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How-To: Install Under-Cabinet Lighting

Learn how to illuminate your kitchen by installing under-cabinet lighting.
by Whitney Richardson

How-To Materials


Time Estimate
Up to 8 hours, depending on the number of lights installed

Screwdrivers, flat and Phillips head
Drill, with bit slightly smaller than screws
Plastic wire clips
Lighting kit, either puck or bar

Lighting schemes are important throughout the home, especially in such task-centric areas as the kitchen. Under-cabinet lighting is a great way to ensure that you not only have plenty of light for all your prep and cleanup work, but also to highlight quality features in your kitchen, such as the countertop and backsplash. A bonus: Such lighting systems are relatively easy to install.

A completely streamlined look will require hardwiring, which, depending on your expertise and comfort with electrical systems, may or may not be a DIY project. However, you can sufficiently disguise wiring utilizing the outlets already present in your kitchen.

Locate the outlets in your kitchen to determine which would best serve as a plug-in location. Wires can be hidden via plastic conduits for outlets located between the countertop and upper cabinets, but oftentimes, the receptacle behind the refrigerator is your best bet. Not only does it more easily conceal wires, it does not decrease the outlets available for small appliance use. (Note: Some building codes may require your refrigerator be placed on its own dedicated circuit, which may prevent use of this receptacle for your lighting system.)

under-cabinet lighting application
Credit: James Ray Spahn photo

Mark the necessary drill holes for your intended light. To make sure your countertop receives the most illumination, try to place the light as close to the front of the cabinet as possible to prevent reflective glare. (In purchasing your light, note its profile in relation to the lip of the cabinet to try to keep it hidden. Molding is also available to help conceal the light.) The amount of space underneath the cabinet and type of fixture will help determine how many lights you need (e.g., for an 18-inch under-cabinet cavity, one 16-inch bar or two to three puck lights should work).

Clear everything from your cabinets to prevent breakage.

Use the drill to create pilot holes for installation. Affix the light according to the manufacturer’s instructions using the appropriate fasteners. Typically, it’s as simple as removing the light bulb and attaching the base to the cabinet where marked in the previous step, then reinserting the light.

Run the wire along the edge of the cabinet to the appropriate receptacle, using the clips every few inches to hold it in place. Slide the wire between cabinets if possible to create a more streamlined appearance. You also can drill holes into the underside of your cabinets as needed to better hide the wire. Just gather the slack together, and use one or more clips to hold it in place in the interior wall of the cabinet.

Purchase and install a dimmer switch for more versatility in your lighting application and additional control over the illumination received. Installation should be as simple as plugging in the appropriate adapter at the power source.

Published in Country's Best Cabins
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