How to Add Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting (in Just 30 Minutes!)

by Ashley

Easy DIY Under Cabinet Lighting

See how we transformed a dark and shadowy kitchen into a well lit and cozy space with this easy DIY kitchen under cabinet lighting project (plus above cabinet lighting also!) For this DIY, we’ve chosen lights that are affordable, and easy to install. This keeps the project simple!

diy cabinet lighting tutorial

Adding DIY kitchen under cabinet lighting (and above cabinet lighting) is an easy project that any DIYer can take on.  It’s actually easier than you might think, and can be accomplished in about 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 kitchen renovation reveal here!

Before You Start: Make A Kitchen 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, first decide on how many lights to use, and exactly where each light will be placed.  It’s important to space the lights evenly. This will help 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.

Kitchen under cabinet lighting is 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.

utilitech LED motion bar for under cabinet lighting

Which Under Cabinet Light Fixtures To Buy?

(Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more information see my disclosure, here.)

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.

How To Install Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting – Tutorial

DIY Cabinet Lighting in 30 Minutes - How to Guide

Supplies Needed For the Project:

Step 1: Create a clean work space

Clear out all of the kitchen cabinets and countertops 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!

an empty kitchen getting ready to install cabinet lighting

Step 2: Drill Holes For Wires In Cabinets

Taking a drill bit to your nice kitchen cabinets might seem scary, but trust me, you’ve got this! All of the kitchen under cabinet lighting electrical wires will lead back to the cabinet above the microwave.

Inside of the cabinet is where they will 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 nonconventional way, just remember to go slow and be safe. Power tools can be dangerous; always make safety a priority!

drilling a hole in a kitchen cabinet to add under cabinet lighting

drilling a hole through the bottom of a kitchen cabinet to install wires for lighting

Step 3: Route Wires Through Cabinets

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.

kitchen cabinet with wires for under cabinet lighting

Step 4: Mount The Under Cabinet Light Bars

Using your kitchen 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 included in the packaging.  Be sure to use the included fasteners whenever possible.

fastening an under cabinet light to the bottom of a kitchen cabinet

installing under cabinet lights

Step 5: Hide And Secure The Power 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 below for examples.

close up of under cabinet lighting and neat wiring in a kitchenclose up of a DIY under cabinet light

DIY under cabinet lighting in a kitchen

Step 6: Plug in and Admire The New Lights!

You’re finished! Plug in your new kitchen 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 small surge protector in the microwave cabinet.

A kitchen after installing under cabinet lights

After installing under cabinet lights

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 Above Cabinet Lighting In Your Kitchen

If you made it through the under cabinet lighting tutorial, you’re nearly a cabinet lighting pro now! For a pro like you, adding above cabinet lights (also called 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 Above 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 can confidently 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 10 FT rolls, so measure your cabinets to see if you will need to buy more than one 10FT roll of lights.

The power supply needs to be purchased separately.  This 96W HitLight Power Supply will work with up to 30 FT of LED Strip Lights.

Above Cabinet Lighting Supplies

Ledmo Led Strip Light for adding above cabinet lighting

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 than 10 FT long, use this HitLight connector to hook up the next roll of lights.

Adding over cabinet lighting above the cabinets in a kitchen

an LED light strip being applied to the top of a cabinet in a kitchen

Step 2: Drill holes and string cords

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.

drilling through the top of a cabinet to add wiring for above cabinet lighting

running the wiring for over cabinet lights

Step 3: Connect Power Cord and Admire!

Here is the fun part! Power up your new kitchen 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 new cabinet lighting.

running the wiring for over cabinet lights

kitchen photo after adding under and above cabinet lighting

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!

Related:  The Ultimate Guide To Smart Home Lighting

Lighting can create 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 Kitchen Under Cabinet Lighting!

So, what do you think? Would you try this easy 30 minute DIY cabinet lighting project?

UP NEXT: Checkout the full budget kitchen makeover reveal here!

How to Install Easy Cabinet Lighting

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11 comments

Lawrence Hamilton August 9, 2017 - 5:53 pm

I enjoy a good DIY project as long as it isn’t electrical. You guys did a very nice job. Especially the Kitchen!

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Ashley August 10, 2017 - 8:57 am

Thank you! This project wasn’t too complicated, just plugging into an existing outlet! Ha, my kind of electrical DIY πŸ˜‰

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jamie Quezada August 10, 2017 - 9:54 pm

this is very helpful love it -Jamie Q

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Debbie October 30, 2017 - 8:13 pm

Do the light bars and light strips have on/off switches? Or do you to climb up and plug them in each time you want to turn them on?

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Ashley November 1, 2017 - 10:10 pm

The under cabinet lights have on/off switches that are controlled with motion sensors so all you have to do is wave your hand underneath to turn them on or off. The strip lights above the cabinets have to be unplugged and plugged back in, however it is fairly easy when you use the outlet over the microwave. We choose to keep the upper lights on 24/7 as accent lighting.

Let me know if this didn’t answer your question and I can try to explain it differently! Thanks so much for asking!

Reply
Jaclyn January 20, 2019 - 7:43 am

When the lower lights come on by motion, do all the sections come on together since they are all connected? Or just the section you triggered? Thanks!

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Ashley January 20, 2019 - 4:27 pm

No, just the section you wave your hand directly under. We left ours on all the time since they were LED, to make it easier.

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Joe April 21, 2019 - 6:32 pm

I really like your idea to use the outlet above the microwave but how did you get the lights to go in opposite (left and right) directions on one power supply cord in the cabinet? Do you have more than 1 or 2 outlets in the cabinet, did you use multiple power cords or a surge protector? I appreciate any info! Thank you.

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Ashley April 24, 2019 - 11:36 am

We started the light strip on one end of the cabinets, and ran the power cord to that end. That way the lights are one continuous run and do not need two power supplies. If the power supply cord is not long enough to reach the end of the cabinets, you may need to use a small extension cord to reach.

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Mandy Wildman October 28, 2019 - 5:55 am

Awesome project – answered all my questions. Thank you!!!

Reply
Ashley October 30, 2019 - 3:59 pm

Oh Mandy, I’m so glad! Thank you!

Reply

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