How to Install Recessed Lights
Posted by Chris Johnson on Mar 8th 2023
How to Install Recessed Lighting - Also referred to as Can Lights
Adding recessed lights to your home? If there's already an existing power source in the ceiling and an electrical switch in the wall, the installation is fairly easy. You can save a lot of money by tackling the project yourself rather than hiring a professional.
If you have access to the ceiling from above (i.e., from the attic), the project is even easier. However, we offer a wide selection of remodel recessed lighting housings so that you can install from below as well.
Questions to Think About before installing Recessed Lights or Can Lights:
What is the rule of thumb for installing recessed lighting?
The general rule of thumb for installing recessed lighting is that recessed lighting cans should be installed six feet from each other. Every project is different though and an electrician should be consulted to verify where recessed lighting can be installed.
Is it difficult to add recessed lighting?
Recessed lighting installation is usually rated as a medium to hard difficulty level due to the nature of the many complex tasks that need to be completed. Not only does it take planning to figure out where the lights will be installed, but it also takes knowledge of building codes and other structural knowledge of the environment that the lights will be installed into. Incorrect installation could lead to issues including a fire starting or a circuit breaker being overloaded. Additionally, lights will need to be wired.
Do I need an electrician to install recessed lighting?
As mentioned above, recessed lighting is usually rated as a medium to hard difficulty level due to the many complex tasks that are required to be completed. In order for recessed lighting to be installed correctly, an electrician is recommended as they can plan the project from start to finish. An electrician can help figure out how far and how many lights should be installed within a room as well as give great options for what type of recessed lighting should be or can be installed.
Follow these steps for recessed lighting installation if you have an existing power source in the ceiling:
1. Turn off the power.
2. Determine where the ceiling joists are using an electronic stud finder. (You need to install the recessed lights between the joists).
3. Trace the outlines of your recessed cans onto the ceiling in your desired layout. If you need help, check out our article on How to Layout Recessed Lighting in 4 Easy Steps.
4. Drill a 1/4-inch hole in the ceiling in the center of each tracing where you want the lights to go. Check for obstructions. If you have an attic above the ceiling, you can simply check visually; otherwise, you can insert the straight section of a wire coat hanger in the hole and spin it around. You'll have to reposition the lights if you find any obstructions.
5. Cut the openings for each recessed light. The easiest tool for this is a drywall circle cutter. Make sure not to cut through any existing cables in the ceiling. (Tip: place a tarp on the floor beneath).
6. Disconnect existing fixtures from the power source, if necessary.
7. Pull the electrical cable to the first recessed light. Leave about 18 inches of wire hanging from the ceiling as you continue to pull wire to each light fixture. This extra 18 inches gives you enough slack to wire the new fixtures. If the attic is above the ceiling, run the wire through the attic. If you are installing from below and the area above is a finished floor, you need to fish the wire through the framing of the ceiling using a long flexible drill bit.
8. Insert the electrical cable into the fixture's junction box and wire the light, using twist-on wire connectors to make the connections. Remember: the fixture's black wire goes with the black house wire, white wire goes with white wire, ground wire goes with ground wire. The manufacturer's instructions will help with this. Continue making all the connections and then stuff the wires in each fixture's junction box and fasten the covers.
9. Rotate the housing into place in the ceiling so that the mounting tabs are secure. Attach the baffle and any trim you are using to the housing (follow the manufacturer's instructions: installation steps may vary depending on the model).
10. Install the light bulbs, turn on the power again, and you are finished!