Installing Cabinet Lights

under cabinet lights on

Hi friends! I’m still putting the finishing touches on the kitchen, and installing cabinet lights was definitely something I wanted to tackle. I feel like under-the-cabinet lights make a kitchen look so polished and really add a “complete” feel to the kitchen. But, my biggest worry is I didn’t have the electrical skills to do this project. I’m not comfortable enough with electrical work to wire them into a switch, so I had to get a little creative in this install. Keep on reading to see how I made this work without having to rewire anything in the kitchen.

Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I earn a small commission if you click the link and purchase the item. I’ve only linked items I’ve used in the past and would use again (unless otherwise noted). 

Choosing Cabinets Lights

Because I didn’t want to do any wiring, and I also didn’t want to use my countertop plus for this project, I had to get a little creative.

I was originally considering battery-operated lights that were operated by a remote control. If you don’t want to drill a hole in your cabinets (if you’re not a lucky duck like me and already have the holes pre-dilled in your cabinets), these are a great option. You can mount them on the underside of your cabinet without any drilling or wires, and then you can use the remote to turn them on and off. The reviews I read said if you only leave them on a few hours a day, the batteries should last about 6 months, which isn’t terrible. And, to replace the batteries, you just need to twist the top of the light off and then twist it back on once they’re replaced.

I was 100% on board with these until I realized we had predilled holes in our cabinets for kitchen cabinet lights. AKA the previous owners had cabinet lights and took them with them when they left–jerks. So, that opened up my options for wired lights, but I still had the conundrum of using the countertop outlets.

And, then–I remembered the microwave plug in our upper cabinet. The microwave only uses one of the plugs, so the other is just sitting empty. If I could run the wires through the cabinets to that plug, we solved the problem of hiding all the wires.

Now, I was only left with one problem: if I plug the lights in over the microwave, how to I turn them on and off. I looked for a remote option, but before I got too far, I remembered we have an extra Wemo smart plug. If you haven’t used smart plugs before, these plugs are wifi-enabled and allow to control the plug from your phone or Alexa. You can also set timers for daily use. This was the perfect solution for the cabinet lights. I could plug them into the Wemo and use Alexa to turn them on and off, and set a period of time for them to be on every day.

Once I got all these pieces worked out, I went to Home Depot and just bought their under the cabinet puck lights. They come 3 in a package, with an extension cord, and cost about $20. I just needed 3 lights, so it was perfect.

Supplies

Outside of the lights and Wemo Plug, here are the other supplies I used for this project:

Step 1: Prepping your Cabinets

Take everything out of your cabinets to get ready to install the new lights.

I was super lucky and already had holes predrilled in my cabinets for the lights, as well as grooves cut until the bottom cabinet shelf for the wires. If you don’t have this already, here’s a great YouTube video on how to drill the holes in your cabinet bases. You really just need a drill and the special attachment to drill the hole.

Step 2: Installing the Cabinet Lights

light disassembled

I made this step way more complicated than it needed to be. I followed the instructions on the packaging, which seemed pretty straightforward (as you should for whichever lights you decide to buy). Remove the light cover, place the rubber protectant layer on the light, install the bracket. But, I couldn’t figure out why the bracket that was supposed to hold the light to the cabinet was smaller than the light itself. I couldn’t see how the bracket could possible connect to the light.

small bracket over light

After trying a bunch of different ways to connect them (I was looking for a different hole to screw the bracket into), I realized that the bracket is smaller for a reason. As you screw the bracket to the puck, the bracket flattens out and will hold the light in place. It can be a little tricky to angle the screw in to reach the hole in the light, but after you figure out one, you’ll be fine!

light installed in cabinet

Step 3: Drilling Holes Between Cabinets

Now your lights are in, and it’s time to drill the hole between your cabinets so your lights can get power. This part was a little more complicated than I expected. I was thinking I’d just use my 1 1/8″ bit to drill a hole between the two cabinets, no problem. What I found out was I need to make a smaller hole first.

different drill bits
These are the ones I used

So, I’d recommend using a larger drill bit (wood or brad point bit) to drill a hole through the two cabinets first. Then taking a smaller spade bit (3/4″-1″) to drill through the same hole to make it bigger. And, finishing with the final 1 1/8″ spade bit. This way your spade bits have something to bite into when making the hole. You need a drill bit that’s slightly bigger than the width of your plug to be able to feed the cord through the hole (for me, that was 1 1/8″, but measure your cord before you commit).

drilling hole in cabinet
It does make a little bit of a mess, in case you couldn’t tell.

I also learned that you don’t want to press real hard into your spade bit when making a hole. You really just want to hold it against the wood and let the bit grab as much wood as it wants. It will slowly make your hole. I tried to apply pressure as spade bit was working, and it caused the bit to get stuck over and over again. Just let the drill do the work!

Once you have the hole between the cabinets, you can feed your wires through.

wires through cabinet hole

Step 4: Securing the Wiring

Using your cord clips, you can tame your wires in your cabinet. I ran all of mine up the back of the cabinet, so you couldn’t really see them once the cabinets were filled with stuff.

Using a hammer and your cord clips, just fit the wire in the clip and hammer the nail into the wall so the clip is secured to the wall.

cabinet with cord clips

Feed your wires through your new holes to get to your plug. And then, you can use cord clips and zip ties to organize any extra cords near your outlet.

Step 5: Setting up Your Smart Plug

Plug your lights into your smart plug and set your smart plug up according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I set mine up to function with Alexa instructions, and to turn on at 5pm every day and turn off at 8pm every day, so they didn’t get too hot or burn out too quickly.

wemo switch
Our Wemo switch hidden above our microwave.

Step 6: Enjoy!

under cabinet lights on

Doesn’t it just add an extra level of polish? And, it only took an hour and cost about $30 to complete (for the lights and cable clips). You’ll need to plan for a little extra time and money if you have more lights, or if you have to drill holes for your lights under the cabinets, but it’s still a great Saturday morning project to class up your kitchen!

If you liked this post, check out my previous kitchen projects, like painting your kitchen cabinets, installing a backsplash, hanging pot racks, and installing a knife rack and spice racks.

~Lauren

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