Under cabinet lights - No Trim, Cost?

ChristyMcKAugust 15, 2014

Hi. I nixed undercabinet lighting because our old cabinets do hot have trim to hide them, we have three sets of cabinets that would need lighting and they are all separate (by sink, across galley) so I figured doing the electric work would be expensive. So here are my questions as I reconsider doing this:

1. Would you add under cabinet lights if you didn't have trim and didn't want to add any (my cabinets are already very low hanging)?

2. How easy/time consuming, costly is it to string lights across cabinets?

3. What type of lights would you recommend?

We have excellent overhead lighting in our kitchen so I thought under cabinet lights would be something I would just live without but it would be nice if not essential. I've attached a pic just after painting our kitchen (cabinet faces are now back on and are cream) so you can see how the cabinets are separated. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

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If you're on a budget, puck lighting is very cost effective and it's easy for the average homeowner. I'm doing tape lighting with this kitchen, and I'm not familiar with the details of that yet, but in my last kitchen I was able to do the puck lighting myself. Just figure out where you want the lights and if any will be able to connect to the same transformer. If you have three separate spaces, you might have to get three separate lighting kits, although it's usually more cost effective to buy one large set. You just need to figure out where they will be plugged. I was able to plug all of mine into an extension cord and turn them all on and off at once. They also have remote controls for some. DonâÂÂt overlook the electrical outlet that is often in in the cabinet above the stove, you just have to drill small holes in cabinets for cord to pass through, but it's a very small hole.

Here is a link that might be useful: One example of puck lighting.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 10:43AM
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By the way, I just noticed in your picture it looks like some low cabinets are over stove. Did you do that or was the house like that when you bought it. I know they have microwaves over stoves, but wood cabinets are another matter altogether. How high are they above stove?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 10:48AM
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Yeah, I'm trying to avoid having 3 different light sets. The cabinets above the range are original. We are getting a new range and the GC is modifying the cabinetry to put in a range hood that will have it's own lighting. I'll look into the puck lights, but I think they'll need to be connected too, right? I think the electrician's time will be what costs most.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 11:44AM
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That's the advantage of puck lights, you don't need an electrician. Did you look at the lights I linked? You just plug in the connection box to an electrical outlet, the puck lights are then plugged into that. There are a lot of different sets and configurations you can do.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 12:38PM
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Yeah, I still need to add an outlet(s) = electrician, but that's okay because he has to do other stuff as well. I like the idea of the lights plugging into the cabinet above the range since they'll probably be one there anyway for the hood. I think the trick/time will be getting them all connected together around the room.

I'm not sure how neat the puck lights would look with the cords between them which is a consideration since they'll show a bit because we dont' have any trim.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 1:07PM
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Since you have no trim, I would avoid plug-in lights, you'll see all the cords. Get the kind that are hard-wired. We have one row -- one transformer in the end cabinet, and then the strip lights are connected in series. That's probably hard to do if the cabinets are all scattered, but the transformers and lights we got were downright cheap and they're great. Plus the person/company was terrific to work with - I got the recommendation on GW.

Here is a link that might be useful: Inspired LED

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 2:43PM
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I used the rigid LED panels from Inspired. They were really easy.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 3:14PM
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We have plug in puck lights with no light rail. Just one set as that is all we need. Ours plugs into an outlet behind the trim above the cabinets. You have to remove the trim to access the outlet. The cord does run up through one cabinet in the corner. I don't even notice it. Yes, this passed the electrical inspection. Can you hide an outlet in a cabinet?

This post was edited by debrak2008 on Fri, Aug 15, 14 at 19:09

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:03PM
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I installed LED strip lights from Hitlights. These have an extremely low profile and are also inexpensive and easy. There are many ways to configure and they have lots of documentation on their website. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do mine when we were down to studs, so I had my electrician put 3 outlets near ceiling height on one circuit with a wall switch. These outlets ended up near the top of my uppers. I also have a very thin wire running up the back of my cabinets. It's really not noticeable, but If I had researched ahead of time I would have had him run low voltage wire in the walls for the breaks for the window and range hood.

You can use low voltage wire to connect your three areas, possibly running through the soffit above?

Here is a link that might be useful: LED lighting

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:23PM
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I used lights from Environmental Lighting. They're great to work with. If you call or email them they'll hook you up with someone who will help you build a system. I don't know how the cost lines up with others because I decided to go with them because I understood their literature online and wanted to do it myself and felt I could. And I did!

I had the electrician put outlets in my upper cabinets before they were up and have both outlets on one wall switch with my others. There's a plug for the vent hood in the cabinet next to one where I had one installed, but it's always hot. Using that would require turning off the lights on the lights themselves, not a switch.

The GC wanted to put another outlet into the cabinet on the other side of the range as well. I researched and ended up not putting that one in because I could just string the lights together along each wall. Again, I went with Environmental Lighting because their system made sense.

I COULD have done it with just one wall switched outlet and used splitters and run the wire from one wall to another in the ceiling or something. That's the way the EL guy first drew it up for me. But since I'd already had the two outlets installed, I didn't need to do that. I figured that was a more future proof way to do it.

I think it's cool that the EL sales rep just looks at what you send him and makes you an account online and loads up your shopping cart with what you need.

They are very thin, but they still show now (my light rail isn't yet installed). I think they would show less if they were installed further back.

Here's one random pic of when I was installing them. Feel free to poke around my photo bucket for other pics and the plans I sent them.

Here is a link that might be useful: my lights at environmental lights

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 7:24PM
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Thanks for all your comments! I went to a lighting store and have been researching inspired & environmental lighting. The lighting store had maxlites (also available via environmental lighting[EL]). The EL lights come in 40" lengths and so I could just use one for each set of cabinets, which will look cleaner. The maxLites are all white and for the cabinet next to the range this is an advantage because the cabinets are 23" high and the light bar will be close to eye height. We'll see - thanks for the leads.

For those reading again, did you get/recommend the dimmer? did you get warm white? did you know the wattage of the lights?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 6:43PM
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I got the warmer ones - soft white 3000K. My recessed lights are 3500K and the UCL are noticeably warmer.

I thought I could get the touch dimmer, but it doesn't work with a switch. I wanted simple and small power supplies, so I didn't want the dimmable power supplies. I am now perfectly satisfied with no dimmer. I'd never want them less bright. (But I'm happy to have a dimmer on the recessed lights.)

I found their guide for these lights very helpful (except I should have noticed the touch switched worked the way it does).

Here is a link that might be useful: buying guide

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 6:59PM
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cal_quail, did you get the ultra-thin or the high-brightness premium? the thin ones are about a 1/4 inch and the bright are a little over 1/2 inch. Is the bottom of your cabinets flush right now? are you happy with the brightness?

I'm talking with EL right now and they are very helpful!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:26PM
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I used Armacost from Home Depot, they look like bbtrix's. It was a retrofit in an older kitchen. If you know just a little bit about electricity, and the electrician installs the power, it's an easy DIY project.

gpraceman has a nice post about them.

Here is a link that might be useful: gpraceman's UCL install

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 11:40PM
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His post was instrumental in my direction. I started out at a lighting store but after reading on the lighting forum and especially after reading gpraceman's post, I decided to do it myself too. I don't know about Environmental lights, but Hitlights has many accessory and light choices. I chose small plug-in power supplies and an in-line remote control dimmer. You simply plug it in. Their system is very versatile. You can purchase kits, design it yourself as plug and play or direct wire, or get more serious with soldering your connections.

Here is a link that might be useful: Remote dimmer

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:03AM
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We used InspiredLED and the Lutron Diva dimmer. We used flat tape for the inside edge of the cabinetry and the custom sized "Designer Series" cases (low profile, about 0.375 inch). The cost was 1/3 the cost of the lighting store. The electrician mounted the dimmer on the BS, with the transformer hidden in some deadspace. We chose 3K as the right level of warmth (2700 was too yellow).

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 1:02AM
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They seem to use different names in different places. I used the ones linked below.

Some places they're called Modular Premium and some places they're called Modular Ultra Thin.

I think I mentioned above that I thought I'd want a dimmer and even ordered the touch dimmer, but I can't think of a reason I'd want to dim them. It's not that they're not bright, they're just right for their use. Maybe without the diffuser over the strip (all built in) I'd feel differently, but it was one of the niggly details that I thought I'd thought through, it didn't work out like I'd planned, and it was fine.

My cabinets are flush at the bottom right now. Since they're frameless and there's no 'lip' at the bottom, it made it a breeze to install. I can see them a bit now. But I mounted them just about as far forward as I could, knowing I'll get a light rail soon. If they were mounted further back, they'd probably be okay without one, except for at extreme distances and for kids etc. below counter height looking up.

The only other tiny thing was that one of the clips on one of my 40" strips was tweaked. I mounted it with just two instead of three that they give on the long one and it's fine. Since I had to order a longer cable and splitter after the initial order (I didn't take into account how far up vertically the wire would go before crossing the range and down again that much vertically) and was paying postage again anyway, I ordered an extra clip/screw set that they didn't charge me for. I'm sure if that was my only issue and it was a true issue they would have shipped it out on their dime. But knowing my clumsiness through the reno (I lost screws to a couple different things behind the cabinets before the countertops were on) and how cheap the clips and screws are and how much of a pain it is to wait for more parts, I might order an extra one as insurance. I think they're about a buck.

Here is a link that might be useful: my lights at environmental lights

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 9:00AM
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If you want the lights to span the exact length under your cabinets, usLEDsupply can make custom lengths of LED strip. It's about $5/foot and then $3.50 for each custom solder connection.

Their tech support is very helpful and can help you figure out what you need. The phone # is on their 'about' page.

Here is a link that might be useful: usLEDsupply undercabinet lights

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:38AM
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