Step 1: Trace outline of new electrical box

trace outline
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Turn off the electricity to the kitchen at the main electrical panel. To be sure the power is off, plug a radio into the countertop wall outlet you'll be tapping for electricity, and make sure the radio remains silent when switched on. Or you can use a lamp — and make sure it doesn't light.

Unscrew the wall plate, then disconnect the wires from the receptacle and remove it from the electrical box.

The box is nailed to a wall stud on one side or the other. Find out which by peeking between the sides of the box and the drywall.

Hold a two-gang, old-work electrical box over the existing box in the wall so the expansion of the hole is on the unattached side of the existing box — away from the stud — and then trace around it with a pencil.

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    Tools List

    • flat prybar
      Flat pry bar,
      to remove the old electrical box
    • Phillips screwdriver
      Phillips and slotted screwdrivers
    • drywall saw
      Drywall saw,
      to cut the hold for a new electrical box
    • spade bit
      1/2-inch spade bit,
      to bore a hole in the wall for a new cable
    • wire strippers
      Wire strippers,
      to remove insulation from wires
    • lineman's pliers
      Lineman's pliers,
      to cut and twist together wires
    • drill
      Drill/driver,
      to drive screws and bore holes

    Shopping List

    1. Light fixture Undercabinet lights are available in fluorescent, halogen, and xenon models. We chose low-voltage halogen for its bright white light (see "10: Choosing the Light"). Measure upper wall cabinets to determine what length fixtures to buy—23 inches and 47 inches are typical sizes. You can gang them together for long runs.

    2. Dimmer switch needs to be compatible with the light fixture you choose.

    3. GFCI receptacle Once installed, this outlet’s ground-fault circuit interrupter will shut off instantaneously if you receive a jolt.

    4. Two-gang, old-work electrical box This larger box replaces the existing single-gang receptacle box in the backsplash wall. An "old work" box is for remodeling—its "fins" unfold behind the drywall to lock it in place.

    5. Two-gang wall plate

    6. 12/2 NM (nonmetallic) electrical cable plastic-sheathed cable often referred to as Romex, a trade name. The 12/2 designation refers to its two 12-gauge copper wires—a neutral and a hot. It also holds a bare ground wire. You’ll need 6 feet of cable, including loose wires you’ll cut from this for Step #6.

    7. Ground pigtail connector; cable connector; wire connectors

    8. Wood or plastic cable protector may be required by some municipalities to protect exposed cable. Make from wood or buy as "nonmetallic raceway" in 5-foot lengths.