Kitchen Lighting: Part Two

authors Dan Taddei, MS Ed. BCA | April 17, 2020

In a recent NARI Education column, we covered the basics of lighting, discussed LED lamps and provided some tips for implementing lighting in a kitchen or bathroom. Here’s more detail on lighting design compiled from the new Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler (CKBR) study guide.

Recessed Fixtures

Recessed fixtures direct light downward or toward a wall. The light can be distributed in a number of ways such as a narrow or broad pattern, a spot or diffused focus, and ambient, wall washing or accent lighting. When using recessed lighting to provide task lighting in a kitchen or bath, place the fixture to the side and slightly in front of the counter.

Uniform Downlighting

Uniform illumination provides a layer of ambient light typically used to provide general lighting on horizontal surfaces. It is important to note that, while useful, uniform illumination typically has the least visual impact on a space. Uniform illumination can be accomplished using the following techniques:

  • For 8- to 10-foot ceilings. R/BR lamp Baffle or Cone downlights, spaced approximately the same distance on center as the ceiling height. As an alternate, A-lamp/CFL multipliers will provide somewhat more diffused/uniform illumination.
  • For 10-foot and higher ceilings. PAR lamp Baffle or Cone downlights provide a more concentrated light beam and are effective for uniform illumination from higher ceilings. For higher ceilings, narrower beam spreads are required.
  • To avoid harsh scalloping on the walls when installing downlight fixtures, place them at least 2 feet from the wall.

When selecting recessed fixtures, you’ll need to consider if it needs to be placed next to insulation. You’ll need to check the manufacturer’s specifications or installation instructions to determine the suitability of the fixture in your application. Recessed fixtures have an overheating protection device designed to prevent damage to the fixture and reduce the possibility of fire if a light bulb of excess wattage is used. In addition to standard voltage, recessed fixtures are also available in low voltage (12V and 24V) models.

Ceiling-Mounted Fixtures

Ceiling-mounted fixtures attach directly to the ceiling or to a ceiling track. To minimize glare, be sure the lamps are at least 6 feet, 8 inches above the floor.

LED Wafer Light

The LED wafer light is a surface-mounted light fixture designed to look like a recessed light. These are helpful in locations where conventional recessed lights will not fit, such as sloped locations, locations next to insulation, or where utilities or structural elements interfere with the housing of recessed fixtures. Advantages of wafer lights: ultra-thin, no housing needed, IC rated, available in different color temps, dimmable and wet-location rated.

Wall-Mounted Fixtures or Sconces

As the name implies, these fixtures mount directly to a wall. They can produce direct, indirect or diffused lighting, and they are useful in lighting hallways, dining rooms, living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms. The lamps should be concealed with the use of opaque or semi-translucent lenses.

Architectural Fixtures

Architectural fixtures integrate lighting into the structure and are usually mounted horizontally on the walls, ceilings or cabinet tops. While fluorescent lamps have been popular in the past, LED is now the lamp of choice. Popular architectural uses for lighting include but are not limited to cove lighting, cabinet lighting and toe-kick lighting.

  • Cove lighting directs light upward with the ceiling acting as the diffuse reflector. Usually require 20 footcandles or less.
  • Cabinet lighting can provide general or focused lighting inside a cabinet by lighting from the face frame of the cabinet from top to bottom, or with downlighting from the top of the cabinet.
  • Toe-kick lighting lights the floor and helps to highlight a path.
  • In all architectural applications, it is very important to avoid direct views of the lamp. Thanks to color-changing LED lamps, it is easier to provide ambient mood lighting with architectural lighting.

Kitchen Lighting: Ambient

Adequate ambient light can be attained by several different types of lighting sources. This lighting can be indirect, aimed to bounce off pale walls or the ceiling and then into the room.

Cabinetry Lighting Guidelines

  • Over cabinets. Placing the fixture at the front edge of the cabinet top will project light into the space and illuminate any displayed objects.
  • Inside cabinets. Placing the fixture along the face of the cabinet will provide even lighting for the inside of a cabinet.
  • Under cabinets. Placing the fixture at the front lip of the cabinet conceals the fixture from view, minimizes veiling reflections and provides maximum light on the working area of the countertop.
  • Kick spaces. Fixtures at the front lip of the cabinet can be concealed with light rail.

Visit to learn more about the CKBR online prep course.

On a more personal note, I want to let you know by the time you read this, I will have retired from NARI. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for the positive support you have provided over the past 18 years. However, they can’t get rid of me that fast, as I will not be leaving NARI entirely. I will be staying on as a consultant and continuing to support the industry from my new home in South Carolina. QR

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