Installing Under Cabinet Lighting

under cabinet lighting

Under cabinet lighting illuminates countertops so the work area and what you are working on is more visable. The lighting also provides lighting to visually enhance your kitchen. It is easiest if your wall cabinets have a frame around them that drops down below the cabinet face so it will hide a light fixture. If it does not have a frame you may want to install trim across the bottom of the fixture to cover the lights you are adding.

The amount of lights you will need varies by how much light you want and they type of fixture you buy, there are Fluorescent, Halogen and LED lights to choose from. Some light fixtures have several settings like low and high. Try to keep them close enough together so that you do not have dark spots, this can usually be achieved by spacing the lights every 12 to 18 inches or every other cabinet box, depending on the size of the cabinet box.

brief how to

  • Determine where you will get power from
  • Install a switch in a place that you can fish wire from the power source and to the under cabinet area
  • Pull the wire into the underside of the cabinet
  • Install the light at the front of the cabinet
  • Install the Switch

tools and materials

  • Light fixtures rated for under cabinet use
  • Stud finder
  • Drywall saw
  • Screw gun
  • Wire nuts
  • Switch box
  • Switch, if not using and existing lighting circuit
  • 12/2 non metallic wire
  • 5/8" drill bit

step 1 Find A Power Source

Do some investigating and find the best place to get power from. Typical options include tying into the existing kitchen lighting circuit, tying into a circuit that is on the wall behind the kitchen cabinets, like a bedroom or dining room or you may simply be able to run a new circuit from the service panel. If you do run a new circuit you will want to install a 15 amp breaker and use 12/2 non metallic wire. See the article Add A New Circuit

Be careful about using the GFCI outlet circuits as these are required by code to be dedicated without any other items tied to them.

Turn off the circuit you will work with at the breaker panel before touching or working with it.

step 2 Locate The Switch, Cut The Holes

Find the best place for the switch. If minimizing wall damage is important to you then you will want to find a switch location that is under the wall cabinets. Place the switch in a place that you can fish wire from the power source and to the under cabinet area.

Cut a hole for the switch box at the same height as the above counter outlets and switches using the drywall knife.

Drill a 5/8" hole in the wall side of the cabinet up against the bottom of the wall cabinet.

step 3 Fish The Wire

Fish the wire from the switch hole to the hole that enters the wall cabinet.

step 4 Install The Light

Screw the light on at the front side of the cabinet right behind the frame. Use the screws that come with the fixture. Double check that the screws will not go all the way thru the cabinet wood. The face frame or trim on the front of the cabinet will be thicker than the bottom of the cabinet.

under cabinet lighting installed

step 5 Install The Switch

Wire the switch by pulling the wire thru the back of the switch box and then either screwing the switch box to the stud or if it is a remodel box, tightening the screws that clamp it to the drywall. Strip 6 inches of sheating from the end of the wires. Remove the insulation from the last inch of the black and white wires. Use the holes in the wirestrippers or needle nose pliers to form a hook at the ends of the black wires.

Attach the black wires to the brass terminals on the switch, make sure the hook on the wire ends wraps clockwise around the terminal.

Attach the two white wires together with a wire connector.

If using a plastic box attach the two ground wires together and add a 6 inch pigtail to go to the gound on the switch.

step 6 Wire The Light

under cabinet lighting wiring

If the fixture did not come with one you will need to install a wire protector to put the wire thru the side of the light fixture. Attach the Black to Black, White to White and Ground to the ground screw inside the light.

Turn the breaker back on and test the light. If everything works properly then you can install the light cover and the switch cover.

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