Inside View: Lighting & Wiring

Per my last post re our kitchen renovation, the day-to-day wow factor that comes by design with demolition work slowed down some this week as our small but mighty crew dove into rewiring behind the scenes and installing some updated cabinetry.   To recap, the most significant change to the space is the removal of a small wall between the proper kitchen cooking are and a small side breakfast room.  It makes such a difference!

What will also have a big impact on the updated kitchen is the lighting, so here goes our second category dive-in for the View series!  I rarely if ever turned on the main kitchen light, its green glow was so unappetizing and unflattering.  I can get sentimental about almost anything, but in this case I am extremely happy to say that the offending jumbo fluorescent tubes are gone!  And while I was apprehensive about our options for replacement – California efficiency codes make it all but impossible to use anything but LED lights – the selection is significantly better than I imagined it would be. (What can I say, I love a halogen, but they burn hot and heavy, a no-no around here.)  I studied and compared the light qualities from the current LED technology and landed on 2700K LED Halo brand narrow flood bulbs.  The housing is Halo brand as well, and is specific to the Halo brand bulbs.  But wait what exactly does 2700K mean?  I didn’t quite have my head wrapped around this before, and I would get so frustrated when people would toss around out K this and K that, but it’s actually really easy and helpful – the Kelvin Light Scale is a measure of the light temperature.

Kelvin Light Scale (Credit:

I’m guessing the fluorescent lights fell somewhere around 4500, and the previous LED’s (in the adjacent breakfast room) were 4,000, a la Spring Green by Crayola.  I cannot express how relieved I am to have bad lighting behind us!

Like in many kitchens, the new bulbs will be recessed in the soon to be re-sealed ceiling.  What was neat about peering up at the joists was that we learned that the kitchen had been running on the original wiring, built in the ’30’s. The ceramic donuts around the wires below are called knob & tube insulators – they keep hot wires from becoming a fire hazard.  I think we could technically continue to use those wires, if we were to track down or invent LED adaptors….  Incidentally, contemporary wiring, which has both wires to a given bulb encased in the same insulation, is called romex.  It’s the white linguine noodle shaped wire that’s wrapped with thick rubbery plastic.

Aside from the type of lights, another lighting decision we faced was weather to install three-way switches, which means that there are two different areas from which you can turn on or off a light.  A specific example is the light above the kitchen sink.  It is wired separately, so that it can be turned on independently from the other lights in the ceiling.  (It was already wired this way and I’m glad – it’s a great option for early morning or late at night when you don’t want a full blast of light.)  However, the switch for the above sink light is not next to the sink, but on the same switch plate as the other lights, which is located at the door.  The addition of a switch next to the sink would mean that the above sink light could be turned on from two places, e.g. it would have a three-way switch.   The term is confusing because there there are not three actual switches, just two.  That is where my interest in and knowledge of three-way switches ends, however there are obviously fundamental differences when wiring and if you are buying the hardware be sure to ask.  From our perspective, the most important difference is the cost, and having used the kitchen as is for about six weeks, we can say with certainty that the small space operates efficiently without them and we and would rather allocate the dollars elsewhere.

To that end, we have chosen to install puck lights under the high cabinet:

High Cabinet

This is one of the few instances in which I would gravitate towards LED lights regardless – since they do not get hot like traditional light bulbs, they are better for lights that you’ll be physically close to for extended periods.  A special drill bit will be used to make the holes where the lights will be inserted, and on the inside of the cabinet a thin wooden layer will be placed over the lights so that the wiring is not disturbed.  The transformer for the lights will also go inside the cabinet, and while it does take up storage space, what’s nice is that it’s an easier set up that going into the wall.

I’m really excited to showcase all the lighting with some ‘after’ photos – stay tuned!

Also, yay, you can see that a new lower cabinet and thereby additional counter space have been added where there was a great big fridge, and then an empty space before.  I’ll address that in another post shortly!!













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