DIY Cabinet Lighting Tutorial
See how we transformed a dark and shadowy kitchen into a well lit and cozy space with this 30 minute DIY cabinet lighting project!
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How To Install Under Cabinet Lighting
Adding DIY under cabinet lighting (and over cabinet lighting) is an easy project that any DIY’r can take on! It’s actually easier than you might think can can be accomplished in 30 minutes!
Cabinet lighting was the first step in our Budget Kitchen Makeover Series here on Joyfully Growing Blog. To see how it all turned out, you can checkout the final reveal here!
Before You Start: Make A Lighting Layout Plan
As with any DIY project, you should always start with a plan. Starting with a plan will save time, energy, and MONEY! To get started, decide on how many lights to use, and exactly where each light will be placed. It’s important to space the lights evenly to achieve the best light pattern.
Even though the light fixtures themselves will be hidden from sight under the cabinets, their light output will be visible and promenade – especially in the mornings and evenings when natural light is limited. Under cabinet lights are bright and welcoming as they light up the counters and backsplash beneath. For this reason, it’s important come up with a lighting layout plan.
A good general rule is to center a light fixture under each set of cabinet doors in your kitchen. This won’t work in all cases because some cabinet doors are wider than others, and there isn’t always an even number of doors. Just try to use your best judgement and imagine how the light pattern will look.
Which Under Cabinet Light Fixtures To Buy?
The lights we used are no longer available, so now I recommend using LED Concept Under Cabinet Lights which are for sale on Amazon. They are a great upgrade compared to what we used (and they’re actually cheaper!) LED Concepts offers several sizes so you can customize your layout plan to match the space you’re working with. These Under Cabinet Lights are a great choice because they use extremely energy efficient LEDs which last nearly forever!
What Color of Light: Color Temperature?
For a residential kitchen, I recommend using a light labeled as ‘warm white‘ or ‘bright white‘ (the hue of light they put out, not the color of the fixture itself). Lighting manufacturers sometimes use ‘color temperature’ to describe the exact color of light output. Warm white and bright white are typically 3000K or 3500K. Lights in that color temp range will look great in a residential kitchen. Avoid ‘warm’ yellowish 2700K lights, as well as cool bluish lights that are 4500K and above.
If your kitchen has a ton of natural sunlight from windows, then 3500K or 4000K would also be a great choice.
tip: common color temperature ratings are: 2700K, 3000K, 5000K and 6500K. On this color scale, 2700K is a warm yellowish color, 6500K is a cool bluish color; white is somewhere in the middle of the two. This scale only measures the color of a light, not the brightness; 6500K is NOT brighter than 2700K. To see how bright a light is (total light output) look for a Lumen rating.
Supplies For the Project:
Step 1: Create a clean work space
Clear out all of the cabinets and counter tops to make room for the installation. This step might seem simple but it is really important and will make the project go much smoother!
We plugged all of our cabinet lighting into the electrical outlet in the cabinet located over the microwave. Make sure you clean out all the cabinets that will be used, especially the one above the microwave. Using an electrical outlet inside of the cabinets keeps all of the cords hidden!
Step 2: Drill Holes
Taking a drill bit to your nice cabinets might seem scary, but trust me, you’ve got this! All of the cabinet lighting electrical wires will lead back to the cabinet above the microwave to be plugged in. This makes the microwave cabinet a perfect place to start. Use your drill and a drill bit to make holes in the side walls of the cabinet, near the bottom. Choose the smallest drill bit that is large enough for your electrical wires to fit though. We used a 3/8″ drill bit size.
You might have to get creative with how you hold the drill; see the pictures below. If you do end up needing to hold your drill in a non-conventional way, just remember to go slow and be safe. Power tools can be dangerous; always make safety a priority!
Step 3: Route The Wires
Use the holes that you drilled in step two as a pathway to string the electrical wires through. Start at the top in the microwave cabinet, and pull the wires through the first hole. Continue to pull the wires down through the rest of the holes that lead down to where the under cabinet lights will go.
Make sure to leave the 120v electrical plugin up at the top where it will be plugged into the outlet in the final step. Don’t plug it in just yet though! We want to make sure that nothing is energized until the very end when everything is finished and ready for final testing. This will minimize the risk of electrical shock.
Step 4: Mount The Under Cabinet Light Bars
Using your lighting layout plan to mark out exactly where the under cabinet light bars will mounted. Using a drill or screwdriver, fasten the light directly to the bottom of the cabinets. Most under cabinet light fixtures come with the perfect size of screw, so use the fasteners included in the packaging.
Step 5: Hide Cords
The lights you purchase should come with ‘wire straps’ to fasten loose wires to the cabinets. Use the included wire straps to hold electrical wires up and out of sight. The wire straps are will either be nail-on or screw-in, but both options work equally well. The straps will keep your wires neat, and held up nicely out of sight. Pull the wires taught, and use your hammer or drill to fasten the straps directly to the bottom of the cabinets.
If you have a lot of extra electrical wire between two lights, coil a section into a loop and strap both sides of the loop. See the pictures blow for examples.
Step 5: Plug in and Admire!
You’re finished! Plug in your new under cabinet lights, then take a few steps back and to admire! If you have multiple cabinet lights that need to be plugged in, you can put a surge protector in the cabinet.
But we aren’t done yet! If you install under cabinet lighting, why not finish it off with over cabinet lighting also?
How To Add Over Cabinet Lighting
If you made it through the under cabinet lighting tutorial, you’re nearly a cabinet lighting pro now! For a pro like you, adding over-cabinet lights should be a breeze! This process is very similar to installing under-cabinet lights. The only difference is that instead of drilling holes down towards the bottom of the cabinets, you’ll be going up towards the top.
Which Over Cabinet Lights To Buy
Choosing over cabinet lights is a little bit challenging because there is an abundance of cheap, low quality LED strip lights. After researching and testing several different brands, I recommend HitLights which are sold on Amazon. They aren’t the cheapest, but when it comes to LED strip lights, you get what you pay for! These HitLights are the perfect color at 3000K, as well as very bright and energy efficient. They come in 10FT rolls, so measure your cabinets to see if you need to buy more than one 10FT roll of lights. You’ll need to purchase the power supply separately. This 96W HitLight Power Supply will work with up to 30FT of LED Strip Lights.
Over Cabinet Lighting Supplies
- 10FT HitLight 3000K Strip Light
- Power Supply
- Strip Light Connector (only if you need to connect multiple 10FT rolls)
Step 1: Adhere strip lights
Start all the way to the left or the right side of the cabinets (don’t start in the middle). This way you can use one continuous run of lights. To get started, remove the plastic lining from the LED light strip, and adhere the lights along the inside edge of the upper cabinets. If your cabinets are more then 10FT long, use this HitLight connector to hook up the next roll of lights.
Step 2: Drill holes and string cord
Just as in Step 2 of the under cabinet section, start in the cabinet above the microwave. The electrical wire for the over-cabinet lights will go the the microwave cabinet to be plugged in. Use a drill to cut a hole in the top of the cabinet. Use the hole to route the power cord through to the inside of the cabinet.
Step 3: Connect Power Cord and Admire!
Here is the fun part! Power up your new lights and check them out! You may need to put a small surge protector in the cabinet so that you can plug in all of the cabinet lighting plugins.
This simple DIY cabinet lighting solution makes ALL the difference in this space! And a project that takes 30 minutes or less is MY kind of project! I am a big fan of leaving lamps and accent lighting on throughout my home. It creates a warm and cozy feel, and these cabinet lights are perfect for that! No more fumbling around in the dark searching for a light switch!
Before and after!
So, what do you think? Would you install this easy 30 minute DIY cabinet lighting project?