how to install recessed led lighting

Ultimate Guide: How to Install Recessed Lighting

Ultimate Guide: How to Install Recessed Lighting

how to install recessed lighting

One of the best ways of beautifying your home or office and making it look luxurious and radiant is through your lighting.

A well-illuminated room goes a long way in improving the overall aesthetics of the room. One of the best lighting for homes is the recessed lighting, which is otherwise known as a down light, can light, or pot light.

Recessed lighting is a light fixture that’s fixed into a hollow opening in the ceiling. It concentrates its light in a downward direction either as a broad floodlight or narrow spotlight.

It can be used for commercial and residential purposes. You can use it in your kitchen, bathroom, hallway, or bedroom.

Recessed lighting is so versatile and can be fixed in virtually any spot you desire. It can be used for wall lighting, down lighting, or uplighting, depending on your preference.

This type of lighting is also great for providing ambient light in residential and commercial spaces, and accent lighting to highlight furniture, artwork, or the wall itself.

If you've been looking for the perfect guide to help you successfully install your recessed lighting without hassles, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about recessed lighting and how to successfully install it if you’re DIY savvy. 


Types of Recessed Lighting

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  • Ambient/General Lighting: This type is often installed in the ceiling for the living room or kitchen. This is because there is a lot of traffic in those places. It can also be used for downlighting.
  • Accent/Spot Lighting: This is applicable when there is a focal point. For instance, a piece of art or fireplace mantle to be spotlighted. The optimal angle to reduce glare when spotlighting art is 30 degrees.
  • Wall Washing: This is less harsh than direct downlighting. It is used to illuminate pathways or stairs with an angled flange to direct the light down.


Components of a Recessed Lighting

A recessed light fixture is made up of 4 parts— housing, trim, baffles, and lamp. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

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1. Housing

    This is the fixture itself. It is the part that’s recessed into a ceiling, wall, or ground. It contains the lamp holder, mounting, and other electric parts.

    How to Select the Housing
    • New Construction
      This type of housing is designed for locations with visible ceiling joists and without drywall. It is installed from above.
    • Remodel
      This is appropriate if you want to upgrade your current fixture and LED. It is installed from below by wiring the fixture before putting it in.


    2. Trim

      This is the visible portion of the light. It is the thin lining around the edge of the light and can be seen when you look up at the fixture.

      It helps to give the light its beauty and can be used to direct the beam if you’re spotlighting or wall washing.


      Selecting the Trim

      You can select your trim according to your taste, aesthetics, and desired effect or according to the function it performs.


        • To achieve a more modern look, obtain a square aperture or a circular one for a more classic aesthetic.
        • For a trim that will fit seamlessly with the surface, choose a non-flanged trim. A flanged trim will give you a noticeable look.
        • For depth, get a beveled trim. And for a minimalist finish, get a flat trim.


        • Wet/ Damp Location Trims: This should be used in areas where water could come in contact with the trim, for example, the shower. Damp location trims can be used anywhere else.
        • Adjustable/Fixed Trims: Adjustable trims are suitable for sloped ceilings or walls that will be washed. Aside from this, fixed trims should be used. Adjustable Trims can be directional. This helps to give the most flexibility in directing light or gimbal trims that are not quite as flexible.
        • Open Reflector Trims: These types of trims emit the highest amount of light possible. However, baffle and specular trims reduce glare.


        3. Baffles

          These are installed after the housing has been put in place. They are inner sheaths used to cover the bare metal can to give it a polished appearance.

          how to install recessed lighting in existing light fixture

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          Types of Baffles
          Simple Baffle

          This is used on most occasions.


          Reflective Baffle

          It is used to minimize the light throw or eyeball `directional covers`. It is effective for sloped ceilings or to throw light to a specific area or direction.


            4. Lamp

              Most lamps in recessed lightings are LEDs. But if you’re not using LED, you can consider any of the following.


              • A Lamp

              This is the most common type of lamp. It is useful in various applications and has no obvious weaknesses or exceptional strengths.

              • R Lamp

              This contains a reflector and excellent beam control. It can be used as a spot, flood, and display lights.

              • PAR Lamps

              They are excellent choices for task lighting and general lighting. They have wide beams and are widespread.

              • MR16

              This has excellent beam control. Hence, it's ideal for accent lighting.


                Pros of Recessed Lighting

                • It is a hidden source of light
                • It is energy-efficient
                • The light adds beauty and radiance to almost any place or room
                • It consumes less power when compared with the chandelier


                Cons of Recessed Lighting

                • This type of lighting is permanent
                • Oftentimes, the installation process might require a great deal of professionalism. Hence, it's not DIY-friendly


                Tools for Installing Recessed Lighting

                • Drywall saw
                • Drill with hole-saw bit
                • Pliers
                • Screwdriver
                • Linesman pliers
                • Fish tape
                • Voltage-tester


                How to Install Recessed Lighting

                Before you commence your installation, take your time to carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions because all fixtures are not the same. You can then proceed with the following.

                 how to install recessed lighting new construction

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                1. Turn off the Power

                  Locate the breaker panel and shut off the power to the room or the circuit you will be working on. If you have difficulty in locating the power source through the main breaker, then cut off the power to the entire house. Ensure that the power is off by using a voltage tester.


                  2. Locate the Ceiling Joists

                    For a new installation, locate the overhead ceiling joists to avoid drilling into them. You can obtain a stud finder to speed this up.

                    Joists are about 16 to 24 inches apart. Locate the first joist to make it easy to find the others with a stud finder. Alternatively, go into the attic and note the direction and spacing of the joists.


                    3. Take the Measurement

                      Most lights come with a paper template to trace a circle on the ceiling. The most popular sizes are 4", 5", and 6" in diameter. Mark the location for the light on the ceiling and make sure there is no nearby joist. If you’re retrofitting an old light, measure the size of the existing hole.


                      4. Cut Out the Hole in the ceiling

                        After marking the location for the hole, drill the hole with a hole cutting drill bit. Then use a drywall saw to cut out the circle for the light fixture. Make sure that you provide the smoothest cut possible.

                        Be extra careful with older ceilings where the plaster or drywall ceiling may be hard and prone to crumbling under stress. Don't over cut the hole so as not to ruin the installation and damage your ceiling.


                        5. Remove Old Fixture and Junction Box

                          If you’re retrofitting, remove the old light fixture and the junction box from the ceiling. Use a saw to cut the junction box from the joist to which it is attached. Avoid damaging wires because they may have a short span and will make your work more difficult.


                          6. Connect and Secure Wiring (Set Up the Junction Box)

                            The junction box houses all the wires as soon as the lights are installed. Open the attached junction box on the light and clamp the wires protruding from the ceiling to the box.

                            Find the ground wire from your electric source, twist the two of them, and place a wire cap over them to secure the connection. Your light should have three wires—a copper wire and two conductor wires. Make sure that you leave enough room to easily move these wires as needed.

                            how to install recessed lighting

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                            Remove the plastic insulation from the end of the wires and use wire nuts to pair the wires together. Make the wire connections to the light fixture; match a white wire to a white wire, a black wire to a black wire, and a bare copper wire to a bare copper wire.

                            Tuck each connected wire into the junction box and cover with its lid. Your junction box should be placed inside the ceiling. But don’t stretch the wires too far from the light. If you find this step intricate, don't hesitate to contact a professional.


                            7. Test Power

                              Before installing the housing, temporarily turn the power back on and use a voltage tester to confirm if electricity reaches the bulb socket. Then, turn the breaker back off until the project is complete.


                              8. Insert and Secure Housing

                                Housing can also be called can lights. Begin by inserting the housing in the prepared hole. Find the clips along its edges and use a screwdriver to push them outward until a click is felt to securely clamp the house to the ceiling.

                                Once you’ve used all the clips, pull the housing gently to make sure it is firm. Push the housing up into the hole and press it tight against the ceiling. Then, push the four metal clips into the housing.

                                Tap the clips with a hammer and slotted screwdriver to securely lock each clip.


                                9. Attach Baffle and Trim

                                  how to install recessed lighting

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                                  A baffle is an inner sheath used to cover the can lights (housing) for a polished look while the trim is used to cover the rim of the can lights and the surrounding hole. The trim hides the irregular or uneven edges during the installation.

                                  Most times, the baffle and trims are attached to the housing with metal springs. Pull out the strings to their longest reach and attach them to the housing at the compatible holes in the can. Then, slide the baffle and trim upwards until the trim completely levels with the ceiling.


                                  10. Select a Bulb

                                  Select a bulb of approved base size, warmth, and wattage for your fixture. Halogen and LED bulbs are the most common choices for recessed lighting. However, LED bulbs are more popular, modern, and cost-effective. If you use a dimmer switch, make sure that the bulb is dimmable.


                                  11. Restore Your Power

                                    how to install recessed lighting

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                                    Inspect your installation once the lights are on. If you notice any arcing, popping, lights flickering, or any noise, shut your power off and call a licensed electrician to help you look into it to prevent a fire hazard.



                                    Recessed lighting is a great choice for various places in your home or office. The illuminating ambiance it gives your home cannot be compared with any other type of lighting. This is why it is the most popular and widely used lighting by most homeowners.

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