How to Install a Recessed Light

How to Install a Recessed Light

Learn what's involved and how to install a recessed ceiling light and what materials and tools you need to do the job.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required

  • Inductive voltage tester
  • Side-cutting electrician's pliers
  • Fish tape
  • Screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Drywall saw
  • Tape measure
  • Electronic stud finder

Materials Required

  • 12/2w/ground cable
  • Recessed light fixture
  • Twist-on wire connectors
  • Cut-in switch box

Before You Begin

You need to tap into the house's electrical system to provide power to install a recessed light. Your best source for power is an existing lighting circuit in a room. Turn off power to the branch circuit you are working on by tripping the circuit breaker or pulling the fuse. Then check the wires before you work on them by scanning over them with an inductive voltage tester (a pen-like instrument that checks for the presence of voltage). Regardless of what circuit you tap, bear in mind the following:

  • If you make an electrical connection using an existing electrical ceiling box, a receptacle box or a box for a switch, don't overstuff it. If it seems the box is too crowded with wires, install a larger box.
  • If you find it necessary to run cable into a new junction box and from there to the new light, the junction box must be left in an accessible place (in the attic or basement) and not covered with drywall or closed in any other manner.
  • To run cable across ceiling joists, cut small holes in the drywall at each ceiling joist. Run cable to junction box Then cut notches in the bottom of the joist only as deep as the cable and cover the cable at each joist with a protective steel plate.
  • If at any point you use a cable's white wire to carry current to the light, mark the cable's end with black electrical tape.
  • Step 1 : Position and cut an opening for a switch box

     Position and cut an opening for a switch box Use a cut-in box (a type of electrical box that attaches to the drywall, not the studs). Measure where you want the box, mark its perimeter carefully on the drywall and make its cutout using a drywall saw.

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