Over Cabinet Lighting In About An Hour

The kitchen.  La cuisine.  The place of culinary delights.  The social hub of the household.  The number one destination at any house party.  The ambiance in a kitchen is just as important as any other room of the house – just because it’s a highly functional room, doesn’t mean a kitchen can’t have class.

About a year ago, my kitchen was looking decidedly more cave-like and needed a lighting makeover.  So I installed some over cabinet lighting using rope lights and a remote control system.  This was such a cheap and easy fix, I knew I had to share it:

This project works best if you have an existing electrical outlet you can use, otherwise you may need the help of a qualified electrician.  I used the extra outlet in the cabinet above my microwave oven because my kitchen has an under-cabinet range hood, and no exterior vent above the stove.  You can just drill a small hole through the top of the cabinet for the cord.  Trust me, no one can see it, but if the look worries you, purchase some crown molding for the tops of your cabinets.

What You Will Need:

  • tape measure
  • step ladder
  • power drill with hole saw attachment set
  • hammer
  • a string of rope lights and included mounting clips
  • remote control set with a handheld remote transmitter and a plug-in receiver component

Rope lights can be found at home improvement stores and come in various lengths (12′, 18′, 24′, 48′, etc.)  The cost varies with the length, but generally rope lights range from just under $20 to about $32.  The type of rope lights that I purchased also came with included mounting clips which you will need for this project.  Rope lights are available in various colors – a clear or white color works best for a neutral look.

The other item you will need to buy is a remote control set with a handheld remote transmitter [$20 or less at home improvement and hardware stores].  The receiver portion should plug into an electrical outlet (check the outlet you plan to use before shopping and get a remote control set that is compatible with your electrical outlet).  In my case, the extra outlet in the cabinet above my microwave oven was a three-prong outlet.  It is also important to measure the space inside the cabinet, so that your remote control receiver fits and plugs in properly.

Begin by cleaning and dusting the tops of your kitchen cabinets with the help of a step ladder.  Also clean out the cabinet on the top of your microwave oven.  I know, it’s no fun, but it’s necessary!

Measure the length of the top of your kitchen cabinets and the interior of the cabinet above your microwave.  Make note of the size of the space near the existing outlet inside the cabinet.  Take your notes with you when you shop.  In some cases, you may have to buy rope lights that are a little longer or shorter than your cabinets, so you will have to be conscientious in your placement of the lights.

Next, select the diameter of the hole from your hole saw set that works best with the rope lights and remote set you have chosen.  I think we used a 2″ hole saw for this project.

Using the hole saw, drill a hole into the top of the cabinet above your microwave oven.  Clean away any debris.

Place your rope lights on the top of your cabinets and thread the plug of the lights through the hole you have made in your microwave cabinet.  Plug the rope lights into the plug-in receiver of the remote set, and plug the receiver into the extra outlet.

Turn on the lights using the remote control, and arrange the lights until you achieve your desired lighting effect.

Finally hammer the included mounting clips into the tops of your cabinets at regular intervals to secure the rope lights to your cabinetry.

Bonus Tip:  I affixed a small magnet on the back of my remote control, so that I can store it on my refrigerator and I don’t have to hunt around for it when I want to turn the lights on!

♦ ♦ Safety First: Please be safe when doing any home improvement project — use caution with ladders and power tools, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using any product.  If you have questions about the feasibility of this project in your home, consult a qualified electrician.