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How to Install Under Cabinet Lights

under cabinet fixture
Step-by-Step Pictures and Installation Guide: Pre-wiring for under cabinet lights, selecting under cabinet lights, mounting hardware for the lights, locating the light fixtures, a complete under cabinet light project.

Planning for Under Cabinet Lights

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How to Install Recessed Lights

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The location of the under cabinet lights is a key factor that will help produce the right type of light that you desire for your project area.

The benefits of under cabinet lights in your kitchen or any area for that matter will be the added light that will softly provide illumination to previously dark areas.

This type of lighting will also brighten up areas where kitchen appliances are used such as bread machines, mixers, coffee pots, toasters and much more.

Installing Under Cabinet Kitchen Lights

What you should know about under cabinet lights for your home.

There are several types of under cabinet lighting available today, including xenon, LED, fluorescent and quartz just to name a few. All of these types will produce different types, shades and intensity of light. It is best to choose from lights that are shown in a sample display for a better understanding. Consider taking a sample of your wall paint or any wall covering materials such as wall paper, tile or stone to get a close representation of how the light will actually be displayed in your home area. Depending upon the fixture your choose, most under cabinet lighting will require installing concealed wiring inside the walls prior to the installation. The type of wiring will depending upon the fixtures you select and the existing wiring found in your home. It is best to install the wiring at the time of new home construction. However the wiring can be installed as a retrofit or remodel project when the required electrical codes are understood and while working under the authority of your local building authority. As with any home electrical project, it is best to hire a qualified licensed electrical contractor for the best results.
led under cabinet light

Step 1 - Pre-wiring for under cabinet lights

wiring under cabinet lights
  • Careful planning for installing under cabinet lights will always help save you time and money.
  • This installation has the wiring installed from a switch box that is located conveniently so the under cabinet lights can be turned on as the kitchen is entered.
  • The electrical wiring is run inside the wall and loops from one fixture location to the next.

Step 2 - Selecting the right under cabinet lights

selecting under cabinet fixtures
  • The location of the under cabinet lights requires careful attention to the immediate area.
  • The correct location will depend on the width of the cabinet and how close the cabinet is to other devices such as a range exhaust fan or refrigerator, which will require careful attention to determine the desired amount of light.
  • Corner cabinet lighting should be installed so that the light is balanced and covers the area equally to eliminate shadows and dark areas.

Step 3 - Mounting Hardware for the under cabinet lights

mounting under cabinet lights
  • The materials needed to install under cabinet lights will depend upon the exact fixture that you select.
  • Most under cabinet fixtures come with a package of installation hardware including screws that are the right size that will prevent penetrating the bottom shelf of the cabinet.
  • The right size cable bushing and wire connectors are essential for a proper under cabinet lighting installation.

Step 4 - Locating the under cabinet lights

locating under cabinet lights
  • The exact installation will depend upon the specific under cabinet lights you will choose for your project.
  • Mounting an under cabinet light close to the wall will produce a nice wash of light that will accentuate beautiful wall coverings such as granite, tile or stone.
  • Mounting the under cabinet light in the center or front area of the cabinet will produce more direct task light.
  • Notice the amount of light and type of light that will be produced by the under cabinet light you select and how the light will be distributed in the area you choose to brighten up.

Step 5 - Finished under cabinet light project

install under cabinet fixture
  • When considering these factors for your under cabinet lighting project, you will the eliminate needless mistakes by installing your under cabinet lights the right way and get the type of lighting you need for your home.
  • After the project is completed there should not be any visible or exposed wiring . In most cases where low profile under cabinet fixtures are selected the fixture will not be visible because of the structure of most cabinet designs which have a recessed area that is perfect for installing the under cabinet light fixtures.
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Questions about Under cabinet Lights

Questions about Wiring Under Cabinet Lights

Please Note: The following is a true example of what happens even when you hire an electrician but the project is completed without contacting the local building department and not having an inspection.

I had hired a electrician to run under cabinet lighting in my kitchen, however for another problem not relating to that, I had another electrical contractor through the house today and the holes are not patched from the installation and he stated some alarming potential hazards with the install that I wanted to clear up. Basically I was told that the manner the lights have been installed was not up to NEC code. I was told these several points: 1. You cannot (by NEC code) use lamp cord inside walls. 2. You cannot hard-wire any lighting to the small appliance circuits above the counter. Is this true? or was this job up to code? ( I assumed it was since I hired a licensed electrician.)

I have since then contacted the electrical guy who installed the lights and he writes : Please tell that contractor to verify the article :210.52B (1),(3) from the NEC code 2005. As for the 1st point, I don't know what that contractor was talking about when he said that there's HAZARD danger. The only possible problem is that if the cable (cord light) is fire-rated. I have asked a few electrical contractors about this situation and their opinions differ. Some said you can't use it and some said you can. I have searched in the books, but I have not found anything explaining what needs to be done.For your safety reasons,we could solve this problem by either using a junction box under the cabinet and make all the lights under the cabinet (pull new jumpers). The other option would be to change the under cabinet lighting, and pull hard wire between the lights. My goal is customer satisfaction,if you pick the second option, I will pay for the old lights. Please let me know what you're planning to do and once again I'm sorry for this situation.

I am now scared. I cannot locate or understand any part of the NEC book and Ii am scared that my home will catch on fire with the current installed job. Can you assist in any way? Is what he did up to code? or not? and if it is not how do Ii go about fixing it and what part of the NEC did he violate with his install? Thank you so much for taking your time to read this.

Hi Anna - Great Question!
The best way for me to advise you would be to start with one question: Was this electrical project installed under the authority of the local building department or jurisdiction, who issued a permit for the work? If this is true then any possible faults or code violations will most likely be identified during the time of inspection by the building department representative. If this is not the case, then you may still contact your local building department and follow their recommended procedure, which will ensure that your electrical project has been performed safely, and will hold anyone responsible for any violations. This will also provide important documentation which may be needed for correcting any problems.

Note: Never install lamp wire or any other type of cord inside walls where it is concealed with the exception of low voltage applications where the wire gauge is sized properly for the application. Romex or SER type cables that are approved for home electrical applications are permitted.

NOTE: This question is based on a specific lighting project.

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

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Repair Damaged Wire Low Voltage Light
Rosanne asks:
I have a broken connector to my kitchen under counter light strip, causing the one section of lighting not to work. I have been told the specific item was discontinued. wonder if I need a professional to come out and investigate?


Dave’s Reply:
From what you have described, yes – this does appear to be broken, but it might be possible to bypass the broken splice connector with a different wire splice technique, however this will void the original UL approved listing.

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