What Should I Know About Installing Recessed Lighting?

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  • Written By: Angie Johnson-Schmit
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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A little preparation can help installing recessed lighting go smoother, although this home improvement project is not usually recommended for beginners. Deciding what type of effect is desired can help narrow down what kind of recessed lights to choose. Once this decision has been made, it is a good idea to look at where the lights will be installed and to then develop a lighting plan.

Installing recessed lighting can be a relatively inexpensive way to accentuate areas of interest, or increase the overall light, in a room. The type of lighting effect sought should help narrow down the fixture and light bulb options. For a softer light, incandescent bulbs may be a good choice, while halogen bulbs provide a brighter effect. After choosing the fixtures and bulbs, a lighting plan is often created to determine how many lights are needed and where they will be placed.


Another factor to consider is the construction of the building. Installing recessed lighting normally works best if the unit can be attached to the joists in the ceiling. These can usually be located with a stud finder. If there are no joists in the area where the lighting needs to be installed, there are some models that can be mounted on drywall. Installing recessed lighting in ceilings with insulation typically requires light fixtures that are rated as Insulated Ceiling (IC) to avoid a fire hazard. In situations where the ceiling is made of concrete or a delicate material such as plaster, this type of lighting may not be the best choice.

Installing recessed lighting can be done as a do-it-yourself project, but it does require a significant level of skill and experience with electrical wiring. A well-developed lighting plan and the appropriate tools can help make this project successful. Some suggested tools include recessed light fixtures, a tape measure, pencil, stud finder, wire coat hanger, laser level, wire-stripping pliers, screwdriver, electrical wire, wire connectors, and a drywall saw. Also helpful are drop cloths to protect furniture from drywall dust, a dust mask, and gloves for handling ceiling insulation.

If you decide to install the lights yourself, make sure to carefully read all directions included with the lighting fixtures. Safety is key whenever working with electricity, so be sure the power is off before working. It is also suggested that a professional electrician check the work before the power is turned back on. Before installing recessed lighting, you may want to investigate your community’s rules and regulations about electrical work, because many places require a permit for this kind of project.


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