Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to Install Under Cabinet Accent Lights

When we bought our house the back corner of the kitchen was very dark.  I figured it was because of the flat tan wall color and the dark green countertops.  I thought once we put in the white marble subway tile that the light would bounce around and reflect off and somehow make it brighter - well, yeah, that's what I thought and it didn't.  The corner was still dark and it is really tough to see what you are doing even during the daytime.  So the other day I was in Home Depot and I spotted this light kit.

They are by {Hampton Bay} and cost just under $20.  I was liking them because they were a plug-in version and also because they could be surface mounted instead of cutting a hole into the bottom of the cabinets.  For $20 bucks I thought what the heck and brought them home.

Here's the kitchen corner without the lights.  And, yes, someday I will finish painting the cabinets but I am so dreading it so I seem to keep finding other things to do like stained glass window appliques, pillows, media centers, etc.  

And here's the after...

You can see how the lights are hitting not only the backsplash but also shining on the counter.  Ooooo Ahhhh.

Now here's my simple how to instructions.  Remember this is the way I did it, and I am not an electrician, but it was much easier than the included instructions made it out to be.  

How To Install Accent Lights Under  Your Cabinets

Step One:  Decide where you are going to plug in the lights.  You are given 1 cord with an end like an extension cord that has 3 outlets - one for each of the lights.  You have to make sure the outlet end is in a spot where all 3 of your light cords can reach.

I decided that we were going to plug ours in the outlet behind our coffee maker that way the cord would be almost completely hidden.  The cord goes from behind the coffee maker up underneath the bottom of the cabinets and through a hole I drilled in the bottom of our corner cabinet.  

Here's the outlet and the white cord is the one that goes to the accent lights.  

You can see that only about 6 inches of this cord is exposed.  Since this was the case I decided it was not worth the hassle to install the on/off switch that is provided in the light kit.  It's really easy for me to just use the plug whenever I want to turn the lights on and off. To install the switch the instructions said something about cutting the wire apart and some other things I really didn't want to do so I just didn't use the switch.  

I suppose if your outlet was hidden or placed in an awkward spot then you would want the switch.  The cord would then run in the bottom and out the top of the switch and they give you a holder so you could mount the switch with the cord in place.

I decided after placing the lights where I wanted them that I would have a lot of extra cord length that would be a hassle to hide under the cabinets.  My solution was to put the outlet end of the main cord up inside the corner cabinet with the other cords running to it.  This allowed me to have all the excess cord length and the big fat outlet part hidden up inside the cabinet.

Now you may think making a hole like this is difficult but it is not.  I knew I did not have a drill bit the right size and I didn't feel like dragging 3 kids to the hardware store so I improvised.  I found the biggest drill bit we had and just started drilling one hole after another until I got a rectangular shaped honeycomb type effect and then I just whammed the hammer into it and I had myself a nice big hole.  Yep.  Nothing fancy or special about it.  It is hidden and doesn't have to look good.  

Step Two:  Arrange all the cords.  So in my case this is happening up inside the cabinet. I put the large outlet cord on the inside of the cabinet and ran its plug down through the hole back to the outlet.  Then I ran each individual light's plug up through the hole and plugged it into the outlet.

Step Three:  Disassemble the light fixtures.  It has 3 pieces - the cover with the glass, the actual fixture with the bulb, and the white plastic housing.  The cover unscrews from the fixture and then I was able to get the fixture and the housing apart very easily with a flat head screwdriver.

Step Four:  Attach the housing onto the underside of the cabinet.  This is the part where I needed help.  The screw is tiny.  Tiny.  I couldn't hold the housing up against the bottom of the cabinet and get the screw on the screwdriver and screw it through the hole into the cabinet all at the same time.  I tried taping the housing on the cabinet and that just blocked the screw hole.  So then I waited for my husband to come home.  And then somehow he managed to do it by himself.  Whatever.  So perhaps if you are like my husband you can do it by yourself and perhaps if you are like me you will either need someone to hold it for you or just do it for you.

Also you have to make sure the the cord stays in the notch on the housing when you screw up the housing.  It's kinda obvious but I thought I should mention it.

Step Five:  Put the light back together.  Carefully push the fixture back into the housing and then screw the cover back onto the housing.

Step Six:  Tack your cords into place.  The kit comes with 6 cord holder things - they are little plastic things that grab the cord and have a nail in it that you nail into place.  Start at the light fixture and make the cord taut and then using your judgement nail the holder into the cabinet.

The cord will slide back and forth in these holders so it gives you some play if you need it.

In our case I ran out of the holder things and they were kinda a pain to hammer in on the underside of the cabinet so I ended up securing the rest of the cord with some electrical tape.    I placed each light under 3 different cabinets approximately a foot or two away from the center and I still had a lot of excess cord.  All that excess went up inside the cabinet instead of us trying to tape up all the extra cord.  

Here's how it looks all done.  Trust me.  No one can see any of this stuff.  I had to stick the camera under the cabinet at an angle to get these pictures.

Just one more before & after...

So after a little bit of effort and a tiny bit of help from the hubby they were installed and working great.  Again another cheap and easy project that has made a big difference in our kitchen.  Now if I could just get those cabinets painted...

~ Gold Shoe Girl ~
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  1. great idea for the lights. we just got the sticky kind, but we can still turn them on with the switch. i am LOVING your backsplash. what can you tell me about it??

    1. The backsplash is off-the-shelf marble subway tile from Home Depot. It was an affordable choice to update the kitchen. We had it professionally installed, but after seeing it done I think we could have handled it ourselves which would have been nice since the installation cost more than the tile.

  2. I love this idea! I would love for you stop by and link up at my linky party via:

    Mrs. Delightful

  3. Thanks for sharing. Installing a new backsplash is at the top of our to do list right now. Your choice is beautiful and thanks for sharing this tutorial with the lights which is another thing on the list. I painted "Pickled" oak cabinets in my previous house and painted them cream. I absolutely loved then and my kids were small at the time and they held up fine. Just make sure to keep exta paint around. Go for it!

    Robin Flies South


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