How To Install Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights are not only elegant they’re functional. In a kitchen, recessed lights can provide great task lighting above a counter top or the sink, but they can also provide ambient or background lighting in living or dining rooms or can even be used to provide highlights on a painting or a unique ornament. The good news is recessed lights can be installed in almost any ceiling. While installing them before a ceiling is finished (new construction) or when you have access from above the ceiling (through the attic) is the easiest way, they can also be installed as part of a renovation.

What You Will Need:

  • Drill
  • Drywall saw or keyhole saw

  • Pliers for striping wire

  • Stud finder (or a wire coat hanger)

  • Screwdrivers

  • Wire nuts

  • Wire (electrical wire)

  • Recessed light fixtures

  • Positioning the fixtures

    1. Decide where you want to position your recessed light fixtures. Consider if an existing nearby light fixture can be used as the power source for your recessed lights. Installing the recessed fixtures between joists where wires are already running is the easiest way to position them.

    2. Determine where the ceiling joists run in your ceiling. If you have access to the ceiling manually look at how the joists run. If not, use a stud finder.

    3. To confirm there are no studs or other obstructions, drill a small hole in the ceiling and insert a straight section of wire coat hanger into the whole. Bend 4″ section of the coat hanger 90 degrees, then spin the coat hanger 360 degrees to ensure there are no obstructions above your chosen location.

    4. Repeat step 3 for all the areas you would like to install the recessed lighting.

    5. Using the template provided with the recessed lights (or the light fixture itself) mark the outline of the fixtures at each location.

    6. Cut along the outline with your keyhole or drywall saw. If you cut too large a hole, you may not be able to attach the fixture to the ceiling.

    Powering the lights

    1. Run wire from the power source to the holes.

    2. Running wires across joists will require making a hole in the ceiling under the joists, cutting a hole in the joist to run wire through and then patching the ceiling.

    3. Shut the power off at the main panel before you do any work on the wiring.

    4. At the junction box of the power source insert and clamp about 8″ of wire Strip 1″ from the end of each of these wires and using wire nuts, fasten them to the existing wires in the junction box. (black to black, white to white and plain copper/green/ground to plain copper/green/ground).

    Installing the fixtures

    1. At the fixture location, pull the wire out of the hole, pass it into the fixture’s junction box, clamp it and strip the ends of the wire. Use wire nuts to attach the fixture wiring to the house wire (black to black, white to white and ground to ground – ground wires are either bare copper wire or green in color). If you are running power to other recessed lights fasten one end of the wire that runs to the next location to the wires in the fixture’s junction box.

    2. Tuck the excess wire back into the junction box. Push the lighting fixture up through the ceiling. Most fixtures have clips that will attach and hold the fixture to the ceiling.

    3. Repeat the installation until all the lights are installed.

    4. Screw in the light bulb(s) and attach the decorative molding to the fixture.

    5. Turn the power back on at the main panel


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