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How To Hardwire Under Cabinet Lights

How To Hardwire Under Cabinet Lights

Posted by Chris Johnson on Sep 16th 2015

The most convenient way to operate under cabinet lights in the kitchen is to hardwire them to a wall switch. You can turn the lights on and off, and even dim them without having messy wires and plugs in your cooking space. However, when it comes to installation, hard-wiring your lights is probably the most involved process. If you're searching for advice on how to hardwire under cabinet lights, read on for step-by-step instructions.

After you choose your lights, you'll first need to prepare for installation:

1. Consult with an expert before you start.

A professional electrical contractor in your geographical area will be able to advise you regarding any electrical details that you might have questions about, and make certain that you're satisfying all of the appropriate electrical codes.

2. Plan for the wiring.

Where do you want your light switch to be? Close to the cabinets? Alongside the rest of your kitchen lighting controls? Determining this will help you know how much wiring you need. The electrical wiring runs within the wall and loops from one fixture to the next.

3. Position your under cabinet lights.

For even lighting, we suggest you use linear lights along the length of your cabinets, or puck lights every 6-10 inches. For the best task lighting along your counters, we also recommend you place the lights close to the front of the cabinet. Finally, make sure your corner cabinet lighting is balanced to cover the area evenly, not causing shadows.

4. Gather the tools and mounting hardware.

Most under cabinet fixtures come with a pack of appropriate hardware to use for installation. This includes screws that won't penetrate the bottom shelves of your cabinets. Cable bushing and wire connectors of the right size are necessary for proper installation. You'll also need the following tools:

  • Screwdriver
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire fish
  • Wire nuts
  • Electrical tape
  • Electrical wire and pressure connectors
  • Drill with keyhole saw
  • Drywall saw

Then, follow these steps for installation:

1. Disconnect the power.

Locate the correct breaker and turn off the power supply to the switch outlet where you're going to connect the lights.

2. Attach the lights.

Position the lights according to how you laid them out earlier. Take apart the lights and screw them where you want them to go. To make this easier, you may want to use a pencil to mark the bottom of the cabinets.

3. Cut the wall.

Depending on your backsplash, you may have to peel it away from where you're installing the lights. Then, you should cut a channel behind the backsplash using your drywall saw. The channel should stretch from under the switch box to right near the farthest light. Finally, use the drill to bore a hole through the studs so you can run the wire.

4. Run the wire.

On the bottom of each cabinet, use the drill again to make a hole for the wire for each light to come through. This is where you might need the wire fish to run the wires down the wall from one fixture, through the channel, and to the next fixture.

5. Run the cord.

Beginning with the farthest fixture from the switch, run electrical wire from one fixture to another. We recommend leaving about one foot of cord at each opening. At the farthest fixture, you'll have a foot of cord hanging out the end, and the fixture next to it will have two cords hanging out (one entering and one exiting). Do this for every light until you get to the one closest to the switch. This light needs one length of wire coming from the switch box and one leaving the light on its other side.

6. Connect the lights.

Isolate the electrical wire inside each light, separate the wires if necessary, and remove about 3/4in of the insulation from them. At the closest fixture to the switch, connect the wires with the wire nuts. You should connect the black fixture wire with one wire on the electrical wire in the wall with the plug on the end, and one wire heading to the next fixture. Do the same for the white fixture wire.

7. Wire the switch.

At the switch outlet, make sure the electricity isn't on and then remove the receptacle. Bind the white wire and the connecting strand of cord together with a wire nut. Screw the black wire on the outlet onto the switch's bottom terminal, and screw the black wire that goes out to the lights into the switch's top terminal.

8. Cover your work.

Cover the switch's terminals by wrapping it with your electrical tape. Then screw the switch back into the box. Attach the switch cover.

9. Test the lights.

Restore power to your lights, and flip the switch to see if they work.

10. Patch things up.

Finally, you can redo the drywall that you had to slice away for the wire channel, and reattach the backsplash.