LED STRIP LIGHTING. THE EASY WAY TO ILLUMINATE ANYTHING.

how to install led strip lighting

 

When I was 10 years old I got a beautiful wood, handmade, dollhouse for Christmas.   I remember it exactly. It was two stories high with little rooms meant for little people, little furniture and imaginary daily goings on.  The roof was shingled in tiny cedar shakes and you could thoughtfully peer into each room through the thin glass windows, imagining the perfect world with perfect people within.

Holy shit I hated that dollhouse.

I didn’t like dolls, ergo, I didn’t find it necessary to house them anywhere other than under my bed or in the kitchen trash can beneath a layer of bananas, coffee grounds and garbage juice.  But my mother who really, really thought I should like dolls, commissioned the dollhouse, which sat dilapidated and uncared for in our basement hallway like Grey Gardens surrounded by shag rug instead of water.

That all changed the day my father packed my mother and I into the Woody to take a road trip across the border to A M E  R I C A.  The place where gum came in Watermelon flavour and the cities smelled weirdly of sulphur.  I loved it.  The hour long drive brought us to my Auntie Lil’s place in Niagara Falls and to Brand Names, the American version of Canada’s Consumer’s Distributing. You  know the kind of place. The store was filled with rows of catalogue covered tables and little paper pads and pencils to fill in with whatever products you wanted.  There was EVERYTHING.  Diamond earrings, toasters, handheld personal massage devices  … all held in the magical warehouse behind the counter.

I loved flipping through that Brand Names catalogue.  I’m not sure how I ended up in the section that catered to dollhouses, but I did.  I suspect my mother had something to do with it.  My eyes skimmed over the miniature beds, wardrobes and green velvet couches and STOPPED dead in their sockets when they came upon actual working lights.  Real outdoor lanterns and chandeliers that could be turned on and off giving the house a loving glow that an imaginary family never could.

I begged, my parent’s bought the dollhouse lighting kit and I spent the next 5 years trying to figure out how to wire it up and install it.  I sat on our basement floor reading the instructions over and over desperately trying to make sense of the black wires, the red wires and how it all made electricity.  No matter how many times I read through them I my brain just couldn’t untangle the mess of information.  But I kept trying.

I never did get those lights to work and looking back on it now, I’m guessing there was another part to the kit like a transformer that we didn’t buy.

The dollhouse is gone but the obsession with lighting has stuck with me.

Nothing can improve or ruin the mood and feel of a room more than lighting.  Not a couch, not a chair, not a table.  Only lighting.  Or a raccoon.

And with the invention of LED strip lighting anyone, ANYONE can shine a light on any part of a room that they want to; bookcases, under cabinets, dark corners, all of them illuminated by a 1/4″ strip of tape.

Yup.  LED Strip lighting is 1/4″ wide with an adhesive backing so you can quite literally stick it anywhere you want to and have it be virtually invisible.

LED Strip lights have been around for a while, but they’re now smaller, easier to install and more readily available than ever before.  Costco sells them in kits now and Amazon has incredibly easy plug and play kits too.  Cut them to the length you want,  stick em up, plug them in.

The ones I bought at Lee Valley are a tad more complicated and you have to order all of your parts separately, BUT they’re a lot more customizable.

Amazon also has LED lighting sold in parts, it’s just a bit more intimidating to buy.  After the first photo I’ve listed all the components you need if you’d rather use individual parts.  But if you’re doing just one straight run of lights there really isn’t a need for anything more than a simple plug and play LED light kit.

The brick wall on one end of my dining room is dark. Much darker than the other end of the room with all of its white walls and bookcases.  I couldn’t bring myself to paint the brick wall white (even though it would look great).  So I decided on a whim to try to throw up some LED Strip lights to see if that would help.  It did.

And here’s how I did it.

Customizable LED Strip lighting will require you have certain components to make everything work.  With the LED light kit you don’t need to worry about all of the parts. You get everything you need for a short, simple, straight run of lights in a box.

You’ll also need a few other little things like screws, brackets for holding the channel to the ceiling or wall and maybe even some extra wire if you need to make either run of wire longer.

If you’re planning on using LED strip lights for anything more complicated than a simple straight run of lights then consider buying individual parts.

You’ll need:

Channel, diffuser, and clips from Amazon. 

16.5 feet of pure white LED strip lights.

Inline on/off/dimmer for LED strip lights.

Power converter for LED strip lights. (please note if you use a longer run of strip lights you may need to purchase a different power converter than the one I’ve linked to that can handle more load)

Confused?  That’s why I’m recommending you just buy a kit.  Especially if all you want is to light up under your kitchen cabinets or bookcases.  Easy.

Here we go!  A look at the brick wall before.

You can see why I didn’t want to paint the circa 1840 brick wall.

 

How to Install LED Strip Lights

By the way!  I used 5 of the 10 Tools Every Self-Respecting Homeowner Needs in this DIY and at least 4 of the basics!

Step 1.  Screw brackets into wall or ceiling and snap in the channel.

Step 2. Stick LED light strip to channel.

(if your channel came with end caps you’ll have to run the wire through it before sticking up your lights)

 

Step 3. Cut the LED strip light to length.  You can ONLY cut the LED strip lights in the centre of the copper contacts.  Refer to the instructions that came with your actual lights to see what they look like.  As long as you cut at the contacts that run every few inches, you can cut the lights anywhere.

 

Step 4.  Wire everything up!

You can wire everything once the lights are up but to make it easier for you to see and me to photograph, I took pictures of the wiring against a black background.

 

The basic LED light kits usually come with the strip light, a hand held remote control switch and the power supply adapter.  So you’ll only be wiring (plugging in in most cases) your wires to your power adapter and that’s it!

With my LED light configuration there’s one additional step.  I added a wall mounted on/off/dimmer switch which works remotely with a wireless, wall mounted dimmer switch.

If you choose to go this route the wires from your lights will run to your dimmer switch.  Then the wires to your power adapter will also run out of the dimmer switch to your adapter.

 

Remember if you buy a kit from Costco or Amazon you don’t need to worry about all this wiring stuff. The kits make it simpler.  This is only for if you buy individual components, and something fancy like a dimmer switch.

It’s very simple.  Like I entioed, this particular dimmer switch also came with a wireless wall switch so I can place that anywhere in the room that I want.

Step 5.  Test the lights.

 

You can see each individual  LED light which isn’t all that nice, which is why you have to do the next step.

Step 6. Install the diffuser so you can’t see each individual LED light.

Except that you can.  You can still see the blindingly bright individual dots of the LED lights even with the diffuser.

So now I had to build a tiny, dollhouse sized, valance to cover up the lights.

I found a small piece of trim in my workshop that I painted white and stuck up quickly just to test if it would work.  It would.

The valance is just enough to stop you from being able to see the individual dots of the strip lights and blends right into the moulding.

I ran the wire for the lighting and power adapter behind Margaret (the large oil painting) to the receptacle.

Mission accomplished.  The lights are invisible, but light up the entire wall giving more balance to the room.

This actually would have been a perfect application for one of the kits, but I like to challenge myself.  Also I had a gift card for Lee Valley and it seemed like a great way to spend it.

Here’s the GREAT news.  These LED light strips also come in weatherproof.  Which means some time this summer I’ll be redoing the lighting in my backyard and including a whole whack of these.

By the time I complete that project I expect I’ll be ready, or at least almost ready … to light up a dollhouse.

58 Comments

  1. Looks beautiful Karen! I want to live in your dining room.

  2. Lynn says:

    You might want to check out InspiredLED for your larger projects. They have a free design service and will work with you to make sure that you are happy with the price and design. Ask for Cody, he is my favorite designer!

  3. Jennifer Lee says:

    It looks great! Lights like that are great in a home theater kind of room, too, especially with the dimmer. No glare, just enough light to keep you from spilling your drink or popcorn.

  4. dana says:

    Wow! That looks great, Karen. Is Margaret supported so she won’t fall? I always wonder because it would suck if she ever fell forward.

  5. Except that if I add as much lighting as I want to, I will see more of the stuff I need to clean. Hmmmm. But thanks for showing me how.

  6. Dana says:

    My dad built me a dollhouse in 1981, and my mom sewed tiny dolls to resemble us. I loved it. It had electricity! Tiny light switches and stained glass chandeliers that my dad made. I got rid of the dollhouse, but kept the dolls and chandeliers.

  7. Mark says:

    Stunning! Just stunning!

  8. Tina says:

    The whole time I was reading, I was thinking “but can I do it outside?” And then you answered my question! My new house has an enormously huge back deck with a beautiful gray wood stain (but *psst* it’s that fake wood stuff that lasts forever) and white rails. I want to put lights under the edge of the rails. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Paula says:

    Fantastic!
    Btw – I love your white shirt.

  10. MrsChrisSA says:

    Telepathy all the way from Canada!! Was just telling Schatzi over the weekend that I want strip lights in my kitchen.

    Now I know how!! Thank You.

  11. Karen says:

    Consumers Distributing. Wow there’s a store I’d forgotten all about. Loved those catalogues! Thanks for the super informative post. Will be awake now for hours thinking about where I can install around the house this weekend.

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      When I worked at Lee Valley, customers would frequently comment “Gee, this is just like Consumers Distributing!” And I would sweetly smile and refrain from growling “No. No it’s not.” However, I did reply that the difference was we had most of our stuff in stock and the employees were waaay friendlier lol.

  12. Jenny W says:

    Question, do the strips come in “warm white”? All I ever see are the cold/bluish bright white.

    • Sabina says:

      Good question! I don’t care for the bright white either, it’s hard on the eyes.

    • Karen says:

      It depends on where you buy them but the ones I got came in warm, neutral (which is what I got) and cool. The neutral look just pure white in real life, slightly blue in photos. ~ karen!

      • Teri says:

        I have strip lights in three rows on the windowframe above my kitchen sink. they were installed by the ex-fella. they have little bendy end bits that means it is one long snake with two 180 degree corners. (make sense? whatever, three strips). The controller is remote, and it can be set to almost any colour or brightness, or even to cycle like a Christmas tree! Personally, I am very prone to setting it to white and leaving it on all the time (the household night light) but the ex-fella would sometimes set it up to cycle. Drove me mad. 😉 but yes, some kits will let you set the colours to other colours. LEDs are amazing!

  13. Sabina says:

    Oh! Weatherproof? Yay! I see better patio lighting this season! Let me go flip theory’s Brand Names catalog to see if they have them 😁 One of my favorite pastimes too! I distinctly remember a ping pong table I insisted my mother needed for her birthday (or maybe Mother’s Day) one year…

  14. Lohi Karhu says:

    By the way, Karen, your readers might want to note/remember that LED lights can come in different ‘temperatures’, like 2750 K / 3000 K / 4000 K, or in ‘warm white’ or ‘daylight’. The lower ‘temperatures’, strangely, have a ‘warmer’ look, more yellowish, and the higher numbers have a more blue-ish colour… if you want to match the lighting colour of existing lights, the ‘normal’ incandescent lights have 2750 K colour temperature, halogen lights are more like 3200 K, and ‘daylight’ is 5000 K to 6300 K.

    Many of the earlier LED lights had very high colour temperatures, very, very blue, like 7000 – 8000 K, which probably turned-off many people who looked at them. Today, there are many better LED lamps/light sources available

  15. Chris White says:

    Thanks for teaching me so many awesome things! Last weekend I built a raised bed for vegetable gardening. This weekend, looks like some lighting is going in under the kitchen cupboards. I don’t know who is more excited about my new Karen-inspired talents – me or my husband!

  16. Ev Wilcox says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! In my paffle (pantry, office, laundry room), the floor beside my desk is always dark. My black doggie and my granddoggie often lie there when I am on the computer. They get stepped on at times because they sneak in and we don’t know they are there! Have pondered what kind of light would be out of the way and give just enough light to save the poor beasties! Yay! Once again Karen saves the day! Will be perusing Amazon and Lowe’s today and see what I can find.

    • Laura Lee Dominguese says:

      You have a “paffle”. Lol
      When we moved there was a spare room that was to be all mine to do all the projects I’d always dreamed about.
      Then my husband brought home bookshelves, “Let’s just put them in here for the time being”. And a standing wooden lectern, “Look at how beautiful the wood is! We will just put it in here.” And an AbCoaster. And a rug shampooer. Etc., etc.
      Alas, it has become a “crapht room”.

  17. Rose says:

    I like how you can really see the texture on the brick wall. It looks fantastic!

  18. Kim C says:

    It really makes that beautiful brick wall (and Margaret) come alive! I know if a few places inside and outside where I can put this info to use. Thanks again for showing us how. 🙂

  19. cbblue says:

    Like we wouldn’t know who Margaret is! Great work Karen, and I like that you MacGyver’ed the strip to cover the lights.

  20. Jane says:

    Do you know if the Lee Valley diffuser would work with my Costco LED lights. Last fall I installed the lights under the cap of my planter boxes in the back yard. It drives me batty that I can see every individual light. I might try the valance idea but I have 9 boxes that are 5 feet in length so it would be a lot of extra work. Not to mention there are so many coats of polyurethane on the boxes that the lights will likely just reflect back on the gloss on the wood 😩

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane. Are your Costco LED lights installed with channels? If they aren’t there’s no way for the diffuser to attach. The diffuser clips into the channel. From what I remember the Costco ones have no channel. :/ ~ karen!

      • Jane says:

        Not sure if they have channels (boxes were recycled last fall) but I do know you can cut them to size if that help answers anything?!

        • Karen says:

          Well, if they’re up you would know if they have channels. They’re either just a strip of tape stuck to the wall, or there’s a piece of metal attached to the wall first with the tape inside of it.~ karen!

  21. Jenny says:

    We had a plastic Fisher Price tudor doll house, the kind that snaps open (https://img0.etsystatic.com/000/0/6241755/il_fullxfull.320319844.jpg). Our dad worked on airplane electronics so just for fun he wired up little lights inside the dollhouse. The switch was inside the chimney. I always thought this was the coolest thing ever, but now that I’m an adult I’m blown away. ^_^

  22. Tarra says:

    Thank you lots Karen! This is exactly what I needed to get me installing an LED strip under a kitchen shelf. Got all the parts and now I don’t need no electrician

  23. TONI says:

    As always, your tutorial was great ……….. you make the potential job much more possible, having taken the kinks out for us all. The brick wall texture is really showcased now ! Keep doin’ what your doin’ ………… we appreciate it !

  24. Linda in Illinois says:

    Great Wall Karen.. love it. Now I am inspired to light up my overhang in my back yard.

  25. Jody says:

    Looks great and I love how the light highlights the texture of the bricks. Do you ever just stand back and look at the brick, admiring their beauty and wondering about the people who built that wall?

  26. Shelagh says:

    Hi Karen,

    Love this blog! Not only are you DIY projects well presented and photographed, I
    enjoy reading the comments almost as much as your content.

    I come from a very traditionally minded family when it comes to task duties. Men don’t cook and women don’t cut wood. And before anyone thinks I am demeaning myself, don’t. I am quite adept at sewing, wet felting, rug hooking, cooking, photography, birding, etc. Anything with tools is just a skill set I never acquired.

    You are a wonderful role model for a whole new generation of women. Plus I love your sense of humour.

    Also, I have challenged myself to make your RH inspired outdoor furniture. No one here believes I can do it which of course makes me more determined. But I think I should start with these lights!

    Cheers,

    Shelagh

  27. Michelle says:

    GOOD HAIR!

  28. Alena says:

    I have had my eyes on the kit from Amazon for a while; I plan to use the strip for my kitchen under-cabinet lighting. So much cheaper than anything Ikea offers (even the lighting that was 50% discounted). The only thing I have to do is to convert ‘reward points’ (that I got at work) into an Amazon credit card and I am all set.
    My neighbours have the strip in their sunroom (what the British refer to as ‘conservatory’) and I swear it must be visible from the outer space, the lights are so bright. But they have the cool white and I am after the warm white. I better order it quickly before it’s no longer available.

  29. billy sharpstick says:

    Color: you have to decide on “warm white” or “cool white”. (Sometimes they use different terms, but warm is usually 2700 to 3000 degree color and cool, etc. is 4000 or higher. Warm is like tungsten lighting, think of sunset glowing into the window. Picture Granny sitting in the rocker with the kiddies in her lap and the orangy glow of the lamp shining down on her. Cool white is better for task lighting. I prefer it for kitchen and shop lighting where I need to see what I’m doing. LED cool white is usually better than old fluorescent ghastly “cool white”. Color is a personal choice. I wanted cool for the overhead kitchen 48″ tubes but was vetoed by my wife for warm white.
    I put LED strips under the kitchen cabinets with sensor switches so it comes on when someone walks in the room. (The cats love that)
    If you want dimming, make sure you buy “dimmable” LEDs. Also be aware that the dimmers themselves have to specifically mention that they work with LEDs, and are considerably more pricey. (btw, if you hook up a fluorescent light to an old dimmer that is not for fluorescent lights, you will probably destroy both the dimmer and the light in a very dramatic manner!)

  30. Snugster says:

    Karen
    This is a cool project and I’m inspired to install the lights under kitchen cabinets.
    I wondered where you “hid'”the e) Hard wire dimmer switch and f) Power supply adapter. Behind Margaret?
    The Snugster

  31. Renee Rydzewski says:

    Have a couple kits that can change colors for under my kitchen cabinets, that have sat for 3 years waiting for hubby to put them up. I just may try this myself now!

  32. SueSchneid22 says:

    You share such great info and how to on your blog, Karen!! We have long wanted more light around our impressive circa 1987 fireplace, but putting up track lighting would be such a pain. This is the best solution ever!! Thanks so much!!

  33. Mary W says:

    When I designed my house (didn’t get electrical advice from a lighting store) I made a lot of mistakes. One was wanting under counter lighting for mood, night light, just cause. I didn’t know what I needed, what was available or anything – just that I wanted small dim lights under my kitchen counters. The electrician didn’t know anything about model homes, or decorating, or interior lighting decor – so he gave me electrical sockets inside my cabinets. The switch is next to the normal ceiling fixtures. I suppose if I wanted lights inside my cabinets for the mice, this would work but I now have useless electrical plugs inside each of my overhead cabinets. There are wires neatly rolled up coming from somewhere. I assume the nonworking light switch controls the useless plugs – not sure what the wires are for. I would love to get the strip lights you have and just plug them into the inside of the cabinets where the plugs are. I don’t care if I need to drill a hole to run a wire up through the bottom of the 8 cabinets with their useless electric plug. My eyes glazed over with the pictures and instructions. I’m not only afraid of heights but terrified of electrical wires and fires. Is it possible to do what you have posted and use the useless electric plugs? I assume that since you can do most anything, you can see inside my mind and know what I’m talking about without pictures. You can just ignore this comment – I won’t mind.

    • Karen says:

      Um … I *think* I know what you’re talking about. But not entirely. You’re talking about sockets and plugs. Do you mean electrical receptacle? Or do you mean light sockets? Once I know the answer we can go from there. Or we can ignore any of this happened. ~ karen!

  34. Mary W says:

    Receptacles! I couldn’t remember the word as it sounds more like a place to put trash. It is a two plug receptacle – where you plug in the electric cord two prongy things. QUIT laughing at me! LOL

    • Karen says:

      O.K. then. 🙂 Yes that makes your cabinets IDEAL for the LED lights. Most people in those situations would have to run extra wires in and out of the sides or back of their cabinets and attach different LED strips together but if you have a receptacle in each cabinet (who the hell was this electrician you used???) then you can just plug your lights into the receptacle in each cabinet. The only thing is if you do it that way you’ll need an on/off switch for each light strip in each cabinet. If you were to use one continuous strip you would only need one on/off switch. Now go read the post so you know how to do it. ~ karen!

  35. MARY W says:

    I’m so happy – it’s been going on 11 years and now I’ll finally have night lights for when the grandkids come to visit (they sleep on the couch/pull out bed) without leaving a light on in the kitchen YEA!!!!! LOVE YA

  36. Linda says:

    I bought the Costco set a year ago. Scrubbed the underside of the kitchen cabinets with soap and water and then rubbing alcohol. When dry I installed the light strip. As I had extra I doubled up the strip on one section. A few weeks later I had bits of the strip falling down. They reattach easily but don’t stay. My husband had to devise a small screw with a washer system to hold them in place. Some sets come with a tap in u-shaped clamp to ensure the strips stay where they are supposed to. Looks like a staple.

    While the light is great in a dark corner of my kitchen, I hate the blue light tone – so cold. I find even 3000K too cold.

  37. susan g says:

    miss brand names catalog. I find it really hard to look at catalogs on the internet. sometimes the descriptions etc are too small (I guess i’m of an certain age!!) Years ago one of the buffalo show houses had a version of strip lights on the baseboard. really interesting, up light rather than down lighting. gave a nice look to the living room/dining room with the really soft glow. kind of like candle light, soft and subtle. or a night light for the bathroom. ever stay at a hotel with marble walls and bright lighting in the bathroom. a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you are blind!

  38. Raisin says:

    But most importantly, what kind of jeans are those?

  39. Diane says:

    I didn’t know I wanted LED light strips until now. Thanks.

  40. Christina says:

    How did you get the red and black wires into the green part of the dimmer?
    I have LED strip lighting around my vanity and somehow one of the wires fell out of the green thing that plugs into the dimmer and I don’t know how to get it back in….

    • Karen says:

      Hi Christina. There will either be a button you push on the green part that raises a clamp (you then stick the wire in and release the button), or there will be a screw that you loosen, insert the wire, and then tighten the screw until the wire is clamped. Hope that helps. ~ karen!

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