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Install Recessed Lights

Filed Under: electrical, lighting, remodeling

Recessed lighting is an inexpensive way to give your home a stunning new look. A fairly simple project, here's how to install recessed lights in any space.


Now that we've been in our new house for a month or so, my home theater room is starting to take shape. I'll be writing more on it as I slowly transform our finished basement into a fully functioning battle station, er, home theater. because I'm using a front projection system, normal ceiling lights can't be used at all during shows. Recessed lighting offers the perfect combination of room filling lighting that's directed everywhere but the movie screen. Here's an easy way to to install lighting in a pre-finished room.

To get started, we took a trip to Lowe's. They have a nice selection of lights, and I discovered the hard way that not all recessed lighting is create equally.

Once we knew that we wanted a very sturdy installation method, we found these six inch remodel style lights. They're rated for contact with insulation (there isn't any in our basement ceiling) and use a very sturdy three leg retainer design. They include an offset wiring box to terminate the connections and run about $11 each.

Aside from the light, we'll need the following bits to finish the installation:
  • Wire clamps (found near the conduit at the hardware store)
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire nuts (probably to fit 10ga wire if you're on a 15 amp circuit)
  • Drywall saw
  • Utility knife
  • Pen or pencil
  • Tape measure (for laying out your light locations)


Once you've decided on your light placement, mark the center of the fixture, then grab the template that comes with the light and hold it in place. Trace all the way around it with a pen or pencil to mark where you'll need to cut.


Grab your utility knife and make a shallow cut all around the mark. (The hole is from a previous light that we ended up returning to the store.)Otherwise, just grab your drill and put a half inch hole near the center.


Don your safety gear and grab your drywall saw, Cut radius lines from the center of the hole to the edges - just think of it as a pie.


Push up on each piece of your drywall pie and they'll pop loose at the line you scored with the utility knife earlier.


Make your way around the hole and pop each piece inward.


To keep it clean, use your utility knife to cut the paper backing loose. If you're daring, you can just rip them off the ceiling, but this will yeild a stronger mounting surface for the light.


Now true up the hole with your drywall saw. You want to remove any lumps that are sticking out into the path of the new light.

Once you've pulled your new wiring (if needed) grab your wire strippers and remove about 3/8's of an inch of insulation from the black and white wires.


Return to your new light fixture and pop out one of the hole in the wiring box. It's easy, just insert a flat bladed screwdriver and move it back and forth. The insert will bend and pop loose.


Now insert the wiring clamp in the hole you opened up and screw on the retainer nut. It's usually easier to tighten these with a pair of pliers applied to the clamp side, rather than the actual nut.


Feed the wire through the clamp and tighten down the screws to firmly (but not crushingly retain the jacketed wire.


Hold the two white leads evenly together. It's not neccesary to twist them, just line them up.


Put the wire nut over the end of the wire and twist it until it stops. Check that both wires are firmly retained. If one's loose, try again. Repeat the process with the two black, and again with the bare ground wire and the green ground lead.


Push all the wiring into the box unti it fits neatly. Be sure not to loosen anything in the process.


Now you can snap the cover in place over the wiring. The tab slips into the slot, and the spring clip holds it in place.


Inside the light you'll see a funky horn shaped tab. This if for mounting a baffle later on. The black clip is designed to retain the light. This is why we really like these lights. The clips are heavy duty and adjustable for various depths of drywall. Ours were already set up for a single 1/2" layer of drywall, so we were good to go.


Now we carefully insert the light, wiring first into the ceiling. Pay attention to the final location of the wiring box, you don't want to shove it against a ceiling joist. You shouldn't have to force it in, just gently push it in place. If you did a decent job on the hole, the light should slip right in. If it catches, you can probably just work it in. Otherwise, grab your drywall saw and fix the problem.


Once the fixture is flush with the ceiling,


Grasp the clip and pop it down a bit to unlock it from the fixture.


Now it's just a matter of pushing it all the way in until it locks. You might have to rotate it a bit to keep from hitting a ceiling joist with one of the clips. We found that we could rotate the light even with one or two clips already engaged.


Repeat the process for all three clips and you've mounted your light. Don't forget to remove the blue socket protector if there is one.


After that you can add a baffle of your choice. I'm still waiting to get mine, but I went ahead and installed some nice fllood lamps to get things rolling. These put of a nice light, but they're not cheap!

Install recessed lighting(click thumbnails to view gallery)

Remodel can lightClipsTemplatescore the drywallcut



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