Retrofitting Recessed Lights
Replacing an old surface-mount fixture with recessed lights is an easy upgrade that you can customize with different trim kits.
Synopsis: To install recessed lights you need to do three things: get the right fixtures, determine location and spacing, and figure out how to get power to and between the lights. In this article, an electrician walks you through those steps on a kitchen remodel. Sidebars cover the types of recessed can lights that can be installed, as well as their uses for different lighting tasks.
They’re called a lot of things: can lights, downlights, high hats. Whatever you call them, there is no denying that replacing an old fixture with one or more recessed lights can modernize and brighten just about any space. Recessed lights are available for every type of ceiling, and the trim kits that go with them are available in different colors and styles. The lighting effect you create can range from functional to dramatic.
To install recessed lights, you need to make three decisions: getting the right fixtures, determining location and spacing, and figuring out how to get power to and between the lights. Once you work out these details, the installation is light work.
Recessed lights come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and lamp types. Here, I used a 6-in. fixture made to take an energy-efficient fluorescent lamp. Because this is a retrofit, I chose a remodeling fixture that is designed to be installed from below. This type of fixture has retaining clips that lock into place behind the drywall to hold the fixture in the ceiling.
In this room, the recessed lights will be the main light source, so I spaced the fixtures at 4-ft. intervals. Installing a series of recessed lights in only one joist bay is easy. But because these lights are spaced to illuminate the whole kitchen, I had to drill through joists to run wires between the…