How to Install Recessed Lights in a Drop Ceiling - LightUp

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How to Install Recessed Lights in a Drop Ceiling

Published by Danielle Sherrer on Apr 17th 2024

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A drop ceiling is a popular choice for offices, basements, theaters, and schools, as it offers an attractive look and is made from a metal grid and "tiles", or "panels" hung below the structural ceiling. Also known as a secondary ceiling, suspended ceiling, T-bar ceiling, or false ceiling, it is often used to conceal air ducts or pipes for a more aesthetically pleasing finish. Recessed can lights are often installed in drop ceilings, allowing for a sleek, unobtrusive way to illuminate a space without compromising on headroom.

Installing a drop ceiling with recessed can lights requires some special electrical and structural considerations. These include making sure that the structural ceiling is strong enough to support the weight of the new drop ceiling and its contents, as well as making sure the electrical wiring is properly installed and in good condition. It is also important to ensure that the correct mounting hardware is used and that the ceiling tiles fit securely in the metal grid.

Follow these steps to add recessed lights to your drop ceiling:

1. Pick out your LED Fixtures or Canless LED Fixtures.

LED recessed light fixtures are generally the best option when it comes to choosing recessed lights for a ceiling, as they run cooler than other light sources. It is also important to choose lights with adjustable mounting arms or heavy-duty clips that can attach to support wires or bars above the ceiling, in order to reduce the risk of fire hazards. For drop ceilings, some canless LED fixtures have separate mounting plates available to purchase separately to help with the installation.

2. Layout your lighting.

Use graph paper to make a scale drawing of your room or planning software online to plan where each light should go. You should space them out thinking about your ceiling height, focal points, and focusing on how bright the room's ambient light will be. For more detailed advice on how to layout your recessed lights, check out this article: How To Layout Recessed Lighting in 4 Easy Steps.

3. Establish supports.

When installing recessed lights into a drop ceiling, it is important to make sure that the weight of the lights is supported. Extra wire supports should be installed over the tile to help hold the lights, one wire for each of the four corners of the tile. Support bars or blocks with an additional frame that rests on the ceiling grid will also work. T-grid mounting plates are available for canless LED downlight fixtures to help support the weight, and should be mounted so that the light is flush with the face of the tile.

4. Cut holes.

Using the light's outline, trace the light's outline on each ceiling tile where a recessed light will be added. This should be done in the exact center of the tile double checking that the opening size is made according to the installation instructions. Use a keyhole saw or utility knife to cut the first hole. Be sure to dust off any loose particles and set the light back into its opening. After cutting the hole, it is important to make sure that the light fits snugly into its opening. If the hole is cut too large, extended goof ring trims are available to help mask any imperfections.

5. Position the lights.

After cutting the hole, the next step is to position the light fixture. To do this, take out the panel next to the panel that was just cut, and place the light over the cut panel, making sure it is positioned directly over the hole.

6. Wire the lights.

To wire the lights, it is important to hire a certified electrician. This is because most municipalities require a professional to connect the lights into the main electrical box and inspect the circuit. It is very dangerous to attempt to do this without proper training and experience.

7. Finish the project.

After wiring the lights, the last step is to install the light bulbs (if necessary) and snap the trim ring onto the housing. Once the bulbs are in place, turn on the lights to finish the installation.

Can you put recessed lighting in a basement ceiling?

Recessed lighting can be a great way to add ambient light to a basement ceiling. Installing recessed lights in a drop ceiling is a straightforward process and can be done in a few steps. With the right tools and materials, you’ll be able to install recessed lighting in your basement ceiling with ease.

For more information, visit the recessed lighting page.