How To Install Recessed Ceiling Lights

A step in how to install recessed ceiling lights

Recessed lights are one of the most popular indoor lighting ideas. They’re classy, minimalistic, and brighten rooms very well.

Installing recessed lighting can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and instructions, it can be a breeze. In this blog post, we’ll provide you with all the information you need on how to install recessed ceiling lights.

Keep reading to learn the process for installing recessed lighting.

How To Install Recessed Ceiling Lights

In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of installing recessed lights. We’ll cover everything from choosing the right recessed lighting fixtures to wiring and insulation. We’ll also provide tips and advice along the way, so you can feel confident about completing this project on your own.

So whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or a first-time homeowner, this blog post has got you covered on installing your own recessed lights.

Let’s get started!




2-4 hours


About $30-$70 per light

Room with recessed ceiling lights


  • Multimeter or voltage tester
  • Drill with a hole saw bit
  • Drywall saw
  • Stud-finder
  • Wire stripper
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Electrical tape
  • Dust mask
  • Eye protection
  • Tape measure
  • Stepladder
  • Screwdriver
  • Work gloves with rubber grip


  • Non-metallic sheathed cable (NM or NMC) wire
  • Recessed light fixture
  • Light bulbs
  • Wire nuts

*You can use recessed LED lights to get better, longer-lasting light

How To Install Recessed Ceiling Lights: Project Overview And Safety Precautions

Whether you’re trying to light up a dark room or add a touch of elegance to your home décor, installing recessed lighting is a great option.

However, before you start the installation, it’s important to take a bird’s eye view of your recessed lights project, as well as review any safety precautions.

How To Install Recessed Ceiling Lights: Fixture Sizes

Recessed ceiling light fixture

Recessed ceiling lights (also known as can lights, canister lights, pot lights, or downlights) come in various sizes, so it’s important that you get the right size for your project.

The most common size for recessed lights is 6 inches. These recessed lights are ideal for use in rooms with lower ceilings, as they won’t take up too much space.

However, if you’re looking to add a bit of drama to a room, you may want to opt for 8-inch recessed lights instead. These lights will provide more light and will give the room a more open feel.

For rooms with very high ceilings, 10-inch lights may be the best option. These lights will provide plenty of light while still maintaining a sleek look.

When it comes to the layout of your recessed lighting, one rule of thumb to keep in mind is to space your lights according to their bulb size. For example, a 6-inch recessed ceiling light bulb should be spaced about 6 feet from the next light.

This will ensure that your space is well-lit without being overwhelmingly bright. You should also ensure that any recessed lighting you install is at least 2 feet away from any walls.

How To Install Recessed Ceiling Lights: Measure. Then Measure Again

As the old saying goes, “Measure twice, cut once.” This is especially crucial when you are cutting holes in your ceiling. Whether you are installing one light or a dozen, we recommend taking multiple measurements and making a template so that you can cut perfect holes in your ceiling. 

Manufacturer’s Recessed Lighting Installation Instructions

Read the instructions for how to install recessed lighting thoroughly before getting started. While most recessed lights share the same basic design, there are small variations between manufacturers. Also, be sure to check your local building codes for any requirements or restrictions regarding recessed light installation.

Safety Precautions

There several essential safety precautions you should take before installing most types of light fixtures:

  • Turn off the power to the circuit that you’ll be working on
  • Use a voltage tester to confirm that the circuit is indeed off
  • Verify that the places in the existing ceiling where you will be cutting the holes are an appropriate distance from any ceiling joists
  • Make sure you understand the amp rating for each light fixture and that you are wiring them to a circuit that can handle the power demand
  • Use eye protection and a dust mask when cutting your ceiling holes. You don’t want to inhale drywall dust or have insulation from your attic fall into your eyes

Once you’ve taken these precautions, you’re ready to begin your recessed lighting installation.

Step 1: Cut A Hole In The Ceiling

Cutting a hole in the ceiling for a recessed light

The first step in the process of how to install recessed ceiling lights is to cut an opening in the ceiling drywall for each light fixture. Remember to use the stud-finder to locate the ceiling joists and avoid them.

Use a drill with the hole saw bit to make the initial openings, then use the drywall saw to make the hole bigger if need be. Be sure to wear a dust mask and eye protection while doing so.

Step 2: Rough-In The Wiring Into The Ceiling Hole

Once you’ve cut the hole, feed your non-metallic sheathed cable (NM or NMC) wires through it so that they’re hanging down from the ceiling inside the recessed light housing.

If your recessed light is going to be on a circuit with other lights, make sure to twist all of the white wires together and all of the black wires together before continuing to the next step. Otherwise, you will need to attach the wire to its own circuit.

Step 3: Wire The Light

Ceiling light wires

Now it’s time to attach the wire to the recessed light. Use a wire stripper to remove a few inches of the insulation from each wire. Connect same-colored wires together using needle-nose pliers and the appropriate wire nuts.

Inside the recessed light housing, there will be a metal plate with screws or quick-connect clamps. Use this plate to secure all of your white wires together and all of your black wires together. Make sure all connections are tight so that there is no risk of electrical shorts.

You should also ensure that all of the bare copper grounding wires are secured together. (Ground wires are also sometimes covered with green insulation.)

Step 4: Mount The Light In The Ceiling Hole

Push the light fixture up into the ceiling hole. Note that most recessed lights feature clips that secure the fixture to the ceiling by attaching it to the inside top of the ceiling drywall.

Simply push each clip until you hear a click. The light fixture should feel like it’s securely clamped to the drywall.

Step 5: Install The Recessed Light Trim

Some recessed ceiling lights already have trim attached to the housing. However, if your recessed light does not have preattached trim, it’s a simple process to install the trim.

Typically the recessed light trims feature rod springs or coil springs as attachments. Check with the individual manufacturers’ instructions on how to attach the recessed light trim for each of these styles. Typically, it’s simply a matter of hooking each spring to its appropriate anchor point and carefully pushing the trim into place.

Step 6: Insert The Correct Light Bulb

Installing a new light bulb

Go ahead and screw in your new light bulbs, making sure that they are the correct wattage for your fixtures. Remember not to touch the light bulbs with your bare hands, as this could shorten their lifespan. We recommend wearing work gloves with a rubber grip.

Step 7: Attach The Wire To The Circuit Breaker Panel

Run the electrical cable into the circuit breaker panel. Most recessed lighting should connect to a 15-amp circuit, but you should still verify you are not exceeding the maximum wattage for a particular circuit by checking your recessed ceiling light packaging.

Attach the wire to the circuit breaker and then attach the circuit breaker to an open slot in the electric service panel.

Step 8: Test Your Light

Turn the power back on and check to see if your new recessed ceiling light is working. If it is working, congratulations! You have successfully completed the process for how to install recessed ceiling lights. If not, don’t worry–simply check all of your connections and try again. 

If it’s still not working, you should probably call a professional electrician.

When You Should Call A Licensed Electrician Before Installing Recessed Lighting

It’s always a good idea to consult with a professional before attempting any electrical work. For example, if your home’s electrical panel is not up-to-date with current code requirements, you may need an electrician to repair and upgrade it before installing recessed lights. Licensed electricians have the tools and experience necessary to ensure that the job is done safely and correctly.

That being said, if you are a competent do-it-yourselfer with basic electrical systems knowledge, you should be fine handling this “how to install recessed ceiling lights” project on your own.

However, if you are not sure about any aspect of this project, you should definitely enlist the help of a licensed electrician.

Blue Sky Electric Can Upgrade Your Lighting System

Now that you know how to install recessed ceiling lights, why not take on the project yourself? It’s a great way to save some money and get bragging rights for a job well done.

But if you’re not feeling confident about your electrical skills, no problem. That’s what we’re here for. Just give us a call or fill out our contact form and one of our licensed electricians will be happy to help with your recessed lighting installation!