What You’ll Need
Aside from the cans and the trim pieces, pick up these tools and materials at a super market:
- You’ll need a drywall saw $5 to cut out holes for the cans.
- When choosing locations for recessed lights, the easiest way to find out exactly where the joists in your ceiling are is with an electronic stud finder.
- An electrical test light is basically a little light bulb attached to two metal probes. Use it to make sure the power’s off before you ever touch a bare wire.
- The electrical cable you buy must be the same gauge as the existing cable you’re connecting to. Most likely, you’ll need “14-2” cable (the cable contains two 14-gauge wires plus a ground). But before you connect new wires to existing wires, hold them side by side. If they’re not the same gauge, you’ll see the difference.
Note: Electrical cable is often referred to by the brand name “Romex.”
To secure all wire connections, you’ll need Wire-nuts. * Whenever cables enter junction boxes, they must be secured by cable clamps five for $2.
If you’re going to fish cables through joists, you’ll need protector plates) and drywall clips. You’ll also need drywall screws $2 and joint compound.
Chances are, your entire ceiling will need a paint job by the time you’re done too.
Lift the can into the ceiling opening. Different cans use different methods of mounting. This one has built-in clips that lock onto the drywall.
Install the trim pieces, screw in light bulbs and you’re done! Tip: If you’re going to touch up the ceiling or give it a complete paint job, do it before you install the trim.
- Mark the openings for the cans using the manufacturer’s template. Then drill a 1/8-in. hole in the ceiling and probe the cavity above with a clothes hanger to make sure there are no obstructions that will prevent the installation of a light. Remember: Cans must be at least 1/2 in. from joints, braces or anything else the can burn.
- Cut light openings with a drywall saw. Cutting drywall makes a dusty mess, so cover the floor and furniture with dropcloths, and wear eye protection and a dust mask.
- Run cable from the power source-in this case, the junction box where the old light fixture was–to the nearest light opening. Then continue to run lengths of cable from that opening to the next and the next. Make sure you leave at least 16 in. of cable dangling down from each opening. In spots where the cable must cross joists, cut 5 x 5-in. access holes in the drywall and chisel notches in the josts just deep enough for the cable.
- Cover the cable running through joists with protector plates. then reinstall the original piece of drywall using drywall clips, and patch with joint compound.
- Make connections at the power source and at each can, securing all connections with WireNuts.
Buying Recessed Lights
You’ll find recessed lights (we suggest you begin your shopping at a lighting showroom) where you’ll find a wider selection and a more knowledgeable staff. There are three questions you need to answer before shopping:
1) Do you need standard or remodeling cans?
2) Which type of can is best for your situation?
I.C. (Insulated Ceiling) cans cost around $20 and can be completely buried in insulation, which makes them much easier to install in attics.
Non-I.C. sometimes cost a bit less, but must be at least 3 in. from any insulation. That’s not a problem if there’s living space above, but in attics it means assembling a small structure that holds the insulation away from the can. To avoid this hassle, we recommend you don’t use non-I.C. cans in insulated spaces.
Airtight cans cost around $30, can be covered with insulation and don’t allow heated or cooled air to escape into your attic. Supported by studies showing substantial energy savings, some building codes now require the use of airtight cans.
Important: Whatever type of can you buy, make sure it’s UL-listed.
3) Which style trim pieces will give you the desired lighting effect?
- Downlights, which cost $15 and up, form a cone-shaped beam of light shining down from the ceiling. A 100-watt downlight will illuminate an area roughly equal to the height of the ceiling; that is, a light in an 8-ft. ceiling will cast an 8-ft.-dia. circle of light on the floor.
- Wall washers begin at about $20 and cast an arc of light down a wall, accenting a painting or fireplace, or softly lighting a room.
- Eyeballs, which cost $25 and up, have a protruding, movable port that lets you focus a spotlight on a coutertop, desk or your favorite Bart Simpson doll.