Installing new lighting in the kitchen can completely transform the space. Proper lighting makes the kitchen more functional and visually appealing. The right lighting highlights key areas, provides task lighting, and sets the overall ambiance. With some planning and basic electrical knowledge, installing kitchen lighting is a doable DIY project. We’ll walk through the complete process step-by-step to ensure success.
Getting Started with Kitchen Lighting Design
Before selecting specific lights, take time to think through the lighting design. Consider how the kitchen is used and identify which areas need light. Common kitchen lighting needs include:
General Ambient Lighting
Usually accomplished with a central overhead light, ambient lighting illuminates the entire kitchen. It provides overall visibility when no task lighting is needed. For kitchens, choose general lighting that offers bright but diffuse illumination.
Focus bright light where needed for kitchen tasks. For example, install under-cabinet lighting to illuminate countertops and sinks. Use pendant lights or track lighting over islands and other work surfaces. Make sure to position task lighting correctly to reduce shadows.
Use accent lighting strategically to highlight architectural details or display collections. For example, use mini-pendants over a stove backsplash or picture lights to illuminate wall art. Accent lighting adds style and visual interest.
Include lighting for safe navigation at night. Night lights, step lights, and low-level cabinet lighting improve visibility for late-night snacks.
Don’t forget lighting outside the kitchen. Illuminate nearby hallways and entries to safely transition in and out.
Once lighting needs are identified, choose fixtures and bulbs to fulfill each purpose. Selecting the right amount, type, and color temperature of lighting brings the design together.
Selecting Kitchen Lighting Fixtures
Many lighting options exist for the varied functions within a kitchen. Here are some top choices:
Linear LEDs are slim light bars that mount under cabinets. Available in a range of lengths, they provide clean task lighting for countertops and work areas. Higher color temperature LEDs (5000K or more) work best for food preparation.
Pendants range from mini-pendants sized for accent lighting to larger multi-light fixtures ideal over kitchen islands. Full-size pendants work well for ambient lighting too. Match pendant finishes to other kitchen hardware and fixtures.
Track lighting offers total adjustability, perfect for directing task lighting. Use multiple individual fixtures over islands, countertops, and other work surfaces. Low voltage LED track heads provide excellent illumination and energy efficiency.
Recessed cans create general ambient lighting. Spacing cans evenly provides uniform illumination. Newer models like LED wafer lights offer high-quality downlighting in slimmer profiles. Some are adjustable to aim light exactly where needed.
Under Cabinet Lighting
In addition to linear LEDs, puck lights, xenon lights, and strip lighting mount underneath cabinets to illuminate countertops. Hardwired and plug-in options are available. Choose warm white (3000K-3500K) to reduce glare.
Skylights and Ceiling Windows
For kitchens with high ceilings, skylights and ceiling windows allow natural light from above. Properly diffused, they reduce the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. Include shades to control light levels.
Mixing two or more fixture types creates the best lighting effects. For example, pair general ambient lighting with task lighting over key areas. Dimming allows easy adjustment of light levels for different activities and times of day. Choose fixtures in finishes that coordinate for a cohesive look.
Planning the Kitchen Lighting Layout
With some measurements and a basic floor plan, it’s easy to map out fixture locations. Here’s how to prepare:
Measure the Room
Record the length and width of the kitchen along with ceiling height. Include important features like window and door placements. Mark the locations of plumbing, vents, cabinets, and appliances.
Identify Lighting Zones
Divide the kitchen into logical lighting zones based on how the space is used. For example, create zones for food prep areas, eating areas, cooking areas, and general walkways.
Select Fixtures for Each Zone
Choose appropriate fixture types and sizes for the lighting needs of each zone. Refer to recommended mounting heights and illumination levels to inform decisions.
Map Fixtures on the Floor Plan
Lay out fixtures in suitable positions for each zone. Follow proper spacing guidelines. Adjust placements to coordinate with existing features.
Creating a lighting plan upfront ensures all lighting needs are covered and avoids layout issues down the road.
Installing Kitchen Ceiling Lights
With the lighting design and layout complete, it’s time to install the fixtures. We’ll focus on the most common and impactful types – ceiling lights. Here are the key steps for a successful ceiling light installation:
Turn Off Power
Shut off electricity to the kitchen at the main breaker before starting work. Verify power is off by turning on the existing light switch and checking for voltage.
Remove Old Fixture
Take down the outdated ceiling light if present. First disconnect wires, then unscrew or unfasten the mounting plate from the electrical box.
Assess Electrical Box
Check that the existing electrical box is secure, appropriately sized for the new fixture’s wiring, and properly grounded. Upgrade if needed.
Install Mounting Bracket
Secure the new light’s mounting plate or bracket to the electrical box according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Attach the light’s wires to the supply wires from the electrical box. Connect black to black (hot), white to white (neutral), and ground to ground. Use wire nuts to secure connections.
Mount & Assemble Light
With wires connected, mount the central housing of the light onto the bracket. Assemble additional pieces like light panels, lenses, trim, and bulbs.
Test & Finish
Restore power, test the light, and check for issues. With full illumination confirmed, push wiring into the box and finish the installation. Install bulbs, trim pieces, and glass covers as the last steps.
Follow the same general process for installing other overhead lights like flush and semi-flush mounts, chandeliers, and pendant lamps. Adjust steps as needed for different mounting and wiring systems. Be sure to read the entire fixture manual before starting.
Under Cabinet Lighting Installation
Task lighting under upper cabinets brightly illuminates kitchen countertops. Linear LED strips and puck lights work particularly well. Here is how to install under cabinet kitchen lights:
Determine Light Locations
Map out where lights should be positioned along the underside of wall cabinets. Mark locations that align with sinks, work areas, and other task locations.
Choose Mounting Method
Under cabinet lights come designed for hardwired, plug-in, or battery-powered installation. Choose the method that works best for your project.
Adhere Mounting Strips
For strip lighting, measure and cut aluminum channels or clips to fit each light section. Adhere mounts along marked locations using screws or strong double-sided tape.
Snap in LED Strips
With channels installed, simply snap LED strips into place. Connect strips together and plug power cords into outlets as needed.
Install Puck Lights
For puck lights, drill small holes at desired spots. Run wiring and insert lights, screwing into place. Connect wires and restore power.
Test Lights & Adjust
Verify all under cabinet lights work and provide sufficient illumination. Reposition or add lights as needed for the best coverage.
Properly spaced and angled under cabinet lighting eliminates shadows on kitchen work surfaces. Combining strip lighting and puck lights creates the most uniform lighting. Dimming lets you easily adjust brightness.
Low Voltage Track Lighting Tips
Track lighting offers total adjustability, an asset for kitchen task lighting. Here are some pointers for selecting and installing low voltage LED track lighting:
Choose Appropriate Track Size
Track is sold in different lengths and various amperages. Choose the amperage and length needed for both current and future fixture capacity.
Include Enough Heads
Aim for 3 or 4 track heads per 4 foot section for ample but not excessive coverage. Have a plan for spacing and positioning heads before installing.
Follow Low Voltage Wiring Rules
With low voltage track, no electrical box is needed. Use supplied hanging support and flat mounting canopy. Keep wiring neat and hidden.
Mount Track Correctly
Install track perfectly straight and level to prevent issues. On ceilings, position no more than 6 inches from walls for stability.
Add Insulation Sleeves
Insert provided sleeves between track pieces during assembly. Sleeves prevent electrical contact between sections.
Adjust Heads for Coverage
With track mounted, twist heads to point beams where needed. Adjust angle to light counters and work areas effectively.
Use Warm Color Temperature
Choose 2700-3000K color temperature heads to reduce glare and make food look appealing. Brighter task lighting should be 5000K or higher.
Incorporate dimmable LED driver and 0-10V dimmer for adjustable brightness from ambient to task lighting levels.
Track lighting gives unparalleled flexibility compared to other options. Follow this guidance for optimal performance and energy efficiency.
Helpful Resources for Kitchen Lighting Projects
Installing kitchen lighting on your own requires planning, electrical know-how, and adherence to building codes. Here are some helpful resources to ensure success and safety:
Video tutorials found online provide great visual walkthroughs for DIY lighting installation. View multiple tutorials to learn techniques.
Thoroughly read all included instructions before starting. Follow fixture manuals for critical safety warnings and proper procedures.
Lighting Design Guidelines
Refer to kitchen lighting design guidelines for recommended fixture types, placement, spacing, and light levels by area.
Electrical Code Resources
Check national and local electrical codes for kitchen lighting requirements. Resources like NFPA 70 provide full code summaries by location.
Home Improvement Websites
Sites like This Old House offer extensive lighting how-tos, buying guides, and videos. Articles answer common lighting questions.
Store display spaces allow you to see fixtures in action. Talk to salespeople for expert advice and design assistance.
For challenging wiring situations or permitted work, hire a professional electrician for kitchen lighting installations and upgrades.
Safety First When Installing Kitchen Lighting
Any electrical project comes with hazards, so safety should be the top priority. Follow these tips for secure, code compliant lighting installations:
Turn Off Breaker
Always switch off the correct circuit breaker before starting work. Verify power is off with a non-contact voltage tester.
Use Caution on Ladders
Check ladders for defects before use. Place on secure, level ground and have someone hold the base when elevated. Avoid overreaching.
Wear Protective Gear
Safety glasses and work gloves reduce injury risks from falling debris and sharp edges. Use dust masks when cutting into ceilings or walls.
Tape wire nut connections to prevent sparks or shocks. Use twist-on connectors rated for the wire size.
Do not overload circuits. Verify the amperage of all lights on a circuit does not exceed the rating.
Follow Box Fill Codes
Size boxes to contain wires, caps, and connectors per NEC 2014 requirements. Use approved extension rings as needed.
Check for Damage
Inspect all electrical boxes, conduit, wiring, and fixtures for damage before restoring power. Fix any issues first.
Hire Electrician if Needed
For large upgrades or unfamiliar wiring, hire a licensed electrician. Permits are required for many major electrical projects.
Staying safe takes priority, so get help if any part of the lighting installation seems unsafe or overly complex. Protecting yourself, your home, and your family should be the foremost concern.
Achieving a Light-Filled Kitchen
The benefits of ample, well-placed lighting transform any kitchen. Follow the steps here for do-it-yourself success when installing task, ambient, and accent lighting. Use quality ENERGY STAR rated fixtures and LED bulbs for maximum brightness, energy savings, and long life. Plan layouts suited for how the space is used. Position and adjust fixtures to reduce shadows and glare. Finally, control light levels with dimmers for the perfect ambiance any time. The kitchen will not only function better, it will look brighter and more beautiful.