Backlighting Countertop Edges

Published on:
November 7, 2018

What's the trick to lighting the edges?

“I recently saw a backlit onyx countertop with the edges also lit to match the top. How do I do that?” Lighting a SLAB of translucent stone (or other translucent material) is fairly straightforward, but what about the drop aprons (i.e. the vertical edges of a countertop)? How do you ensure that the front edges match in brightness to the top surface?  

Block & Float Technique:

There are various Block and Float techniques that “float” the countertop above the light source. The technique called “Spine and Ribs” is pictured (before and after the translucent surface is placed on top). In this case, the is sized to fit the top of the substrate. Then strips of a clear material, such as ¾” clear acrylic, are notched and placed on edge, nested together, and assembled into a framework on top of the panel. This framework becomes the support system to evenly distribute the weight of the countertop without blocking the light from the panel below.  The additional space created between the light source and the surface allows light emanating from the panel to illuminate the vertical surfaces of the drop aprons, as well as the top surface. When discussing this idea, using the term “shoebox lid” often helps homeowners, designers and specifiers understand the concept.

Other block and float supports that can bear the weight of the translucent countertop, when positioned appropriately, include notched acrylic blocks; and acrylic rods and tubes cut to a specified height. Any method to Block & Float should be tested with the material, the supports, and the light source prior to ordering the countertop.

Nesting Technique:

The nesting technique is essentially putting a light source on the side face of the countertop. This can be done with edgelit light panels, but is far easier and timely to use a product like the Flexible Auragami LED Light Sheets.

When the countertop gets fabricated, it’s critical to allow enough room for a standoff system. Since the countertop material cannot sit directly on the LEDs or any connectors on the light sheet, standoffs (aka “bumpers”) need to distribute the weight of the countertop and protect the light sheet components. The bumper height plus the number of rows folded, combined with the thickness of the countertop material will determine the optimal drop apron height for your project.

Diffusion Layer Technique:

Adding a clear diffusion layer allows light to transmit through to the top surface, while also horizontally channeling light to the drop apron surfaces. The clear layer also supports the weight of the countertop. This method ensures a very stable system and is simpler than the previous two since there is only one sheet of additional material and it’s easy to size.

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