DIY or BUY: Under Cabinet Lighting

Model homes are built to sell every upgrade the builder offers. We loved the kitchens in the models we toured, but after pricing out each upgrade with the builder, vs. what it would cost to DIY or hire it out later, we realized the kitchen was one place we could save some cost and DIY.

Why DIY?

Price is the obvious reason to DIY some upgrades ourselves. Beyond saving money on the actual cost of the upgrade itself, we avoid financing these upgrades for 30 years. Of course, we also just love to DIY, and after seeing the quality of the upgrades that we did choose, we’re confident that Chad’s handiwork will be worth the wait and extra effort we put into them.

Under Cabinet Lighting

The first kitchen upgrade we did was adding hardware. You can read more about that here. The second thing we tackled was under cabinet lighting. The builder’s price to add lighting during the build process was nearly $1500. We DIY’d our lighting for $240.95 using the Ikea Stromlinje system, including the dimmer/remote system.

Our kitchen is pretty light & bright already, since we did have the builder install extra recessed lighting (it was only $100/light, which was the same or less than we would have paid to have it done after). At night, though, the overhead lights are a bit of overkill, and we wanted to add some ambient lighting with under cabinet lights.

Before. Way before. No pendant lighting, and no under cabinet lighting.
Before the lighting install (but hooray for appliances + hardware).

We picked up a single Stromlinje LED light from Ikea, plus the Ansluta transformer, just to ensure they’d work for our kitchen, and that we liked the color tone of the light. They worked for us, had good reviews, and the price was right. Honestly, we didn’t research a bunch of options; we were at Ikea and they were staring us in the face, so we went on impulse.

The one downfall, we found out after purchasing the rest of the lights, was that they only daisy-chain end-to-end if they are immediately next to one another. The lengths of our cabinets didn’t work with the lights to allow that, and it felt like too many lights for our space. We opted to run the wires all up to the transformer, drilling through the cabinets to hide them.

Chad used an extra-long bit to allow for a straighter hole through the bases. With a shorter bit, the size of the drill caused the hole to angle up, which isn’t ideal with such a small piece of wood to go through.
The hole allows up to 2 cords to run through. Ikea suggests going up through your cabinets to the top, and running the wires to the transformer that way. We opted to run as many as we could to a single location, to minimize the wires running up behind our dishes.
I promise you don’t see any wires at the end! We laid them all out to ensure the sizing & layout worked as expected. We also tested all the lights before attaching them!

The Stromlinje lights come with adhesive backing, which secured them nicely to the underside of the cabinets. We used the 18″ lights ($59.99) on 3 of the 4 cabinets, and a 15″ ($39.99) on the smaller cabinet. The transformer can accept up to 10 inputs, so we only needed one of those. We also ordered a dimmer/remote, as the transformer with the in-line switch sits in the cabinet above our vent hood (oops, THAT was actually the first upgrade we did….more about that later).

Ikea’s instructions suggested mounting them 6″ back from the front of the cabinet. We tested them out in the front, middle, and all the way back, and decided that right up against the front of the cabinets worked best for our space. We might change our minds when we eventually install a backsplash, but we can always move them if that happens.

We hid the wires by pulling them tight, and using the included wire covers, which are also adhesive.

We’re so happy with how they turned out, I immediately turned off all the lights in the house, so we could enjoy them. I didn’t realize just how helpful they would be for cooking, too!

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