How to Install Kitchen Under-Cabinet Lighting

Installing kitchen under-cabinet lighting is an inexpensive way to improve the appearance of your kitchen. While under-cabinet lights provide additional lighting for preparing food, it also adds a dramatic feel to your kitchen decor. It is ideal to connect this task lighting to a dimmer switch as this will make it very convenient to adjust the under-cabinet lighting whenever necessary. Here are the steps in installing kitchen cabinet lights.


Step # 1:

Find the appropriate power source for your kitchen under-cabinet lights. The easiest way to do this is by using the power from an existing single-gang outlet which is positioned below an upper cabinet within the back splash area.


Step # 2:

Switch off the power that supplies the outlet box. Test this and make sure that it is indeed off. The best way to confirm that the power is off is with a voltage meter or by plugging in a small appliance.


Step # 3:

Using a screwdriver, remove the outlet and extract the mounting screws that fasten the cover plate and the outlet onto the electrical box. Then disconnect the wires attached to the outlet with the use of a screwdriver, or by cutting them with a pair of wire cutters.


Step # 4:

Align an old-work double-gang electrical box above the existing single-gang box. Trace the outline using a pencil. Check and make sure that the two-gang box stretches away from the stud and secures the single-gang box. Old-work double-gang electrical boxes are made to replace old existing boxes. You will need two mounting screws to fasten the old-work box to the wall.


Step # 5:

Use a keyhole saw to cut the outline of the two-gang box. Put a flat pry bar in the middle of the stud and the single-gang box to loosen and remove it.


Step # 6:

Mount the lighting fixture box under the kitchen cabinet. There are many different ways to mount under-cabinet lights. Install the light fixture box following the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the plug in the light fixture’s housing then mount the cable connector with the use of a pair of needle-nose pliers or a screwdriver.


Step # 7:

Use a half-inch spade drill bit and drill a hole under the kitchen cabinet behind the light fixture box and above the opening in the wall.


Step # 8:

Run a new length of wire through the hole you drilled in the wall and down through the double-gang hole in the wall, leaving about 8 inches of slack. Walk the wire along the back edge of the cabinet and through the cable connector in the light fixture box and cut using the wire cutters. Be sure to leave an ample amount of slack in the wire to make the connections in the light fixture.


Step # 9:

Fasten the connector screws onto the cable connector with a screwdriver. With a utility knife, strip the exterior insulation away from the end of the wire. Remove half an inch of the insulation from the ends of the black and white wires.


Step # 10:

Attach the black and white leads from the new wire onto the black and white leads for the light fixture then fasten them using wire nuts. Do this for the green or bare copper ground wires as well. Mount the light fixture bulb then cover it following the manufacturer’s instructions. Use cable staples to secure the wire under the cabinet.


Step # 11:

Mount the new two-gang old-work electrical box in the wall opening. Insert the existing receptacle wire and the new wire from the light fixture into the openings in the electrical box. Use a screwdriver to pry open the holes in the electrical box. Press the box into the box into the wall opening then tightly press this against the wall while fastening the two mounting screws.


Step # 12:

Use a utility knife to peel off the outer insulation to expose the individual wires. Mark the black wire from the fixture by bending it. Use a wire cutter or stripper to remove the half inch of insulation from all the ends of the wires.


Step # 13:

Connect the wires inside the electrical box. Twist the bare copper wires together along with an additional piece of ground wire about 8 inches in length. Secure these with a wire nut.


Step # 14:

Twist the two “neutral” white wires together along with an additional piece of white wire, about 8 inches long then secure these with a wire nut. Your electrical box should now have one ground wire, a white lead, and two black leads.


Step # 15:

Mount the receptacle by joining the ground wire to the green grounding screw which can be found at the bottom of the outlet. Attach the remaining white “neutral” wire to either of the two silver mounting screws positioned on the side of the outlet then fasten these with a screwdriver. Link the original black wire to one of the two copper mounting screws located on the side of the outlet opposite the silver screw. Connect a piece of 8-inch black wire to the remaining copper screw. This will be the power source of your dimmer switch. Secure the outlet to the electrical box using two mounting screws.


Step # 16:

To install the dimmer switch, connect the 8-inch lead from the outlet onto the black wire labeled “line” on the dimmer switch using a wire nut. Join the remaining black wire, the one which you folded in the previous step, to the black dimmer switch wire that is labeled “load” using a wire nut. After all the dimmer switch wires have been connected, fasten the switch to the electrical box using two mounting screws. Mount the cover plate and test the lights.


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