Recessing under cabinet LED strips?

athomesewingJune 20, 2014

I am trying to plan under cabinet lighting with LED tape lights in aluminum channel. We do not want to have a light rail if at all possible. I am interested in having hubby router the bottom of the cabinets (prior to installation).

Is there a specific LED channel for âÂÂrecessedâ applications? Even though they do not emit a lot of heat into a room, heat dissapation for the bulbs is still important, so I suspect not all channels are suited to such a recessed design?

I have not found information on how to do such an installation -- the size and type of router bit, etc.

Also, placement? Mid cabinet, the front, the back?

TIA for any insight you can offer.

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Environmental Lights sells a great LED strip channel with a built in diffuser. I'm not sure what size router is used with it - the cabinet people did it when they installed the cabinets. It sticks down only a tiny amount, but I may end up needing to paint the kitchen-facing part of the diffuser because there's no lip like typical cabinets have that would block the

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:34PM
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Thanks for the information. I wondered about how much still shows.

Where did you place it, front to back? How do you like the placement?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:45PM
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The thing about a kitchen with frameless cabinets and no light rail is-----it's a modern aesthetic, where function over form usually dominates. I'd actually think about doing a series of LED puck lights that made a decorative feature of the lighting as well as gave you the functionality that you need. Boldly and proudly display your lights!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 1:48PM
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We just installed LED strips in our modern-frameless-no light rail kitchen. We placed the strips about 2" from the front. You can slightly see them, but we decided we like the way they look (as LWO said, "boldly and proudly display your lights). The location is good for task lighting and for generally lighting both the counters and the backsplash. I think too close to the backsplash and you'll get no task lighting.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 2:14PM
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If possible, definitely route them in before installing the cabs...makes a very neat install of the strips, are you getting the diffuser cover as well? Will help make the lights not so "spotty"

"The thing about a kitchen with frameless cabinets and no light rail is-----it's a modern aesthetic, where function over form usually dominates"

Not sure that I agree with that statement, if you look at a PP or Bulthaup kitchen for instance I think it is all about form....and they happen to be extremely good at making the form function perfectly

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 2:50PM
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I don't mind the lights showing a little bit. If we do go with the tape lights, we'll definitely plan on diffusers. It looks like we're going RTA, so routing before install should be simple.

Somewhere I saw that Hafale has a very shallow (1/4") LED puck which I was planning to include in some floating shelves in the family room. In the kitchen cabinets I wonder how I would route wires from multiple pucks through each cabinet without creating a mess? I'll have to investigate how they would install.

I just got an email back from Environmental Lighting, suggested above by schicksal. They have a couple shallow channels that work well for recessing.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:35PM
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Here is the channel I used, broken out over 3 posts...

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:41PM
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Side view... They hang down 3/16".

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:43PM
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This kind of thing doesn't photograph well, but here it is from a distance. I have to be at least 18 feet away to see the diffuser. Any closer and it's still out of view. From 30-40+ feet away it's a line along the bottom of the cabinet. Not that big a deal but I may cover the outward facing side with just a bit of paint.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:49PM
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Thank you so much for taking the time to post your photographs. They are a great help! (:

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:54PM
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Schicksal....curious who manufactured your cabinets? Love the walnut!

Nice pics showing the lighting as well!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 3:56PM
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Thatnks! They're from a local place here in Charleston, SC called Live Oak Custom Cabinets. I was their last customer *BUT* the guys that built cabinets for Live Oak now work for another local place that I have the number/email for.

The way the wires are hidden is, there's about a 3/4" gap between the bottom shelf and the underside of the cabinet. There's also a small gap between the wall and the rear side of the cabinet for the wires to drop down through. Before the cabinets were installed I measured and cut the wires for the under cabinet lighting, and left a few extra inches at both ends to make connections with. The channels the track/diffusers sit in was routed on site, and the ends of the diffusers were rounded off to fit neatly. They hung the cabinets and I made the connections at the transformer and LED strip after they were done. The transformer is hiding near the top of the upper/left cabinet because it needs to be somewhere you can access if there are problems later.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 4:15PM
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Hafele has several aluminum channels that are made to recess. Some come in specific lengths with lights already in them, several are designed for use with the tape. For 3/4" thick bottoms there is one that lays flat and protruded 1/16", another tilts slightly toward the backsplash so it sits proud 1/4" at the front. All come with diffusers.
They also have several pucks that recess.
The hard part with recessed is locating the wires.
AS LWO suggested there are a number of nice looking ones that can be exposed.
I just finished a white high gloss slab project where we had the doors set lower than the box, ordered solid stock with a bevel on the back, set the solid stock behind the doors and mounted the light rail to it. Advantage is easy and simple installation, clean look both open and closed, cleaner and cheaper than recessing the bottoms of the cabinets.
Downside- you give up 3/4 to 1" in height inside the cabinet and of course you have to be working with a company that does that.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 7:09PM
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