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Recessed Can Light Installation Tips

Install Lighting Fixtures that Flush-Mount to the Ceiling; Save Money with LED Spotlights

© 2011 ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

Recessed Light Fixture in a Vaulted Ceiling

Today’s modern homes, at least the McMansions, are in many cases furnished with great rooms. These are large, open rooms with have atriums or vaulted ceilings. Many have monorail track lights or pendant lights to illuminate wall art, tables, and more.

Older homes and those built with a tighter budget tend to have industry standard 8-foot ceilings. In this case, recessed can lights offer a great look with more headroom.

Project Preparation and Tool List

Before getting started, you might want to review the way residential home wiring works. If your attic is properly insulated (and it certainly ought to be), you must purchase IC (Insulation Compatible) light fixtures. Using non-IC lights can result in overheating and present a dangerous fire hazard.
You will need:

  • A corded or cordless drill with a paddle bit
  • Klien Lineman’s pliers or equivalent
  • An electronic stud finder
  • A drywall or RotoZip spiral saw
  • Voltage tester
  • Safety glasses
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • Wire strippers
  • Ladder

Lay Out Your Desired Locations and Cut the Holes

  1. Decide (asking your spouse is highly recommended) where your fixtures will be located approximately. Use your stud finder to ensure that the complete can fixture will be between ceiling joists.

  2. Mark the holes on the ceiling with a pencil. A cardboard template should have come included with your lighting kit.

  3. Next cut out your holes using a RotoZip spiral saw or drywall saw. Always wear your safety glasses to keep dust out of your eyes; a disposable dust mask will keep it out of your mouth.

  4. If your can light will be snug against a ceiling joist, you might need to use your drill with a paddle bit to drill through it for the wire to pass through. This will keep it from binding.

Next, Prepare Your Electrical Connections

  1. First You’ll need to locate an electrical circuit to tie into. You should be able to find one in the attic, as most contractors will leave at least one bare bulb connection during construction. As with any electrical job always ensure the proper circuit breaker is off. Use your voltage tester to be sure you tripped the correct one.

  2. Next tie into your circuit with your new wire. Always verify the local electric building code to know what type of wiring is recommended. In most cases you’ll find this to be nonmetallic (NM) cable.

  3. Now feed your wire through the hole in your ceiling joist if you made one. Leave about 16” (40.64 cm) extending through the hole.

  4. Strip about 6” insulation off the end of the cable.

  5. Take the cover off your fixture junction box.

  6. Remove one of the knockouts (those round metal things, about the size of a quarter). Next slide the cable inside and clamp it down tight.

  7. Connect the wires using wire nuts (one brand name is Scotchlocks), black wire to black, white wire to white, and ground wire to ground.

Installing Your Recessed Light Fixture

  1. Look for and locate a mounting clip on each side of your fixture.

  2. Push the clips into the can. Push your junction box along with the can into the hole until your flange is flush with your ceiling.

  3. Using a screwdriver, poke the mounting clips upward and out. This serves to clamp your can securely to the drywall.

  4. If your particular light fixture is equipped with a socket that has two spring-type clips that attach to the trim ring, slip them into the notches now and secure it.

  5. Finally install your bulb and any remaining decorative trim. As for bulbs, it’s a matter of personal preference. You can use traditional incandescents, compact fluorescent bulbs, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), spotlights, etc. I like the newer dimmable LED spotlights.

    Yes, they’re expensive, but they last for years and are very energy efficient. Halogen bulbs produce a bright spot, but they generate a lot of heat.

Many homeowners opt to do the light installation themselves and put the money saved into the lights. But if you would prefer to have a local electrician or handyman do the work in question, I recommend Angie’s List—Ratings, reviews and sometimes revenge. See what local homeowners say about the service companies they hire. Join now.

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