How to Install Recessed Lighting

Like if this guide is helpful
How to Install Recessed Lighting

Installing recessed lighting can transform the ambience of a home. It can also cost a lot of money, but being willing and able to do some of the work can help reduce the costs. Recessed lighting is where the light fixture is fitted into an opening in the ceiling, so that the only visible section of the light is the bulb itself. This creates a minimalist look of elegance and is also functional. It looks particularly good in bathroom or kitchen spaces, where it can provide task lighting to functional activities or as ambient lighting to objects. It is entirely possible to install recessed lighting into any ceiling if being done in a new build before the ceiling is finished, or when having renovations and the ceiling is exposed. Follow the steps below to carry this out safely and easily.

Before Beginning

Firstly, consider the intended effect on the room. How much lighting is required? Where do the fixtures need to be fitted in order to give the most amount of light? What type of design is suitable? When people think of recessed lighting, they usually think of the downlight. They fix the light straight downwards, so, when installing several of them in a room, the area lit by light will need to overlap in order for them to be effective. An alternative is the eyeball light (so named as it looks similar to a human eyeball). They are particularly useful in rooms with sloped ceilings or if a feature of the room needs to be highlighted, as they can be directed towards various areas of the room. When deciding where to place the fixtures, consider that they should be put at least 3 feet from the wall edge. Any further away and the light will not reach the corners of the room, making it appear dark and small. Multiple fittings will spread the light out across the walls giving the impression of a much larger room.

Safety Information

Installing recessed lighting can be relatively simple if the safe steps below are followed. Working with electricity and electrical fittings can be dangerous and the risks should be minimised. Care must always be taken. Always bear in mind that any electrical work in the home will need to be signed off by a qualified electrician to ensure it is safe and complies with Approved Document P of the Building Regulations. Always shut the electricity off at the main panel before starting any work on the wiring. Make sure to use all of the installation tools that come with any purchased kit. Skipping a step or not using a certain piece can have disastrous effects.

Equipment Needed to Install Recessed Lighting

  • Drill
  • Drywall or keyhole saw
  • Pliers
  • Stud finder
  • Screwdrivers
  • Wire nuts
  • Electrical wire
  • Recessed Light fixtures

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these step-by-step instructions to install recessed lighting correctly:

Positioning the fixtures

  1. Ensure there is sufficient access to the ceiling. The fixtures will need to be attached through the ceiling and power run over to them. The power can sometimes be daisy chained from a nearby existing power source such as a light fixture.
  2. Decide where the recessed light fixtures are to be positioned and what will happen with the existing light fixture (if applicable). If the existing power circuit can support the extra load, it is possible to leave the existing fitting. If not, or the existing fixture is no longer required, it is best to plan the set-up so that one of the new lights can make use of a hole left by the existing fixture. Alternatively, install a fan to disguise the old hole so the redecorating is not required.
  3. Use the stud finder to establish how and where the ceiling joists run in the ceiling. If access to the ceiling from above (via the attic) can be gained, go and look to see how they run.
  4. Drill a small hole into the ceiling and insert a straight section of wire coat hanger with a 4” bent section at 90 degrees, then spin the section around in the hole to ensure there are no obstructions above. If an obstruction is found, the layout will require repositioning.
  5. Repeat the same in other locations where recessed lighting is to be installed – drill a small hole and check for obstructions.

Powering the Fixtures

  1. Establish if there are existing light sources that can be used to power the supply to the new recessed lighting. This will make the task easier and less messy to complete.
  2. Where possible, install the recessed fixtures between joints where wires are already running.
  3. If this is not possible, wires should be run across joists, which will require a hole to be made in the ceiling underneath the joist, cutting a hole in the joist itself to run the wire through and then patching the ceiling afterwards.

Installing the Fixtures

  1. Most light fittings will come provided with a manufacturer’s template to help a suitable size cut to be made into the ceiling. If not, use the fixture itself to mark the outline and establish the size needed.
  2. Drill a small hole into the outline and then cut around the outline with the drywall or keyhole saw. Be careful when cutting to ensure the right size is made. Too large a hole will mean the fixture cannot be attached.
  3. Run the wire from the power source to the location of the first recessed light. At the junction box (of the power source), insert and clamp about 8” of wire to the end of each wire and, using wire nuts, secure them to existing wires in the junction box. PLEASE NOTE to secure the same colours together.
  4. At the location of the fixture, pull the wire gently out of the hole, leaving between 16-18” of extra wire. Then pass the wire into the fixture’s junction box, clamp it and strip 1” off the ends of the wire using pliers. As before, use wire nuts to attach the fixture wire to the house wire (again, securing the same colours together). If power is to be run to other recessed fixtures; fasten one end of the wire that is going to the next location to the wires in the junction box.
  5. Make sure the wires are tucked back into the junction box and put the lighting fixture into the ceiling. Many fixtures will have special clips that enable them to be attached to the ceiling.
  6. Repeat the same process above until all the recessed lighting fixtures are successfully installed.
  7. Attach the light bulbs and any decorative trim to the fixtures to finish the effect.
  8. Once finished, turn the mains power back on! And admire the new light!


DIY installation of recessed light fixtures can save money and be very satisfying. There are safety rules that should always be followed when carrying out work with electrics. Consideration should be given to exactly where the recessed light fixtures are intended to go, in order to maximise the amount of light and show off the room to its fullest potential. Installing recessed light fixtures should be done using the greatest care and using the correct tools. If the steps above are followed correctly and carefully, safe installation of an impressive recessed lighting system should be relatively simple and transform the look of the home.

Have something to share? Create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides