Bright Ideas

What You Need to Know About Under Cabinet Lighting

Under cabinet lighting can take your home’s lighting design from simple to striking. It adds another layer of light to your space by creating visual interest and lending ambience, and it can also make it easier to work by acting as task lighting.

Before you invest in under cabinet lighting, there are some questions you should ask yourself while you’re making your plans:

  1. What is your main goal for this room?
  2. Do you want task lighting, ambient lighting, accent lighting, or a combination?

Not sure what type of lighting you want? Check out our post about these 3 basic types of lighting and when to use them.

Do you have your answers in mind? Good! Here are a few things you should consider before you start shopping:

Colour Temperature

The colour temperature of a light bulb will affect the overall appearance of a room, and should be selected based on what you use that room for. For example, in a kitchen where you are often working with food and recipe books, under cabinet lighting acts primarily as task lighting. A cooler temperature is often the best choice for task lighting because it is brighter, making it easier to see what you’re doing. For kitchens, think 4200K and higher.

If you are adding under cabinet lighting to the cabinets in your lavatory or bathroom, you will want a warmer and more flattering light. Select something closer to the colour temperature produced by standard incandescent bulbs, around 2700k or below.

Countertops

The type of countertop you have will impact the effectiveness of your under cabinet lighting, and can help you choose which type of lighting to select:

  • Countertops with matte finishes reflect light more smoothly, and as a result produce less glare, making it possible to choose a wide range of under cabinet lighting options.
  • Glossy countertops, such as granite and other types of stone, can produce a lot of glare if the light is too bright. To decrease the amount of reflection, choose fixtures with a lower lumen value or a lens to help diffuse the light.
  • Light colored countertops reflect light and decrease the lumen value necessary to achieve a well-lit under cabinet area.
  • Dark countertops will absorb more of the light produced by your under cabinet lighting, so choose a lighting solution with a higher lumen value to ensure you are getting the lighting level you want.
PRO TIP: Make sure you attach the light fixture of your choosing to the front of the cabinet base, just behind the frame. This helps angle light toward the backsplash rather than out into the kitchen or bathroom, decreasing glare.

Mounting & Installation

Recessed and surface-mount lights are the most common under cabinet lighting options. Choosing between them is really a matter of personal preference. Contrary to common belief, non-recessed surface-mount lights can often be easily concealed. Most of the options available now are quite thin, which makes them easy to hide. Regardless of whether you choose recessed or surface-mount bulbs, there are three ways to install under cabinet lights:

  1. Plug-in
  2. Battery
  3. Hardwire

Plug-in and battery-operated lights are a quick and easy DIY install, but keep in mind that plug-in lights will require access to an outlet and battery-operated lights should be easily accessible in order to make switching out batteries as simple as possible. On the other hand, hardwired lights will need to be installed by a skilled electrician.

Under Cabinet Lamp Styles

LEDs and fluorescents are a popular choice for under cabinet lighting in kitchens because they emit little to no heat, which helps to keep you cool while you’re cooking. LEDs also operate well in high-humidity, making them a good choice for bathrooms.

under cabinet lighting puck lights

under cabinet lighting tape lights

under cabinet lighting striplights

The style of lamp you choose is just as important as the type of light – it impacts the aesthetics, how much light you get, and how well the fixture will be hidden by your cabinets.

There are four common styles of under cabinet lighting to choose from:

1. Puck Lights

Puck lights are round, similar in appearance to a hockey puck. They are a popular choice because they are often battery-operated, with installation requiring nothing more than sticking them to the underside of your cabinet, often using adhesive tape.

Puck lights are ideal for use in:

  • Rental units
  • Small spaces
  • Areas without access to a plug
  • Areas where it would be difficult or expensive to hard-wire
  • Task lighting
PRO TIP: Place pucks every 8 – 12 inches to overlap beam angles and create an even light without pooling.

2. Tape Lights (aka LED Strip Lights)

Tape lights are a fantastic choice if you have an extremely shallow or flat under cabinet recess. Thanks to their peel-and-stick adhesive and standard plug, they are a quick and easy installation option. They also stay cool, which decreases the amount of heat emitted into your kitchen.

Tape lights are dimmable, thin (in fact, they’re almost completely flat), and flexible, making them easy to conceal and fit into unusual locations or tight spots like under your countertops. There is one drawback: each 5 metre section requires its own plug, making them more complicated to use for long projects.

Tape lights are ideal for:

  • Unusually shaped or tight spaces
  • Shallow recesses, such as under countertops
  • Accent lighting
  • Smaller sections (5m or less)

If you’re interested in adding a pop of colour to your kitchen, tape lights also come in a variety of shades.

Pick out the perfect shade for your project: shop our full selection of tape lights.

3. Rope Lights

Rope lights are easy to install, requiring simple mounting clips and a transformer, but they can also be easily removed if you’re renting or not quite ready to commit.

While they are still thin enough to stay well-concealed, rope lights are slightly larger than tape lights and cannot be bent at a 90 degree angle without damaging them. However, they work well in rounded corners.

Rope lights are ideal for:

  • Accent lighting
  • Longer sections
  • Rental units

under cabinet lighting rope lights

Rope lights can be dimmed and are available in a variety of colours.

Browse our selection of rope lights:

4. Striplights (aka Strip Lamps)

Larger than puck lights and brighter than rope and tape lights, strip lights are an excellent option if you intend to use your under cabinet lights for task lighting. They are available as incandescents, fluorescents or LEDs, and they come in several different lengths.

If you plan to install lighting along the entire length of your cabinetry, make sure to purchase connectable fixtures. That way, they can all work off a single outlet and are easily controlled by the parent fixture (the light connected to the outlet).

Striplights are ideal for:

  • Poorly lit kitchens
  • Areas that only have ambient lighting
  • Task lighting
PRO TIP: For even lighting, choose fixtures that are the same length as your cabinets.

Striplights

Find a strip light size that fits your fixtures: browse our full selection.

Kitchen Cabinet Light Fittings

Check out our selection of striplight fittings designed specifically for kitchen cabinets.

Lighten Up

Whether you’re looking for lighting that will making cooking easier, want to add eye-catching illumination your bathroom, or are trying to create a more inviting space, layering in under cabinet lighting adds dimension to any room. Each type of light offers its own advantages – the important thing is finding a lighting solution that works for you.

For more tips on choosing the right lighting for your home, check out our tools and resources.

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