Monthly Archives: June 2015

There Are Still Surprises (Kitchen Task Lighting)

This spring I decided I wanted to tackle a project I had my eye on from when we moved in, but hadn’t quite gotten to yet: adding under cabinet lighting in the kitchen. I was having the kitchen table legs chromed around the same time, and figured this was a great time to finally finish all of the projects in the kitchen so it can be considered “complete.”

While there were many lighting options, ultimately Mary and I decided that doing LED “puck” lights would give the look we preferred. I purchased a few sets of line voltage lights from Home Depot and set about planning how to install them. I wanted all the wiring to be reasonably hidden, and wanted all of the lights to be controlled by the same switch that controls the light above the kitchen sink. To do this it required drilling into the cabinets and, more importantly, poking into the soffits above and clamoring around the attic to tie everything together. After a few days of looking over how to arrange lights, etc, I began mounting the lights under the cabinets, tacking the wires up nicely, and drilling appropriate holes to run wiring discreetly inside of them to the ceiling.

This part went smoothly. To tie the wires together in the attic, I needed to extend the leads from the puck lights, and did this using romex cable. I fed the various wires up to the attic, then went and crawled around in the blown cellulouse insulation (wearing a mask.) Above the kitchen is a hip roof – that is, the roof slopes downward on all sides, meaning the space at the edges is very small. It turns out I can’t easily wedge myself in far enough to find the leads for the wires. So, after some debate, I decided my only real option is to take a hole saw and drill into the face of the soffit so that I can pull wires into bundles and ensure they are far enough into the attic to be reachable. And that’s where things went off the rails.

Drilling into the first soffit, this is what I find:

Surprise! There is another piece of sheetrock back there. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but then it dawned on me what I was seeing: In 1986, when the kitchen was redone with the fancy Wood-Mode cabinetry, the new cabinets were both taller and deeper than the existing cabinets. The fix? They built the soffits above the cabinets out by 2 inches or so by adding onto the existing soffit and blending it together. Upon closer inspection, you can tell that the soffits in the rest of the kitchen (with no cabinets below them) are 2 inches thinner than the cabinet soffits. Never even noticed. It’s been that way for 30 years.

I had to drill a few holes in the soffit in order to reach where wires were in different places. Ultimately, though, two of the holes I drilled (in the angled portions) – were backed by 2×8 boards. Surprise! So there was no way to easily drill through them, either. Ultimately I ended up knocking a total of six different holes in the soffit, three of which were unneeded, to get the wiring run correctly.

With the surprises out of the way, I set about finishing the lighting. In the attic I brought the wiring together and created a junction box tying it back to the switched light fixture, and on each light I purchased a special wire splice kit and tucked it into the top of each cabinet – the splice box meets code and allows the light to be disconnected without cutting the wires in the future.

When all was said and done, the results were awesome. Here are some shots:


With this project done, now I can finally produce the “Before and After” for the kitchen.