What is Under-Cabinet Lighting?

Sherry Holetzky

Many kitchens are designed with only one overhead light fixture. During daylight hours when sunlight comes in through windows, this is generally not a problem. At night, however, there is often not enough lighting to illuminate counters and surfaces for prepping food, cooking, and other tasks. In addition, some spaces don't get much exposure or may have small windows, so overhead lighting may be insufficient in the daytime. This is where under-cabinet lighting comes in.

Task lighting under cabinets focuses light on the countertop below.
Task lighting under cabinets focuses light on the countertop below.

Although under-cabinet lighting is a great way to brighten a space, it is not merely functional. It can also be decorative. Under-cabinet lighting systems are available in many different styles, and offer different ways to enhance your decor. A beautiful tile backsplash isn't done justice when it is hidden in the dark space beneath the cabinets. Under-cabinet lighting is a great way to show off backsplashes as well as countertops.

Even though under-cabinet lighting is most often used in kitchens, it is also a great way to add light and drama to other cabinetry and other spaces in the home. Under-cabinet lighting can be used to highlight china cabinets, and to light up bookshelves and other styles of cabinets in the den, home office, or living area.

There are different types of under-cabinet lighting to choose from, most of which are quite affordable and fairly easy to install. Under-cabinet lighting is offered with halogen or fluorescent lights, and is available in plug-in and hard-wire styles. Halogen lighting is closer to natural light, but fluorescent lights are generally less costly. In a finished kitchen, the plug-in design is usually preferred, while during construction or renovation, most people choose the hard-wire design. To camouflage wires, simply paint them a color that blends in with your cabinets, walls, or tile.

Under-cabinet lighting should be installed near the front of the cabinet bottom in order to better illuminate the work surface. Under-cabinet lighting units are available in lighting shops, home improvement centers, and even in some hardware stores. They can also be ordered online.

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