Kitchen Light Spacing Best Practices, How to Properly Space Ceiling Lights

Kitchen Light Spacing Best Practices, How to Properly Space Ceiling Lights


– Hey everybody, Jeff here again. And today, we’re going to talk
to you about the importance of doing lighting in
your kitchen properly, like where to put the
lights on the ceiling. That’s a common question
that comes up a lot. So you can see these, these are some down lights
that I installed here when we raised the ceiling. So, these are LED wafer lights actually, and they’re only about a half-inch thick. And so, we don’t use cans anymore. We just cut holes on the try wall, and we put the LED wafer lights up. But a question we hear
quite a bit from people is, how far apart am I
supposed to put the lights? Where do I put them? How far in front of the
cabinets do I put them? And so, we’ve done a
lot of experimentation with that over the years, and I can tell you that
many builders get it wrong. In fact, I had never once yet walked into a kitchen in any project and seen that they’ve got the spacing of these lights correctly. ♪ You’re Mr. Right ♪ ♪ My Mr. Right ♪ ♪ Too good to be true. ♪ ♪ You’re Mr. Right ♪ ♪ My Mr. Right ♪ ♪ Too good. ♪ And by the way, I just
wanted to remind you, if this is your first
time here on the channel, welcome, we’re glad to have you here. And you might wanna go ahead and hit that Subscribe button down below and then hit the bell icon next to it so that you can get alerted every time we produce new videos. We generally upload videos once a week, and we have all sorts of topics covering all areas of remodeling that you’re going to run into and all sorts of engineering disasters. Okay, so I wanted to just take
a minute here and show you. I came up with his plan
here, this drawing, and it basically shows a bird’s eye view if you were looking down
from the unit up above as to what is going to
happen on the ceiling here. So, if you see all of
these brown things here, this represent wood pieces. These are the furring
strips or the strapping, the ceiling strapping that
we’re going to put down. So these are two by fours
that we’re going to lay flat up against the ceiling, and we’re going to drill
them into the concrete. Now here’s our disk lights here, and I’ll show you those in a minute. The disk lights are what we have to use. We actually call them wafer lights, they’re LED wafer lights, and these will fit in a 1 1/2
inch space that’s up in there, and we’ll pre-wire their little cans, their tiny, little power supply cans. We don’t use the big cans
anymore for recessed lighting. These disks just clip into the holes that we’re going to make
in the drywall here. And if you notice here, I make my spacing three
feet from every wall. And this is where a lot
of people drop the ball in kitchen lighting. We just went through this
at my friend’s house. The electrician came in and put, like for example this light here, just inches away from
the front of the cabinet. And when you do that, it creates too much of a harsh shadow that goes down onto the counter, and you’ll end up with darkness
underneath your counters. So the way you overcome that is you have your lights out
three feet from the wall, and that creates a nice wide
dispersion pattern of lighting. It’s very simple. There’s not a whole lot
of rocket science to it, but so many people drop the ball on this very important point. Make sure your lights are at least three feet away from the wall. Not two feet away from the wall. You don’t wanna be 12 inches
away from your cabinet. You wanna be 24 inches away from the front of your cabinet here. Okay, so you’re looking
at the nearly completed remodeled kitchen that we did. And these are of course the
cabinets that we put in, and here’s the granite countertops, and the limestone backsplash. So I wanted to point out to
you about the lighting here. And I’ll show you on my drawing there that I made, if you recall, we did four lights. So there’s gonna be two over here, and two more lights over here. And you’ll recall that I mentioned that we always want to make your lights come out 36 inches from that
wall, from the back wall. And same with over here, these two lights here, they start off, that first light right there is 36 inches off the back wall. The reason why you want it like that is so that the light can be, let me swing off to the side to show, so it can be 24 inches away
from the front of the cabinet. That’s where you want your light to be. Same with over here, this light here is 24
inches off of that cabinet. So I want you to take a look at here. See how we have them here? These here are actually spaced
24 inches from the cabinet. That’s my rule of thumb. I always try to be 24 inches
in front of the cabinet. And the reason why is these
lights have a big down pattern. That’s why they’re called down lights. The light spreads as it goes down, right? And what happens is it comes down and it hits the bottom of this cabinet, and it’ll make a shadow
here on the counter. But you’ll notice on my counter,
there’s no shadow there. That’s because I have the lights moved far enough in front of the cabinets here. So that when the light shines down and it goes all the way
to the back corner here, and it doesn’t cause me any dark shadows. So we’re going to show you
other kitchens in this video that were done highly improperly where you’ll have dark shadows right here just simply because they had the lights too close to the cabinets. Now typically I see a lot of builders that put the lights 12
inches in front he cabinets, and that simply is not enough. Alright, so, if we look
at this light here, this is another one where
it was 24 inches in front of this cabinet here, and as you can see, the
lighting dispersement there is nice and bright all the way back into
that back corner there. So we have no shadow. The only place where you’re
gonna see a little shadow is on the corner unit here. So if you look here at this corner unit and follow the light down, you could see only at the very back corner doesn’t even get a little bit dark. There’s nothing you could do about that because you’d have to really be out far. But in order to keep
everything pretty even here, evenly spaced, that’s the only point you’re gonna have a problem. So, our rule of thumb to keep in mind is 36 inches off the back wall, which puts it 24 inches
in front of the cabinet. That’s our rule of thumb
that we always like to go by. And so we try to keep
everything symmetric. We try to keep a nice grid. Four lights is really all you need in a small kitchen like this. If you have a bigger kitchen, say something bigger than eight by 10, then you could probably
go with six lights, but I’m still not sure
you would even need it. You can experiment with that too. And then over here in this cabinet here, because this was a full depth cabinet that goes over the refrigerator, this sticks out a lot further
from the other cabinets. So the light is gonna be
a little close to him. What happens over here isn’t quite so as important
as what happens over here. So we stay nice and bright. Now this kitchen was an
interesting kitchen because this used to have a suspended ceiling, you know, those ugly old grandma ceilings from the 1970s that were plastic, and florescent lights were behind them. That’s what we had here, and it came to right here. So, you couldn’t even have
these tall cabinets in here. They had these ugly little built-ins in here in this kitchen. We raised up the ceiling
here like you see it, and then we added these
LED disk lights here. So this made this kitchen
just so much more modern. It made it look bigger, and we improved the lighting greatly compared to what the
builder had in here before. Okay, so what we’re going to do now is we’re going to take a
look at some other houses, and we’re gonna show you just how bad the lighting was designed in these other kitchens. Okay, let’s take a look. Okay, now here’s another example of a property we are working on here with bad lighting design. So if you look here in the kitchen here, you can see the shadow on the counter, and the shadow is pretty much
right under the cabinet here. Whereas if you remember a few seconds ago, I showed you in the kitchen
I just finished working on how I had bright light going
all the way back to the corner. The reason is is because here, this is very typical of what
we often see in these kitchens, is the builder puts his
down light right here, and it basically just, I don’t even think it’s 12
inches in front of the cabinet. That’s barely in front of the cabinet. So what does it do? It shines most of its light right there. You can see the hot spot right there on the top of the cabinet, and then it gets dimmer
and dimmer as it goes down. It’s such a steep line that it comes right down here like this, and that’s why you’re left with a dark shadow on the counter. So, the people that designed
this house had absolutely no clue what they were doing. I wanna show you over here on
the other side the same thing. So this cabinet here, they’ve got a light that’s
right above the cabinet. And again, you could see the
hotspot on top of the cabinet and not so much down at the bottom. That’s kind of dark down there. And we can move some of these items here. You could see there’s your
shadow on the counter. That’s just not acceptable. That’s bad lighting design, bad planning. And lastly, on the last light here, this one goes over the island here. Not much can go wrong there because it is directly over the island, but then again this was
the style back in the early ’90s, and the ’80s, and the ’70s, these big cans that go
deep into the ceiling. Almost 100% of the time, I see electricians put
these cans in wrong, because when you go up into
the crawlspace up above, you’ll see they don’t adhere to the national electric code which says they have to put some type of a grill over the can, and then protect that so that
they can’t put insulation directly on top of the cans. That’s why we nicknamed
these type of lights, we call them fire starters, because a lot of fires
get started this way. And a lot of sloppiness
down here in Florida dealing with this type of lighting, up in the attics, when they come in and maybe put in new fixtures for you, and they clear away the
insulation that’s supposed to lay on top of the drywall ceiling here and they don’t put it
back when they’re done. I’m willing to bet that many of you that
have lights like this, if you were to go up in
your ceiling above it, you’ll see all of your
insulations cleared out of the way and you got hot spots all along the drywall there
from the heat from the attic because they didn’t put
the insulation back. That’s just construction
stupidity that we see all the time down here. So let’s go take a look
at another property. Okay, so before we go take a
look at the other property, I just wanted to take one quick look here at these lights here,
these three lights here. So, all three of these violate my rule of making the light 36
inches off the back wall. These lights here are maybe
18 inches to 24 inches off the back wall. That’s unacceptable. They need to be 36 inches. That extra foot makes all
the difference in the world in getting the proper
spread of your down light onto the counter so you
don’t have shadows like that. Okay, so here’s another house that’s in the same street as the
house we just looked at. And you can see, if we
look from the side here, how close the light is there
to the top of the cabinet. And if you look down, you can see the shadows that it puts. I mean these are deep dark shadows right underneath the counter there, because the light shines
practically straight down. And then if we look at
this other one over here, he’s actually above the cabinet. I don’t know what the builder was thinking when they did that, but that light is actually
above the cabinet. It’s not even in front of it. It’s over the top of it, and it also leaves a pretty
good shadow as well there. And then coming back over
to this last one over here, you can see good shadow right there under the cabinet right
there on the counter, and that light is pretty much equally almost directly over it when it should be probably
24 inches out in front of it. That light should probably be back way over here somewhere, and then it would’ve given you a nice dispersed down light, and it would’ve gone all
the way back into the corner and well lit underneath. (speaking faintly) Yeah, we probably ought to
have one here over the stove or a lot closer to it, because it just seems really dark under the stove here. Of course the camera is
gonna brighten it up a bit. You might be looking at it and thinking, “Oh, it looks bright.” But when you’re standing
here looking at it, there probably could be some
better lighting in there. So, you’ll see here,
normally this would’ve been 24 inches in front, and it is in front of this cabinet. But because we went with
the full depth cabinet in front of the refrigerator, it’s really only maybe a foot at the most. But the importance of that is if you look at the
downward cone of light here where it comes down to the cabinet, you’ll notice you can see
it’s completely brightly lit all the way to the back wall. You don’t see any big
harsh shadow like you do in some of the other ones
like the one we just saw with all the white cabinets. You can see how poorly placed the lighting designers did that kitchen. And if we come over to
this other side here too, you’ll see the same thing on
the left side of the stove, because we have our light right here 24 inches in front of the cabinet. When it shines down with that cone, that cone comes down at an angle, and it’s able to light up that whole area all the way up to the back wall. So the reason why you have dark shelves, and I want every one of you to go and check your shelves right
now, your counters there. Check out your counters and see. Do you have a dark shadow like
the dark side of the moon? Do you have a dark
shadow right around here? And if you do, that’s because you have the light that’s too close. So you’re light is probably
not gonna be separated from the cabinet like mine is. Your light is probably real close like the one I showed you
earlier with that white cabinet, how the light was almost in front of it and when you have that, the light comes straight down like this, and makes a straight down beam to here, so you have a dark
shadow for the whole last 12 inches off your cabinet essentially. That’s not right. This is the way you are suppose to do it. And the problem is all of these builders, they’re just idiots. They have people designing
the lighting in your kitchen that have absolute no
idea what they’re doing. Now the only place we’re gonna
see a little bit of a shadow, as you can see, right
in the back end there of this corner cabinet, and that’s unavoidable at all cost, no matter what you do really, because the cabinet right here comes out so far. If you look at it from the top there, you can see it just comes out real close to the edge of the counter anyway. And even though we have, this light here is way over here and this other light way in
the back is way over here, it’s still not enough to overcome the angle and the distance
that the light is traveling. So you can see the light
is gonna come down this way and hit this edge here, and that’s how we end up with a little bit of dark back there. But even then, that’s not completely dark, like some of the other kitchens, like the one that we just showed you. So, this is how you do
the lighting, folks. It’s important too, because had I not… Especially above the kitchen
in here, above the sink, you see what is the cabinet here, if I had not put this light
this far out in front, we probably would’ve had a shadow on this backsplash here behind the sink. We would’ve had a shadow there
caused by this upper cabinet had I made the light closer like a lot of the other people do. For some reason, a lot of builders think that you only need to put the light 12 inches in front of the cabinet, and that is just not true. It’s gotta be 24 inches
in front of the cabinet, which by deduction means that you have to put your light here, 36 inches off the back wall. So that’s all you gotta remember. And I made it symmetrical
on this kitchen here too. So it’s 26 inches off that wall, 36 inches there, and then
36 inches to that wall. We did this small kitchen, this is a eight by 10 kitchen, we did this with four lights. You can see them right there. There’s all four of
our lights right there, and it lights up the kitchen
very nicely and very evenly. So this is why it is so important for you to design your
lighting ahead of time. Think about it very, very closely. What do you wanna do with that lighting? So that’s why some people do
the under cabinet lighting. I’m not a fan of doing the wired pucks. I like to use these little guys here. You’ll see this one here. These are small LEDs that are controlled by a remote control. They may not always be completely totally as bright as the big plug-in ones, but at least it’ll put
some light down in there if you ever really need it. But in this case here, we don’t really need any
under counter lighting here.


55 thoughts on “Kitchen Light Spacing Best Practices, How to Properly Space Ceiling Lights

  1. What problems did you see with your kitchen lighting, and what type of kitchen lighting spacing did you use that worked for you? Let us know in the comments below, and we'll also answer your questions.

  2. Would you recommend to always stick with 3 feet from wall? I am currently under remodel and the contractor who is also my neighbor recommended to go further out by the fridge because how close it is.  The setup is similar to your but we also have a pantry next to the fridge which is about 18 inches so the light in front of fridge may not shine any light on the counter anyways.  My concern is that the other light which does light up the cabinet will also be 4 feet away from that same wall to keep things in line.  Will 4 feet away be ok to light up or will the counter also be dark on the other side of the room?

  3. We're currently laying out the recessed lighting in our new construction kitchen. We will not have upper cabinets. L shaped 12'x14' w/ 6'x5' island. Sloped ceilings are 8' to 11' high. We're using 6" cans. I'm more concerned about my body creating a shadow when at the counter working. What's your opinion on where to place the perimeter or task lighting when there's not going to be upper cabinets?

  4. Jeff, what model of lights do you typically use? Also what is the Kelvin rating that you like? 2700, 3000, 4000? Additionally what is the spacing between the lights themselves. Appears to be as little as 24 inches from this video.

  5. Jeff, you explained the absolutely WRONG way to place your lights. The thing you aren't factoring in is that by having the light out 36" puts the light source behind the head of the person working at the counter. So when that person is standing next to the counter doing their prep, they will have diminished light from the shadow they cast over their work space. By having the lights in closer, as was the case in the first example you said was wrong, you get maximum and direct light to the area you need it which is right in front of you NOT towards the back of the counter. If you are concerned about the shadow the cabinets create by having the lights in closer, you install under cabinet lighting which is actually what you had in your remodel but didn't comment on their purpose. I hope this helps some people…especially those cooks that are 6' plus.

  6. 🐬🐬Hello,
    my facebook:Jjc Lighting
    I want to ask if you could do me a favor to test our LED Lighting and kitchenware samples, Because I have watch your youtube video and really appreciate it.
    We have a factory producing LED Lighting and kitchen supplies, we would like to provide some free samples to you for testing if you like.
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  7. No i definitely disagree, putting lights that far back means that you ALWAYS cast your own shadow when working at your counter and that is just plain annoying, have you heard of under cabinet lights? they look fantastic and make an even better worklight.

  8. This is completely incorrect!!! People please do not follow this if you are remodeling a kitchen. This design is for "general area" lighting and not kitchen task lighting. This would be how you design a den, livingroom, bedroom where you want even lighting throughout the room. A kitchen is designed for work and those work areas are the areas that need to be focused on. There may be shadows if not enough lights are installed and if they are installed incorrectly. BUT PLEASE DO NOT EVER PUT YOUR LIGHTING BEHIND YOU IN A KITCHEN! This kitchen may look "lit" up in a picture as there is no one working in this kitchen but if you were to put 2-3 people moving around helping make Christmas dinner it would be horrible.
    I am a Master Electrician and also own a separate lighting company which we install designs in art galleries, salons, and other high lighting focused areas.
    My apologies for saying you're wrong but I want to save diy'ers the not so happy outcome in the end!!!
    As for me I would have had a couple more down lights in completely different locations on the counter tops and also under cabinet lighting and then this small kitchen remodel could be in a magazine!!!

  9. Thanks for eventually saying it's not the builder… Usually the builder doesn't pay any attention to this but the electrician does. However, it would be good for builders to learn to take an interest in the aesthetics of the building

  10. Lithonia LED wafer lights we used for this kitchen lighting remodel design project: https://amzn.to/2OniziR

    Klein Tools 53731 Adjustable Hole Saw we used to cut round ceiling holes for the LED wafer lights: https://amzn.to/2BGgcPI

  11. I don’t like it. They don’t line up with the cabinet spacing. Draw the cabinets on that sketch you made then sketch the light placement

  12. Anytime someone says "I've never seen it done right, but I know how to do it right!" Runaway. Quick as possible. I am 6' 2" and if you put a light behind my head, in a kitchen, I'll be rather pissed off.

  13. Jeff, all can say is wow! I followed your lighting spacing recommendations and it completely changed my kitchen lighting dynamics a very significant improvement. My counters are now flooded with light with no shadows. You can stand anywhere at the counter and your body does not cast any shadows any where.  I personally seen the bad lighting you talked about in my relatives homes. Mine is so much better thanks to your recommendations. Thank you Jeff for your recommendations.

  14. Thank you for educating me on the LED Wafer lights. Now regarding putting them 36" from the wall. I installed three windows in my shop. I am planning on building a soffit along the window wall and install the canned or wafer lights in the soffit – one above each window. Should I still install them 36" from the wall or can I bring it in to 24"? I am planning on putting in moveable workbench / carts along the wall. These will be primarily accent lights as I will be installing LED main lights in the shop. Thanks!!

  15. some can lights can be use in contact with insulation too. With this light, If you have loose insulation type you will have to push them out before pulling your light down right? Or else it will fall all over you.

  16. Loved the video. These lights are awesome. What would you suggest for a ceiling that is slightly angled/sloped? Are there adapters for these that retain that C1rating for contact with fiberglass?

  17. Looks good for photos, but not for working, on a counter, with the lights behind you.. there is no need to have the back wall lit up.. no one is working on the back wall….other than that, nice video

  18. I have tell to tell, I bought the suggested lights and install per your instructions and we were extremely please with results. Little to no shadows and we added a dimmer, those small lights are powerful. Thanks a million.

  19. I am sitting in my kitchen watching your video thing you are dead on.more builder's and electricals need to watch this video

  20. Coming from a design builder, I understand your point of view and frustration with incorrect installations. The AEC industry is plagued with incorrectness in every area (structural, electrical, plumbing) but what’s worst is the arrogant finger pointing “I’m better than you attitude” and unwillingness to make our fellow contractors better by taking a leadership approach instead of referring to their work as “stupid” “no idea what they are doing” etc. As a general contractor I have made mistakes in lighting but I learned because I wanted to do better. There is no one way or universal master guide to learn the hundreds sometimes thousands of scopes of work that encompass every aspect of building a Decent building. or in this case, optimize lighting design. So, from what I see/hear in this video, You’re knowledgeable, like what you do, and seems like you do good work. so don’t belittle others work but maybe point out why you would do it differently, inspire people to do better work by showing them a better way. That’s the only way this industry is going to change for the better.

  21. sorry jeff but you are wrong , i was always taught ,and by more than one lighting designer that you place your lights so that they shine down on the counter and floor in front of it "usually 2 feet from the wall", this is general lighting which when you walk into the kitchen will provide sufficient general lighting not only for cleaning but also will light up the work space on the counter. The space under the cabinet is not really ever used to work on , more so to place a cook book perhaps which then would be illuminated by undercabinet lights . In this day and age very few people dont want under cabinet lights especially with the newer led tape lights that install so easily and inexpensively. The system you are using is more for a living rm , den, or playroom. And by the way the recessed lights installed in an insulated attic space must be type IC these are used for "in contact" with insulation and are code compliant. The "firestarters " you mentioned were most likely installed by some handy man or diy'er who didnt know what he was doing. All this being said a lot of times the old style recessed with the cans could not always be installed symmetrically as you can now with the wafer lights due to the structural barriers present in ceilings and or attic space.

  22. People stop taking advice from a handyman. This guy is bashing professionals while giving horrible advice. If you do general lighting in a kitchen and the light is behind you, you will have shadows on your work surface. Take a licensed professionals advice or some handyman who is getting called out for his ignorance by every other comment.

  23. Your spacing parameters are 100% right on! Have you considered these lights as they are best in my opinion.:)   https://youtu.be/5E_Vp_wKIF8

  24. If this is the correct way, I don’t like it… I like when everything is evenly spaced, the lights don’t look right??

  25. They did this for task lighting. It's a kitchen, brother. A lot of times people will supplement lighting out in main area of kitchen to remove that shadow you mention.

    Also – who uses those types of potlights anymore? Use 4" slims.

  26. Hi Jeff,
    I am so glad I found your video which gave me a lot of ideas about the positioning of downlight . I am building a new home I have an electrical plan but I want your advice to pinpoint the positioning of my down lights. If you can do that I will very thankful to you.

  27. Great Video. I am about to start our project today. I hooked up a light with a 6' pigtail and moved it around to check for shadows as you are showing here. Watching your video beforehand would have been much easier!

  28. What if you have deeper upper cabinets, such as 15” deep? I assume you still put lights 24” in front of the cabinet, thus placing them it 39” from the wall?

  29. I put my lights too far from the cabinets and when I’m using the sink all you see is a huge shadow from my head lol

  30. Saying this method is wrong is an opinion. I've used this method for years in the electrical field running my own company. Never had a complaint, always turned out great. There are multiple ways to get the lighting you desire.

  31. At 10:23 – the electricians should have used IC-rated can lights. Anything painted white is non-IC rated. But to minimize the fire risk if such cans already exist, use an LED trim; those won't get hot.

  32. GUYS – a lot of negative comments here.  I have 25 years of experience in the Lighting Industry.  I’m an Engineer, I’m Certified in Lighting, a member if the Illuminating Engineering Society, I have industry-related patents, and I hold internationally recognized awards in Lighting.  Believe me when I tell you – lighting is specialized branch of Engineering, and it can be extraordinarily complicated.  This video is an excellent overview, and it’s MUCH more informative than your average YouTube video about kitchen lighting. 

    The lights in this video are marketed as a “general purpose” recessed light. From the Amazon link, you can find a link to its technical specs.  The light comes out of this fixture at about a 45° angle (from the ceiling.)  He did a good job spacing them out, maximizing the output, and minimizing the shadows.

    I would have personally supplemented the area with under-counter lights for task lighting.

    Use this video as a guide.  There are thousands of different light fixtures on the market and therefore, thousands of ways to light your kitchen.  Cheers,

  33. Good advice. I'm thinking that a strip of led lights on the top of the cabinets would have been nice (getting rid of the shadow).

  34. Wow, this video “dropped the ball” (I figured I may as well use that overused saying too, since this guy likes to deflect).

    This is not a good SOP for kitchens. He even dismissed his mistakes as “meh, nothing you can do about that” – he lied to you viewer.

    Absurd amount of pre-work for a task so simple. Next time you do a kitchen video, remember that you should account for the person working in your path of light. Ceiling lights are not the suggested or common way to light up “under the cabinet” – I think you need to go back to the drawing board with this video. Next time, explain why people purchase and install under cabinet lighting.

  35. Why not just space them like a normal room and then use pendants/track lights/undercabinet lights or even directional trim if the can is too far out? The recessed cans are for general lighting. Task lighting is for tasks. Imagine that. This guy is quick to dog on “builders” but I can tell he’s just a DIYer tryna be an expert

  36. You are so full of it man. You don’t know what the hell youre talking about. There are insulation and non insulation rated cans. And they’re by no means out of style just bc leds are available.

  37. Seems you have dropped the ball.
    Your downlights are too close together and looks stupid.
    1 decent size 20w led oyster light in the middle wouldve been heaps better!

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