Recessed Lighting: Installation & Cost Guide

In our recessed lighting guide, you will find all details in regard to recessed lighting installation, cost as well as free contractor quotes.

Recessed lights can give your room a new stunning outlook. Not only do they create a cool, warm ambiance, recessed lights also have a glow that makes a room appear so cozy and inviting. Installing recessed lights in a room can be the little magic that brings out the spectacular, elegant outlook. These type of lighting might be all it takes to transform and illuminate a dull looking living to a stylish one without cluttering it.

Recessed lights, also referred to as pot light or can lights are lighting fixtures that are installed into small cylindrical holes in your ceiling and walls. They consist of three parts which include the housing, trim and the bulb.

The housing hosts the fixture, and it’s usually not visible from the surface as it’s hidden inside the ceiling or the wall. It’s the one that has the electrical connections to the light fixture and holds the trim and the bulb. The trim is the decorative portion that you see from the ceiling while the bulb provides lights.

Recessed lights are considered to versatile lighting fixtures. You can use them as a source of general lighting in your home, or as task lights especially under the cabinets or for accent lighting. These lights are ideal for lighting a bigger room, or hallways and corridors. Generally, these lights can practically be used in any room in your home including the kitchen, bathroom, in the living room and even in the office.

Types of Recessed Lights-Housing

The housing is the fixture that holds the lights, i.e., the bulb, electrical wires and the trim and it’s usually positioned above the ceiling. In short, the housing its the light fixture. The housing is classified into two categories:

  1. IC Rated
  2. Non-IC Rated

These two categories can further be classified according to installation method. It’s essential to know the different styles of the housing so that you can settle for the style that best suits need and your home.

IC Rated Housing/Insulation Contact

This type of housing is designed to be in direct contact with ceiling’s insulation. Since they are installed in an insulated ceiling, these type of recessed lights housing is designed to take in heat buildup coming from the insulation.

The IC-rated housing lighting source should be positioned near the trim to enhance and increase its glare. The IC-rated housing lights are designed with double can style, where one metal can is installed above the other one. The outer can is the one that is usually in direct contact with insulation, and it doesn’t heat up. Instead, it stays cool enough to prevent any chances of combustion. Most of them are rated at 75 watts which is the maximum.

Non-IC Housing Rated Fixtures

This type of housing is ideal for ceilings that are not insulated. They only have one can, and the heat usually disperses through the air cavities without causing any harm. Even though they are attached to ceiling joists, the Non-IC housing fixtures are rated for up to 150 watts. Since they allow heat to dissipate through the open air cavities, this type of lighting fixture can use high voltage bulbs.

You are most likely to find non-IC housing rated fixtures in first-floor ceilings. This is because there is no insulation between the ceiling and the top floor of the house.

Sloped Ceilings

This kind of housing is designed to accommodate sloped ceilings. The sloped ceilings housing has space to allow the light fixture to be angled in the slope of the ceiling. The cans a made in such a way that one side of the housing is longer than the other side to fit into the slope.

You have to get the right measurements and the pitch of the ceiling to be able to choose the correct size of the sloped ceiling housing.

New Construction Housing

The new construction housing is usually used in new houses and remodels. They are installed when you can easily access the ceiling structure or the ceiling joints through the attic. The new construction housing is installed directly to the ceiling joists where they are screwed or nailed to the joists.

Remodel Housing

Remodel housing is ideal where the existing ceiling has little space that doesn’t allow access to the ceiling joists. They are designed with clips that make it possible to attach the light fixtures to the ceiling drywall.

Airtight Housing

The airtight housing is designed in a way that minimizes the flow of air between the conditioned room below the lights and the unconditioned space above that lights which is usually the attic areas.

Types of Recessed Lighting Trims

The trim acts as decorative part of the recessed light fixtures. It enhances the aesthetics of the room and generally defines the environment around the lights. It’s a metal or plastic disc that sits flat on the ceiling. They conceal the housing of the light fixture and hide it behind them. The trim also shapes and directs the beam of the illuminating light. When you look at the lighting fixture, the outer ring you see in the ceiling is the extension of the trim inside the housing.

Since the trim is the one that defines the decorative aspect of your lighting fixtures, it’s essential to choose one that defines your style better. There are several types of trim, and each them directs and casts its light differently into the surrounding space.

Here are different types of recessed lighting trims:

Baffle Trim

This is the most popular type of trims used in most residential homes. It has concentric ridges that are designed to reduce the glare from the recessed lighting. The bulb fits perfectly inside the fixture, and it’s ridged to ensure that it traps and directs the light in a shaped manner.

Reflector Trims

Just like the baffle trim, the bulb is fitted inside, but instead of being ribbed inside they have a smooth surface. The smooth mirrored surface allows for maximum illumination, and some fixtures are usually tinted.

Open Trim

The bulb is positioned in flush with the ceiling, and they are considered to be a more low profile. This type of trim provides unrestricted illumination to its surroundings from the bulb.

Eyeball Trims

These type of trim lighting offers you an opportunity to direct or pivot the light to where you want it to illuminate. It works best for accent lighting or task lighting. It can pivot to a range of 30° tilt and a rotate to about 359°.

Gimbal Trims
Works almost the same as the eyeball trim except that the bulb does not protrude below the housing such that when they pivot the housing tends to block a bit of its lighting. They have the same range of motion as the eyeball trims but, since the housing cuts off some of its beams, they do not illuminate the same as the eyeball trims.

Wall – Wash Trims

They have a shield that covers half of the light like an eyelid. The cover restricts the direction of the light to a specific spot especially when directed to the wall. This type of is ideal when you want to highlight a specific feature such as a painting on the wall.

Pin Whole Trim

The shape of the trim narrows the light to appear as a tight beam from a concealed source. It can be used to spotlight specific area or item.

Shower Trim/Lensed Trims

They are covered with a plastic or glass lens that protects the bulb. They are ideal for wet locations such as bathrooms where they can be installed over the shower.

Decorative Trims

These are designed with different shapes and finishes to suit any preferred style. They are made from a combination of glass and metal to bring out an intricate decorative look.

Factors to Consider Before Installing Recessed Lighting

Before you decide to install recessed lights in your home, there are a few factors that you need to put into consideration. Recessed lights illuminate an area in different ways, and it’s essential to figure out what you want the lights to do for you and where to locate them. The guide gives you factors to consider when planning to install these types of lights in your home.

The Type of the Recessed Lights

When it comes to recessed lights, you can either go for LED trims or install the trim and light bulb combination. The LED trims come as a complete unit that consists of a trim, LED chips, and a lens and they all fit in a housing or a can. The LED trims do not have a separate light bulb and trim.

The sealed appearance makes them very attractive, and they do not require screws to be installed. They are designed with a screw-based adapter for installation and retrofitting. This comes as an advantage as most energy restrictions codes are now against screw-based fixtures and are advocating for plug-in fixtures for high efficiency.

Size of the Recessed Lights

Regardless of the type you choose, recessed lights are available in sizes that range from 4 to 7 inches in diameter. The best way to decide the size of recessed lights to install is to consider the size of the area you intend to light and, the height of the ceiling from the place you want to light. For example, a 4-inch fixture can work well for an 8-inch ceiling and task lighting especially in the kitchen countertops. The 4-inch fixture also works perfectly with accent lighting.

A 6-inch fixture works well for the dining area for it will illuminate the area sufficiently. If you have a 10-inch ceiling, you might have to consider using a 4-inch fixture to illuminate the area and allow the light to spread out more evenly. Since 6″ fixtures tend to be very popular compared to other sizes, they are available in many designs and styles. This gives you more options to choose the trim that best defines your taste and style.

Number of lights and Where to light

Most people tend to think that brighter lights translate to more lighting and fewer lights. However, when it comes to recessed lights, the spacing and location of the lights contribute a lot to the quality of lighting and brightness. It doesn’t matter how bright the light is, if it’s badly positioned, it will not illuminate well as expected.

The number of lights and spacing will depend on what you want to light. Recessed lights provide general lighting, and they are also ideal for task and accent lighting. For general lighting or task lighting, you can space the lights at 40″ to 80″. This spacing can also apply in hallways and corridors.

Light Bulbs

When planning to install recessed lights, it’s essential to consider the type the bulb to use. The screw in bulbs can fit in fluorescent, halogen, incandescent and LED light bulbs. When choosing the light bulbs, it’s essential to note that aspects such as wattage, color temperature, lumens will affect and influence the quality of the light in the room.

Halogen and LED lights are known to be the most common types of bulbs available for recessed lights. Not only are LED lights energy efficient, but they are also warm, intense and cool to touch. They fit into all characteristics of the other types of bulbs.

If you want a warm effect and general lighting especially for a living room, the incandescent bulbs will work better. If you prefer a combination of color and warmth, you can use the florescent lights. The halogen bulbs provide intense lighting and often work well for small areas. However, it’s essential to observe the wattage and always make sure you stay within the recommended wattage of your fixture.

Controlling the Lights

Another factor to consider is how you want to control recessed lights in a room. Would you want to dim, or operate with just a few of them? Would you prefer to turn on all the lights using one switch or would it be better for you if you were able to control each set separately?

For living room or other larger rooms, it would be more convenient to use the lights in separate zones that can be controlled differently. For example, you have different zones of lights in your master bedroom you can have recessed lights above the bed that can be switched on separately without lighting the entire bedroom space.

You can also consider installing dimmers to be able to control the amount lighting in a room. Dimmers also help you achieve a cozy ambiance with a warm, soft glow, and they are relatively inexpensive.

Also, when installing the controls, it’s essential to factor in where you will locate them. It is more practical to position them at the entrance and the exit of the room. For larger rooms or for rooms that have two or more points of entry, you should install the controls at each point of entry. It wouldn’t be practical if someone has to walk from one end of the room to the other in the dark to locate the switch. Basically, this would beat the sense of the lights in the first place. Therefore, the location of the controls should be well-thought out and more convenient for the user.

Do you want to control them using a remote? Or would you prefer an automated system? To be able to achieve this, you will have to choose fixtures that can fit in LED bulbs, incandescent or halogen. The fluorescent bulbs are usually not dimmable, so the cannot be controlled using a remote.

Recessed Light Finishes and Color

What kind of finishing do you want your recessed lights to achieve? The finishing you go for should maximize the reflection while at the same time eliminate or minimize excess and unwanted brightness and glare.

In addition, the existing finishes in the room should be your cue to the kind of finishes you want your recessed lights to achieve. The color of your trims can have a significant influence on the output of the lights. For example, the dark colors tend to absorb the light and can contribute to the loss in light output at a certain percentage.

For example, if the hardware in your cabinets and your door handles are finished with silver undertones, you can choose a trim that will best reflect and compliment the finish. You can also choose white trim to allow the fixtures to blend in with your ceiling. Below are some of the commonly used finishes:

  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Nickel
  • White
  • Gold
  • Copper
  • Black
  • Chrome/clear

The beauty about recessed lighting fixtures is that you can always change the trim and replace it with another that has a different finish and style without installing a new housing.

Cost of Recessed Lights and Installation

Recessed light fixtures play a significant role in your home not only as a source of light but by creating a sense of warmth and ambiance in the surrounding environment. Recessed lights illuminate your space without creating clutter or interfering with the existing décor. In fact, if well positioned with the right finishes, the recessed lights can define your style better if they blend in with the theme and style of your home.

The cost of recessed light varies depending on various factors, but generally, the average cost ranges from $80 to $200. This price comprises of the bulbs which cost around $6 to $25. The cost of the bulb depends on whether they are for interior or external use. Even though recessed lights provide the same brightness as other lights, they do so at a much lower undertone.

Description Average cost
Basic recessed lights$18-$65 per light
Trim and bulbs$6-$45
Low voltage recessed lights$70-$160 each
Outdoor recessed lights models $145-$$200 per light
Light bulbs$25-$75
Housing $8-$50
Cost of material and supplies for recessed light installation such as connectors, fasteners, junction box, fittings etc. $8-$10
DIY lighting kit$20

Cost of Installing Recessed Lights

Installing recessed lights can be a DIY project although you have to factor in risk factors of working with electrical elements. Also, remember you have to work with a ladder to reach the ceiling and drill holes that have to pathed after installation. These are risk factors that you have to put into consideration before you embark on a DIY project of installing recessed lights.

Alternatively, you can hire an electrician to do the installation for you. An electrician will charge you an average cost of $45 to $ 115 to install a single fixture of recessed lights. As a homeowner, you should expect to spend an average cost of $770 to $2500 for a new recessed lighting installation in the interior of your home. You will further spend an extra $70 to $140 per light for wiring the lights.

To install lights in a single room, like the bathroom or the kitchen, it will cost an average of $970 if done by a professional. Installation of recessed lights takes time, and a professional has to work their way around the small ceiling space overhead.

If the electrician has to do the extra work of getting rid of obstacles such other wires, heating ducts and joists, you will be charged around $220 per light or more depending on the number of obstacles.

However, the cost of installation discussed above is based on new wiring to accommodate the lights. This takes into account the fact that you are introducing new lighting fixtures that require a different system of lighting and wiring. In short, the area will require new wiring that was initially not there. If the place is already wired, the cost of installing the lights will be significantly lower.

Before an electrician installs recessed light fixtures in your home, they will inspect your home to evaluate your ceiling and the wiring system. From their findings, they will recommend the most suitable recessed lights to install and come up with a pattern on how your lights will be positioned and spaced in the room. They will also identify the right places to position the switches.

Professional installationAverage cost
Installing a single fixture of recessed lights$45-$115
Installing an recessed lights in the entire house$770-$2500
Installing a lighting fixture on a sloped ceiling or between floors$130-$150
Rewiring a home$10,500
Moving obstacles e.g. wires, heat ducts etc. $220 per light

Factors That Influence the Cost of Installing Recessed Lights

Some factors that will influence the total cost installing recessed lights in your home include:

The Cost of Light Fixtures

The cost of the light fixture you choose to install can affect the overall cost of installation. The basic recessed lights cost about $18 to $65 per light. However, there are high-end ones that can cost over $100 each. The cost will boil down to the number of fixtures you require and the cost of the type of the fixture you choose. For example, if you go for scones and pendants or the elegant, beautiful accent lights, you will spend more than you would if you bought the ordinary basic lights.


Wiring is the highest cost factor that will influence the cost of installing recessed light fixture. If you initially had the wiring done for the existing lights, you can use the same wiring for installing the recessed lights in which case the cost will be substantially lower. However, this might not be the case with the older homes which might have a wring system that might not be compatible with the type of lights you plan to install.

If the existing wire is old, or fabric insulted as it is with some older homes, the electrician will replace the wiring and use one that meets the current code standards before they install recessed lights. The average cost of rewiring an entire home comes to about $10,500. The process of rewiring your home to accommodate the new lights will take more time and it’s more expensive.

Installing Recessed Lights Through DIY

It’s critical to note that tackling the installation of recessed lights as DIY is not recommended unless you have extensive knowledge and experience in handling and working with electrical elements and wiring. If you know the electrical safety protocols, you can carry with DIY and save a substantial amount of money on installation of recessed lights by slashing off the labor costs.

In addition to being proficient with electrical safety protocols, you need to find out about the permits that are required for installing recessed lights. Find out from your local authority for any building codes requirements.

To start the process of installing recessed lights on your own, you need to purchase a lighting kit from your local home improvement store that goes for about $20 or even more. The installation kit comes with instructions on how to go about the installation of recessed lights. Make sure you follow them as indicated.

Here is a quick overview of DIY recessed light installation:

Tools required

  • Dry wall saw
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers


  • Inspect your ceiling space and identify the preferred location for your fixtures. Ensure that the power is turned off from the home’s main circuit. Use a tester to confirm that there is no power supply.
  • Look for the old breaker panel and disconnect power. Using a saw, cut the joists attached to the junction box and remove it from the ceiling above. Remove the old light fixture.
  • Measure the hole using the paper template in the ceiling where the new lighting will be installed. Drill a hole of about 1/4 inch using the drywall saw and make sure the surface is smooth as possible. This the hole that will be used to install the recessed lights.
  • Start by opening the junction box to secure wires coming out from the ceiling by clamping them. Make sure you leave enough of the wire to move it when necessary easily. Remove the plastic insulation from the wires. Cap the wires using wire connectors by pairing them together.
  • Take the housing and carefully and insert it o the drilled hole and clip it on. Make sure the housing is firmly settled in by pushing the clips in using pliers.
  • Once you have mounted the housing, attach the trim pieces to the housing.
  • Proceed to screw the bulbs
  • Turn on the power to test if the lights are working

If you followed the instructions on the kit carefully, your lights should be working once you turn on the power. In case they don’t, consider calling an electrician to come and evaluate the situation.

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Advantages of Installing Recessed Lights

Recessed lights have become more popular among homeowners and all for good reasons. Here are benefits of installing can/recessed lights for lighting and illuminating your home:

Create an illusion of space

Since recessed lights are usually embedded into the ceiling, it makes them almost invisible. This creates an illusion of bigger space. Unlike the hanging lights, recessed lights are unobtrusive because they do not hang down to create a visual interruption.

In addition, these types of lights have a minimalist feel, which creates a clutter-free environment leaving your ceiling and room, in general, looking clean spaced and organized. They also produce a soft and subtle glow that tends to blur the corners and the boundaries of the room and as a result, make it appear bigger and more spacious.


Recessed lights virtually hang from nothing. They require very little support, and they do not have to be secured to ceiling joists. All you need for the unit to be complete is the housing, trim and bulb. The lightweight nature of recessed lights makes them easy to work with, and also, they bring a clean and less bulky effect in the room.

Accent Lighting

One of the best thing about recessed lights is the accent lighting effect. If you want to highlight something on the wall like a special design or a painting, you can cast a light to the wall or the object to achieve a better focus. Recessed lights produce a soft glow that highlights all sides of object making it stand out in the light and draw attention to it naturally.

Aesthetic Appeal

There is so much you can do with recessed to achieve decorative styles that best defines your home. The trim and the lighting come in all kinds of colors that can define and upgrade your room to any style of your choice. The dimming effect can be used to achieve a cozy and comfortable ambiance with a soft romantic lighting effect. Since they also come in different shapes, designs, and colors, these lights can be used to enhance a room in a decorative way creating a unique aesthetic appeal.


Recessed lights are versatile, and they can be used for different lighting purposes. For example, if you are reading a book or working in the kitchen, these lights can allow enough light in the area you working on for you to be able to see what you are doing. They are perfect when it comes to task lighting which makes them more efficient and less obtrusive.

They Can Be Used In Wet Areas

This the one benefit that makes recessed lights stand out from the rest. They are the only lights that can be installed in wet and water- intensive areas and still function effectively. You can install these lights above the shower or in the shower stalls.

Total Lighting Coverage

The normal hanging lights when located in the center of the room usually light and illuminate the middle area well, but toward the edge of the perimeter of the room, the light seems to fade with little illumination. However, if you space recessed lights appropriately, they will illuminate the entire room uniformly without any shadows.

Ideal for Low Ceilings

Recessed lights are ideal for rooms with low ceiling height such as the basement. If you use the hanging lights for rooms with low ceiling height, they will graze your head as you pass below them or block the visual space and make the room look too crowded. Recessed lights will leave your ceiling space just as it was before their installation. In fact, the lighting effect will make the room appear spacious, and you will hardly notice the small ceiling height.


Recessed lighting is a form of lighting where lighting fixtures are embedded and installed in the ceiling. They consist of a housing, trim and the bulb. The housing is a piece that holds the trim and the bulb and it’s mounted on the ceiling.

These types of lights are versatile in their uses, and they can be used for all sorts of lighting needs. They can be used for general lighting, task lighting, accent lighting and are ideal for wet areas and sloped ceilings.

Additionally, recessed lights are available in an array of colors and designs which can be used to create a nice effect in a room. They can be dimmed to provide the appropriate amount of light or just to achieve a cozy, romantic ambiance. Compared to other lighting features, recessed lights are unobtrusive, neat clean and efficient.

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