Installing Undercabinet Fluorescent Lights

Intro

Undercabinet fluorescent lights are ideal for lighting countertop work areas in a kitchen. Home centers sell plug-in undercabinet lights that are easy to install but not as convenient as a string of fluorescent lights controlled by a single wall switch.

Some undercabinet fluorescent lights have a single outlet. Thin fixtures (1-inch thick) are more difficult to wire than standard (1-1/2-inch thick) fixtures.

Checklist

Time
About 4 to 6 hours to cut holes and run cable and another half-day to install the lights after the cabinets are up

Tools
Voltage tester, drill, hammer, drywall saw, level, stud finder, fish tape, screwdriver, strippers, long-nose pliers, lineman's pliers

Skills
Stripping, splicing, and connecting wires to terminals; installing boxes; running cable through walls and ceilings

Prep
Find power source and check that the new lights don't overload the circuit. Clear the room of all debris and lay a drop cloth on the floor.

Materials
Fluorescent undercabinet fixtures, cable, remodel box with clamps, single-pole switch, wire nuts, tape

Step 1

Draw the cabinet locations on the wall with a level. Determine how the lights will fit onto the cabinets; you may need to cut a lip at the bottom of the cabinets. Cut access holes into the walls. Make sure the cabinets cover all holes.

Step 2

Shut off power to the circuit. Run cable from the switch hole to a power source. Run cables from the switch box to the fixture holes. Leave at least 16 inches of cable hanging out from each fixture hole.

Step 3

If the cabinet has a lip at the bottom, cut or drill a hole in it for the cable to pass through. After the cabinets are installed, strip sheathing and clamp the cables to the fixture body.

Step 4

At each fixture connect the grounds. Splice the black wires with the black fixture lead and white wires with the white fixture lead. Once connected, position and fold the wires carefully so they do not touch the ballast.

Step 5

Pull cables into the switch box, install the box, and wire the switch. Connect the grounds and splice the white wires together. Connect the black wires to the switch terminals.


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