Our Guide to Under-Cabinet Lighting

Under-cabinet lighting makes cooking meals easier and keeps your kitchen surfaces out of the shadows. These tips can help you add beautiful and practical under-cabinet track lighting to the kitchen, office, and other hardworking rooms.

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Shed light on dark nooks and crannies in your kitchen, office, and other rooms with our under-cabinet lighting ideas. Designed to fit in small spaces and provide accent or task lighting, these fixtures can be used under kitchen cabinets, on bookshelves, in curio cabinets, and more. Depending on the look you're going for, installing under-cupboard lighting can be a simple DIY project, or it can require professional installation. We'll walk you through the different options, plus provide tips for picking the right lightbulbs. 

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DIY Plug-in Lights

If you want to install under-cabinet lighting, select the easiest option. A plug-in fixture attaches to the underside of a cabinet or shelf and can be inserted into any nearby outlet. These fixtures must be turned on and off using a switch on the unit, and the wires are not hidden. Tape or rope lights are one plug-in option. These clear plastic tubes are filled with small LED bulbs that cast a soft glow.

Make a DIY Pendant Light

Mounted Strip Lights

For more serious under-counter lighting, choose a fluorescent strip, a track light with halogen bulbs, or puck lights with halogen bulbs. These touch-operated disks are surface-mounted and easy to install. They are battery-operated and come in several wattages to provide bright light. Be careful with under-cabinet lighting placement, however, as high-wattage halogen bulbs can put off a lot of heat and shouldn't be installed near anything flammable.

Professionally Hard-Wired Lights

For a seamless look, consider investing in hard-wired light fixtures, which become virtually invisible once installed. Recessed puck lights are low-profile lights that must be installed directly into shelves and, if not done during new home construction, require modifications to the cabinet. Unless you have experience doing electrical work, a professional will need to install these and other hard-wired models, which must tap into a power source or have a new circuit added to the area. Other hard-wired options include custom-size track lights and slim-line strip lights.

Different Types of Lightbulbs

When choosing an under-cabinet light fixture, it's important to understand the various types of lightbulbs each uses so you can pick the one that best suits your needs:

  • Traditional incandescent bulbs are the most affordable option and provide a bright, warm light, but they have the shortest life-span and use more energy than other lights.
  • LED under-cabinet lighting is extremely efficient and generateslittle heat, but their light isn't as natural as other options. Their expensive price tag is offset by a long life-span.
  • Halogen lights are efficient, long-lasting, bright, and emit a natural yellow-white light. Excessive heat can be a problem, so they are best used with a dimmer.
  • Xenon lights are similar to halogen lights but burn brighter and put off less heat. They are expensive but have the longest life-span of all bulbs.
  • Fluorescent lights are extremely energy-efficient, long-lasting, and low-heat. Fluorescent lights emit a cool, greenish-blue hue.

Bonus: Two Easy Ways to Add Under Cabinet Lighting

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