Electricity: Under-cabinet Lighting

Lighting Direct (formerly Improvement Direct)

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Under-cabinet lighting is a weekend project that provides lifelong benefits. It can set the mood for a romantic dinner, provide bright light for slicing and dicing or glow softly for a midnight raid on the refrigerator.

Begin by solving the power source problem. Unfortunately, most electrical boxes in a kitchen area belong to dedicated circuits and most local codes prohibit any connections to these circuits. Look for an outlet serving another space that backs up to the lower cabinets.

Next, plan the wiring route. To simplify the project, you call run the cables through your lower cabinets. Most local codes require plastic-sheathed cable be protected inside metal conduit in lower cabinets and other areas where the cable is subject to damage.

Finally, you may also want to hide the lighting fixtures by adding a small valance to the lower edge of the upper cabinets.
Lighting Direct (formerly Improvement Direct)

Key Installation Steps

Using a long bit, drill a hole next to an existing power source in an adjacent room, then insert a coat hanger. Locate the hanger inside the cabinet, and use it as a reference point for marking and cutting an access hole for wiring in back of the cabinet.


1. Run cable from an existing outlet, through flex conduit, into a new junction box. Install connectors and more flex conduit for under-cabinet lights and switches. Strap conduit within 12 in. (30 cm) of junction box.

2. Fish cable from the base cabinets to the upper cabinets' lower edge. Run conduit to remodeling box for switch. Wire must run in flex conduit when running through the back of cabinets.

3. Secure the cable to the fixture with a cable clamp, connect wires according to manufacturer’s instructions, then screw fixture to cabinet bottom. Test lights.

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Smart Shopping: The Right Light

The most common choices for under-cabinet lighting are halogen, xenon, fluorescent and thin, tubular rope lighting. Halogen and xenon are generally low-voltage fixtures that use built-in transformers to reduce the 120-volt current to 12 volts. Both halogen and xenon are dimmable using special switches. Install a continuous row of fixtures for the most evenly distributed light.

Last modified: Saturday, 2007-11-03 1:19 PST