How to install recessed ceiling lighting

Recessed lighting has many advantages over other light fixtures. On a porch, the lighting is up in the ceiling away from bugs and dirt. In a living room, it's out of the way of other decor. In a kitchen it can concentrate light right on the spot where it is needed the most without taking up precious space. Recessed lights are convenient space savers that give a room an up-to-date look.

Shut off the electrical power to the room you are working in.

Screw the "can" for the recessed light directly onto the ceiling joists 6 or 7 feet apart. Allow 1/2 inch below the can for the ceiling's drywall.

Pull new wire from the electric breaker panel to where the recessed lights will start.

Drill holes in the ceiling joist, just large enough for the wiring to be pulled through above all the cans. Allow yourself 8 inches of extra wire at each can's junction box.

Cut the wire at the can. Strip back 2 inches of the outer insulation to reveal the wires inside. Strip 1/2 inch of plastic from each of these wires.

Connect each wire to the wires in the can's junction box, black to black and white to white, with a wire nut (also called a wire connector). The ground wires, which are either bare copper or green plastic coated, will also be connected with a wire nut.

Install the bulb recommended by the manufacturer. A bulb with too high a wattage can cause a fire.

Continue to the next can, connecting all the wires at that junction.

Turn on the power at the breaker box. If your lights come on, all the wires are connected correctly. Ask the county for an inspection before doing your finished ceiling work. Safety is always most important.


Make sure the can is not surrounded by insulation that could get hot and catch fire. You will need to be able to install wiring from the room above the ceiling or take the existing ceiling down. Special recessed lighting can be attached to drywall.

Things You'll Need

  • Can light kit
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire nuts
  • 12 gauge wire
  • Drill
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About the Author

Mitzi Saltsman has been writing children's material for church and Sunday school lessons since before 1980. Her work writing how-to articles earned her a trip to San Francisco and a spot on a commercial. Saltsman holds a Bachelor of Religious Education from Great Lakes Christian College.