The underside of kitchen cabinets is often overlooked during a renovation. However, this visible area can have a big impact on the look and feel of your kitchen. Exposing the unfinished bottom of wall cabinets creates an unsightly eyesore. Luckily, there are several easy and affordable ways to conceal these cabinet bottoms to complete the finished look.
Why Cover the Underside of Cabinets?
Leaving the undersides of your cabinets exposed creates an unappealing, unfinished appearance. The various joint lines, raw edges, unfinished materials are disruptive to the clean aesthetic of your kitchen. Taking the time to cover the underside of the wall cabinets will make a huge difference in the look of your kitchen.
Covering the bottom of the cabinets serves both functional and aesthetic purposes:
- It hides the unfinished edges and provides a smooth, seamless look. This gives your kitchen a more polished, high-end appearance.
- It conceals the cabinet mechanics like screws, nails, and seams that you don’t want on display.
- It protects the cabinet edges from damage.
- It allows you to carry the wall color or a decorative finish underneath the cabinet.
Options for Covering Cabinet Undersides
You have several options when it comes to covering the underside of cabinets. Consider your budget, skill level, cabinet style and desired finish when selecting the best solution.
Thin Plywood Panels
One of the most popular DIY options is using thin plywood panels secured to the bottom edges of the cabinets.
- Easy for beginner DIYers
- Can be painted any color
- Measure and cut plywood panels to fit the underside of cabinets. Cabinet-grade plywood or luan 1⁄4 inch thick is ideal.
- Sand edges smooth.
- Prime and paint panels to match cabinets.
- Attach panels using finishing nails, silicone adhesive or liquid nails.
- Caulk gaps and touch up paint.
Decorative trim molding applied to the bottom edge of cabinets can transform a basic kitchen. Popular options include:
- Light rail molding – Conceals under-cabinet lighting
- Toe kick molding – Covers the recessed area under cabinets
- Edge molding – Applied to front edges for a furniture-like look
- Wide style and finish options
- Elevates plain cabinets
- Easy DIY installation
- Select molding style and finish to match or accent cabinets.
- Cut molding to fit along bottom edges using miter cuts at corners.
- Attach with finishing nails, screws or adhesive.
- Fill nail holes, caulk seams and touch up finish.
Cabinet skins are thin veneer panels made to match or accent your cabinet finish. Skins allow you to carry the same stain, paint or laminate used on the cabinet boxes to the exposed undersides.
- Seamless match to cabinet finish
- Conceals seams and edges
- Installs flush to cabinets
- Have cabinet manufacturer provide finished skin panels cut to fit.
- Attach panels with adhesive and/or small finishing nails.
- Fill holes and finish seams with matching wood filler.
Contact paper offers an incredibly easy and budget-friendly way to conceal the underside of cabinets. The removable, self-adhesive paper can be changed out when you want an update.
- Very inexpensive
- Super easy peel-and-stick application
- Removable for changes
- Many patterns available
- Clean cabinet undersides.
- Measure and cut contact paper to fit.
- Peel off backing and adhere to cabinet bottoms.
- Use a credit card to smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles.
Under Cabinet Lighting
Installing under cabinet lighting serves the dual purpose of hiding the underside of cabinets while also providing functional task lighting. Hardwired or battery-powered LED lights mount to the bottom edges of cabinets.
- Adds valuable task lighting
- Wide style and finish options
- Conceals unfinished edges
- Select lighting style – LED strips, puck lights, xenon fixtures.
- Plan layout and install following manufacturer instructions.
- Hardwire or plug into outlet if battery-powered.
- Use a dimmer switch for adjustable brightness.
How to Install Cabinet Trim Molding
One of the easiest ways to add personality and polish to your kitchen is by installing trim molding on your cabinets. Cabinet molding comes in a wide variety of profiles and finishes to match any design aesthetic.
Popular molding choices like crown molding, light rail and base molding can make a huge impact for a small investment. Here are some tips on selecting, cutting and installing cabinet molding:
Selecting Cabinet Molding
Consider the following when choosing molding profiles:
- Purpose – Decorative? Conceal lighting? Transition to ceiling?
- Cabinet style – Traditional? Modern? Match or contrast?
- Finish – Painted? Stained wood? Metal? Laminate?
- Budget – Prices range from $1 – $10+ per linear foot.
- Terminology – Crown, light rail, base, filler, toe kick, scribe.
Cutting and Fitting Molding
- Measure cabinet edges and openings carefully.
- Cut molding oversized then fine-tune for precise fit.
- Miter cuts at corners for clean transitions.
- Use a miter saw, table saw or chop saw for cutting.
- Cut moldings upside-down for proper angles.
Installing Cabinet Molding
- Secure molding with adhesive, nails and/or screws.
- Pre-drill molding to prevent splitting.
- Use trim nails, small finishing nails or screws.
- Fill nail holes and gaps with wood filler. Sand smooth.
- Apply caulk for seamless transitions and miters.
- Touch up paint or finish.
Properly installed cabinet molding can make inexpensive cabinets look like expensive built-ins. The right trim transforms the space and adds beautiful detail.
Step-by-Step Guide to Installing Under Cabinet Lighting
Task lighting is essential in the kitchen. Under cabinet lighting provides focused illumination for food prep tasks while also hiding the unsightly underside of wall cabinets. Installing under cabinet lights is an easy DIY project. Follow this step-by-step guide for a safe and successful installation.
Step 1: Choose Lighting Fixtures
Select high-quality, energy-efficient LED or xenon under cabinet fixtures. Options include:
- LED tape lighting
- LED puck lights
- Low-voltage xenon lights
Consider lumens, color temperature, hardwired vs plug-in, and budget.
Step 2: Plan the Layout
Decide on placement and spacing of lights to provide optimal task lighting with minimal shadows. Typical spacing is 12-24 inches between fixtures.
Step 3: Find Power Source
Locate an existing outlet or switch box to tap into for hardwired lights. Make sure the circuit has adequate amps available. Hire an electrician if needed.
Step 4: Run Conduit
Use flexible metal conduit to run wiring inside cabinets. Drill holes to route conduit between lights.
Step 5: Pull Wiring
Use fish tape to pull 14/2 cable through conduit leaving extra length.
Step 6: Mount Lights
Attach fixtures securely to underside of cabinets per manufacturer instructions. Pull wires through holes and make connections.
Step 7: Install Switch
Cut in switch box at convenient location. Connect switch to control lights. Consider installing a dimmer.
Step 8: Make Connections
Connect light wires to power source wires with wire nuts. Follow local electrical codes.
Step 9: Conceal Holes
Cover any holes and conduit with trim pieces to tidy up installation.
Step 10: Admire Your Work
Turn on the lights and enjoy your new task lighting and polished, concealed cabinets!
Installing under cabinet lighting is very achievable as a DIY project. Carefully planning the layout, running conduit inside cabinets, and taking time to conceal wires will lead to success. The improved lighting and finished look is well worth the effort.
FAQs About Covering Cabinet Undersides
What is the best way to cover the underside of cabinets?
The best option depends on your budget, skill level, and desired finish. Many homeowners use inexpensive 1/4″ plywood panels cut to fit and painted to match. Pre-finished matching cabinet skins provide a seamless look if in the budget. Moldings like light rail and edge trim offer quick upgrades. Contact paper provides the easiest update.
Can I use contact paper on all types of cabinets?
Contact paper works best on smooth cabinet surfaces like painted MDF or laminate. The adhesive may not hold as well on rough or porous materials. Test adherence on a small area first.
How do I install under-cabinet lighting?
Plan a layout and find a power source. Run flexible conduit inside cabinets and pull wiring. Mount LED or xenon fixtures securely and make wire connections. Install a switch in a convenient spot to control the lights. Take steps to conceal conduit and wires for a clean look.
Transform the Look of Your Kitchen Cabinets
The underside of kitchen cabinets is often an afterthought. But this visible surface impacts the overall finished look of your space. Take the time to properly conceal the bottoms of wall cabinets for a cohesive, polished aesthetic.
Choose an easy and affordable option like plywood panels, molding, skins or contact paper based on your kitchen style. For a functional lighting upgrade, install under-cabinet fixtures to both brighten tasks and hide unfinished cabinet edges.
With a few simple upgrades, you can completely transform the look of your kitchen by covering up the ugly undersides of wall cabinets. This small project makes a huge difference in the overall finished look of your kitchen.