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How to install recessed lights under kitchen cabinets

Updated July 20, 2017

Under-cabinet lighting is the ideal method of illuminating your counter top and decorations. The lights are controlled independent of the main kitchen lights, so you can leave them on by themselves to create soft ambient lighting. By installing recessed lighting below your cabinets, you can beautify your counter tops while the lights themselves are unseen. The installation requires some carpentry experience but beyond that it is a straightforward process. A recessed under-cabinet lighting kit comes with all of the wires you will need to improve the quality of lighting in your kitchen.

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  1. Clear the counter top under the area you will be working in. You will also have to remove anything from inside the cabinets that will have lights fitted into them.

  2. Choose where you want to install the lights, keeping in mind the safety regulations of your lighting kit. Many manufacturers will say to keep the lights 12 inches apart from each other.

  3. Make a mark on the cabinet under each light with a pencil, so you will know where to cut into the cabinet.

  4. Cut out a hole on each mark you made for the fixture positions. To create these holes use a hole saw fitted with a blade the size of your lighting fixtures.

  5. Take off the lens cover on each fixture. This is the plastic trim that goes around the edge of the glass lens. They will either come off by pulling on them or by twisting them off.

  6. Work from underneath the cabinet to install the lights. Feed the wires up through the hole in the cabinet and push the light in after the wires. The light should be positioned so the lens is facing downward, toward the counter top.

  7. Mount the fixture to the cabinet by drilling into each hole in the housing assembly. There will be about three or four screw holes around the edge of the fixture. Use a power drill and wood screws to secure the fixture in place.

  8. Insert and screw each fixture into a hole, with the wires running up, inside the cabinet.

  9. Place the power supply on the underside of one of the cabinets or inside a cabinet. The fixtures will all be connected to this supply via its wire and the supply will then connect to an electrical socket.

  10. Connect the wires from each light to the power supply wire. The exact method of attaching the wires to the cord will differ depending on your make of lights, but most fixtures have pins at the end of their wires that fit into clips on the power cord.

  11. Drill a small hole through cabinet walls that are in the way. All of the wires need to pass through so they can reach the power supply. You can keep the wires tidy as they run along inside the cabinets by securing them in place with nail-in wire clips and a hammer.

  12. Plug the power supply into the nearest outlet. The on and off switch will be somewhere along the power supply wire, so make sure you can access this switch when you run the wire to an outlet.

  13. Replace the lens covers onto each fixture.

  14. Tip

    Position the lights closer to the front of the cabinets so the light will fall on more of the counter top.


    Keep the wiring clear of sinks and faucets to avoid the connections getting wet.

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Things You'll Need

  • Recessed cabinet lighting kit
  • Pencil
  • Hole saw
  • Power drill
  • Wood screws
  • Nail-in wire clips
  • Hammer

About the Author

Based in New Jersey, Michelle Raphael has been writing computer and technology articles since 1997. Her work has appeared in “Mac World” magazine and “PC Connections” magazine. Raphael received the George M. Lilly Literary Award in 2000. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from California State University.

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