Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Location

Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by The Tutor

Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Location

under cabinet lighting placement location

Under cabinet lighting placement location is something that will make a big difference in final results of your lighting project. Take the time to research and make the right decision for you and decide whether it is for task or effect lighting.

Placement of your under cabinet lighting is a decision that I also faced when planning my under cabinet lighting project. The most common question is “should I place my under cabinet lighting in the front, the middle or the back?”.

The most important decision you need to make initially is whether you want your under cabinet lighting to be “task lighting” or “effect lighting”. There are two schools of thought here on which direction to go. The answer is different for each person. At the end, I will let you know what my decision was.

Meanwhile, if you have not purchased your under cabinet lighting yet, then see my recommended under cabinet lights here.

Task Lighting vs Effect Lighting

  • Task Lighting – When I hear task lighting I think functional. task lighting Task lighting is when you are trying to light an area to perform a specific task. For example, a lamp right next to your recliner to help with reading is a task light. The light in your range hood may be considered to be a task light since he helps you to see what you are cooking For under cabinet lighting, many believe it is strictly a task light and its purpose is to provide light for you to work at the counter.
  • Effect Lighting – Effect lighting is a bit more difficult to define, but it is essentially when you use light to bring a certain mood, vibe or feeling into a room. Effect lighting is when the light is not there to be used primarily for a specific task. effect lighting
  • A perfect example would be lighting used up in a tray ceiling. It creates an effect but is not really being used to light up a room. Or this photo above where the light fixture is casting interesting shapes and shadows on the ceiling. Make sense?

Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Locations

This is what you can expect if you place your under cabinet lighting in the back, front or the middle of your cabinets.

1. Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Location in the Back  – If you place your lighting in the back, your backsplash will be completely lit up. Meanwhile, you will have less light going towards the front of your kitchen counter. If you want the under cabinet lighting to light up your counter to perform kitchen tasks, then you do not want to place them towards the back of the cabinet. 

If you have a million dollar backsplash that you are trying to feature, then I suppose placing the lights in the back will do that. Placing the lighting in the back of the cabinets is probably my last choice. When I tested the locations in my kitchen, it just lit the wall and half of the counters were too dark.

2. Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Location in the Front – If you place your lighting in the front of your cabinet, then you are maximizing the light towards the front of your counter and minimizing it up against your backsplash. If you are using under cabinet lighting as task lighting, then this will likely be the best option for you.

Something to consider is whether you have a decorative rail hanging down at the front of your cabinets. It is possible that your rail could block a bit of the light from heading towards the front of your counter. If this is the case, then test your placement. Maybe move the light fixture back 2 or 3 inches and see what it looks like. That light rail adds to the look and feel of your cabinets and also helps to hide your under cabinet lights and wires. Just make sure you are fully aware of it before making your final decision.

3. Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Location in the Middle – If you place your lighting in the middle of your cabinet, then you are obviously splitting the difference between your backsplash and lighting the front of your counter and also between task and effect lighting. If you are unsure as to which way to go then placing them in the middle can be a good mental compromise for you.

If you place the under cabinet lighting in the middle of the cabinet, then you are still able to get some decent light on the front of your counters.

My Under Cabinet Lighting Placement Location Recommendation

My personal lighting location recommendation here is to place them in the middle of the cabinet. I believe that under cabinet lighting is as much for effect as it is for tasks and I would probably lean more towards effect just a bit. These are the following steps you should take to make your own decision:

  • Survey the current lighting situation in your kitchen – Does your kitchen have enough light right now? If you have recessed lighting or pots in the ceiling, then are the placed above the edge of your counters or are they more towards the middle of the room? If you do not have sufficient light above your work surface then you may actually be blocking light when you are standing at the edge of your counters. So, you may actually need your under cabinet lighting to be more task oriented or functional.
  • Buy Under Cabinet Lighting that Has Options – Look for under cabinet lighting that has multiple color temperature options as well as a bright and dim option. This will allow you to have the opportunity to switch between task and effect simply by flipping a setting on the light fixtures.
  • Test the Under Cabinet Lighting Locations – Before you make your final decision, I recommend testing each location. You can also run different light fixture options during this test as well. Simply use some strong tape to hold one light fixture in position. Plug in the light and then see how it looks. Do it at night and test with the overhead lights in the kitchen both on and off. Testing is an important step so you feel comfortable and have no regrets after you go through the trouble of installing all of them around your kitchen.

Final Recommendation – Purchase lighting that has temperature and brightness options and install them in the  middle of your cabinets unless your overhead lights in the kitchen are not lighting the room.

Check out my article on how to install under cabinet lighting.

Related Questions

Is under cabinet lighting task lighting?
Under cabinet lighting can be used for both task and effect lighting depending upon the goals that you have for your kitchen. I believe that it is a little bit of both. I find myself turning on the under cabinet lights daily in the evenings for the look even if I am not performing a kitchen task.

How much does it cost to install under cabinet lighting?
If you are paying an electrician to install your under cabinet lighting, then you can expect to pay roughly $300 per light installed. I paid $60-$90 per fixture and then installed them myself. My total cost on the equipment based upon the size of my kitchen was about $400 and is probably the best money I spent in the house in a very long time.

Do I need an electrician to install under cabinet lighting?
Installing under cabinet lighting is definitely a good DIY project if you are comfortable working with electricity. If you are able to install safely and to code, then you can save quite a bit of money on the installation.

Is under cabinet placement location important?
The placement of under cabinet lighting is extremely important. It is almost as important as deciding which lights to buy. Make sure that you take a lot of time to figure this out for yourself and test the various location options.

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