runs above the level of the tiles. Keeping ducts high allows proper ventilation airflow. Avoid tight bends in ductwork near backsplash.

Can I install decorative trim above the microwave if space is tight?

It’s best not to install combustible decorative trim pieces if the clearance space above the microwave is very tight. Follow all minimum manufacturer guidelines.

What type of electrical connection does an over the range microwave need?

A dedicated 120V, 60Hz, AC only, 15 or 20 amp electrical supply is required. A proper ground connection is essential. Do not overload circuits.

How can I minimize damage to cabinetry when installing the microwave?

Always use care when cutting cabinetry to insert mounting plates or bolts. Drill pilot holes, utilize washers, and be cautious not to split wood. Take your time.

Installing an over the range microwave near a tile backsplash adds complexity, but is very doable. Allow proper ventilation clearance, adapt ducting carefully, and follow all electrical safety guidelines. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for model specific details. With good planning and patience, you’ll have a functional microwave integrated beautifully into your kitchen.


Installing an over the range microwave oven near an existing tile backsplash can definitely be challenging, but is absolutely doable with proper planning and preparation. The key considerations are allowing for adequate ventilation clearance above the unit, adapting the ductwork appropriately, taking care with electrical connections, and securing the microwave safely to the mounting plate and cabinet structure. With some strategic approaches like selectively removing backsplash tiles or building out framed shelving, the microwave can be integrated into the space while working around the tile aesthetic. Patience and following manufacturer’s instructions go a long way. Soon that convenient microwave will blend right into your kitchen design with a tile backsplash and provide years of continued service.