Kitchen Cabinet Lights – Under, Over, and In-between

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Cabinet Lighting ExampleSo you have a beautiful kitchen in your home. You love your appliances, hardware, fixtures, and have decorated it to your heart’s content. Great! But do you have accent lighting? Not many homeowners take advantage of this inexpensive addition, although most new construction these days integrate some form of cabinet lights in kitchens. This simple update can truly highlight any overlooked features of your kitchen.

Common Lighting Fixture Types

Puck Lights are quite popular fixtures and can be hard-wired or battery operated.   This allows for ease of placement in many locations. In the past, most of these bulbs were halogen incandescent which lose a lot of energy as heat.  Now a plethora of LED units are available.

Light Strips/Bars have been around the longest and are customizable in length as well as voltage output.  These are most often hardwired and tend to be a bit bulky, so they are mostly delegated to the “under-cabinet” location.  However, with shorter and shorter light strips being manufactured, they can also fit in tight spaces.

Tape Lights are very pliable and have the lowest profile of all the light fixtures.  You can cut them to length to fit almost anywhere.  Wiring can be tricky since they need to be hardwired or run to a standard outlet.  Battery operated units are available though, so again, a very modular option.

Rope Lights are similarly pliable like tape lights but have a slightly larger profile. Furthermore, they are housed inside a rubber tube so they have omnidirectional light emittance instead of unidirectional like tape lights.

Examples of Cabinet Lights

For a neat lighting map that shows where each of these fixtures can be used in a kitchen click HERE

Color Temperatures

So all of the different fixtures mentioned above will utilize different bulb types, each with different color temperatures.  The three primary types of color temps for bulbs are: Soft White (2700K – 3200K), Bright White/Cool White (3500K – 4500K), and Daylight (5000K – 6500K).  Daylight bulbs cast a cooler temperature and are great for task lighting, whereas soft white bulbs cast warmer yellowish hues and are best for accent/ambient lighting.  However, placing under-cabinet “task lighting” fixtures at 6500K and toekick accent lights at 2700K may be too much of a contrast.  Try and meet in the middle when designing your lighting scheme.  With modern day CFL (compact fluorescent light) and LED (light emitting diodes) technology, these bulbs now come in a vast array of color temperatures, so many options are available.

*Tip: If you are going to use a few different fixture types, try and keep your selections within the same brand.  Advertised color temperatures and light intensities can differ between companies.

Placement and Installation

Light Rail MoldingDepending on what type of lighting scheme you decide to go with, keep a few things in mind.  Firstly, pick a fixture with a profile that won’t be visible from where it is mounted.  For under-cabinet lighting, a piece of molding called “Light Rail” can help hide lights with bigger profiles.

Secondly, keep in mind any installation requirements for the fixture.  You don’t want to select and buy lights then find you can’t place them where you wanted.  Or worse yet, your budget explodes because what seemed like a simple install may require complex wiring from a trained professional.  So if you are the DIY-type of Gal/Guy, stick with battery operated units or simple plug-in type fixtures.

*More Tips: If you have glossy countertops, use a light with a soft filter on it to diffuse any harsh light reflections.  If running a row of puck lighting, make sure you place them 8-12 inches apart(depends on brand), or you could get whats called a “scalloping” effect.

Cabinet Lighting Examples

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