Kitchen and Dining

Kitchen + Dining

Kitchen + Dining

Under Cabinet Lights

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cabinet lights
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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Hardwired undercabinet lights illuminate the kitchen countertop and sink areas that fall in the shadow of ceiling lights. Most of these light fixtures, which are often called strip lights, utilize fluorescent, halogen, or xenon bulbs that emit very low levels of heat and are therefore very efficient. If you are doing a kitchen remodel with all‑new cabinets, run the new light circuit wiring before the cabinets are installed. For a retrofit, you’ll need to find an available power source to tie into. Options for this do not include the dedicated 20‑amp small-appliance circuits that are required in kitchens. The best bet is to run new circuit wire from a close‑by ceiling light switch box, but this will mean cutting into the walls to run cable. Another option is to locate a receptacle that’s on the opposite side of a shared wall, preferably next to a location where a base cabinet is installed in the kitchen. By cutting an access hole in the cabinet back, you can tie into the receptacle box and run cable through the wall behind the cabinets, up to the upper cabinet location, and out the wall to supply the fixture that’s mounted to the underside of the upper cabinet. You can purchase undercabinet lights that are controlled by a wall switch, but most products have an integral on/off button so you can control lights individually.

Instructions

  1. Undercabinet Lights 1

    Look in the adjoining room for a usable power source in the form of a receptacle that has a box located in the wall behind your base cabinets. Unlike the small-appliance circuit with outlets in your backsplash area, these typically are not dedicated circuits (which can’t be expanded). Make sure that the receptacle’s circuit has enough capacity to support another load. Shut the power to the receptacle off at the main service panel and test for power.

  2. Undercabinet Lights 2

    Cut a hole in the base cabinet back panel to get access to the wall behind it in roughly the area where you know the next‑door receptacle to be. Use a keyhole saw or drywall saw and make very shallow cuts until you have positively identified the locations of the electrical box and cables. Then finish the cuts with a jigsaw.

  3. Undercabinet lights 3

    Drill an access hole into the kitchen wall for the cable that will feed the undercabinet light. A 1⁄2" dia. hole should be about the right size if you are using 12-ga. or 14-ga. sheathed NM cable.

  4. Undercabinet Lights 4

    Cut a small access hole (4 × 4" or so) in the back panel of the base cabinet directly below the undercabinet light location.

  5. Undercabinet Lights 5

    Feed the cable into the access hole at the light location until the end reaches the access hole below. Don’t cut the cable yet. Reach into the access hole and feel around for the free cable end and then pull it out through the access hole once you’ve found it. Cut the cable, making sure to leave plenty of extra on both ends.

  6. Undercabinet Lights 6

    String the cable into a piece of flexible conduit that’s long enough to reach between the two access holes in the base cabinets. Attach a connector to each end of the conduit to protect the cable sheathing from the sharp edges of the cut metal. Tip: To make patching the cabinet back easier, drill a new access hole for the cable near the square access hole.

  7. Undercabinet Lights 7

    Hang the conduit with hanger straps attached to the base cabinet frame or back panel, drilling holes in the side walls of the cabinet where necessary to thread the conduit through. On back panels, use small screws to hang the straps instead of brads or nails. Support the conduit near both the entrance and the exit holes (the conduit should extend past the back panels by a couple of inches).

  8. Undercabinet Lights 8

    If you are installing more than one undercabinet light, run the cable down from each installation point as you did for the first light. Mount an electrical junction box to the cabinet back near the receptacle providing the power. Run the power cables from each light through flexible conduit and make connections inside the junction box. Be sure to attach the junction box cover once the connections are made.

  9. Undercabinet Lights 9

    Remove the receptacle from the box you are tying into and insert the new circuit cable into one of the knockouts using a cable clamp. Check a wire capacity chart to make sure the box is big enough for the new conductors. Replace it with a larger box if necessary. Reinstall the receptacle once the connections are made.

  10. Undercabinet Lights 10

    Install the undercabinet light. Some models have a removable diffuser that allows access to the fixture wires, and these should be screwed to the upper cabinet prior to making your wiring hookups. Other models need to be connected to the circuit wires before installation. Check your manufacturer’s installations.

  11. Undercabinet Lights 11

    Connect wires inside the light fixture according to the light manufacturer’s directions. Make sure the incoming cable is stapled just before it enters the light box and that a cable clamp is used at the knockout in the box to protect the cable. Restore the power and test the light.

  12. Undercabinet Lights 12

    Cut patches of hardboard and fit them over the access holes, overlapping the edges of the cutouts. Adhere them to the cabinet backs with panel adhesive.

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