#1 Home Improvement Retailer

Buying Guide

Recessed Lighting Buying Guide

Where to Place Recessed Lighting
A person installing a recessed light in the ceiling.

In new construction, recessed lighting is usually installed between ceiling joists, but you can retrofit recessed lighting almost anywhere in your home.


  • If your ceiling is insulated, the recessed light fixtures must be IC housing rated, meaning they are approved for use near insulation. 
  • Avoid recessed lighting in concrete ceilings or in ceilings with detailed plasterwork or moulding. Choose a chandelier instead. 
  • Place recessed lights about 3-feet away from the wall to avoid creating shadows that make your ceilings look lower. 
  • When spacing recessed lights, use this general rule of thumb: divide the height of the ceiling by two to get the distance the lights should be from one another. For example, an 8-foot tall ceiling should have recessed lights spaced 4-feet apart.  
  • Use recessed lights to illuminate focal points such as kitchen bars, bookshelves, paintings, statues and fireplaces.  
  • For task lighting, install recessed lighting directly overhead. Examples of task lighting include lighting for reading areas, stovetops and sinks. 
  • Install recessed lights under kitchen cabinets to have focused light on counters. 
Recessed Lighting Trims
A gimbal trim recessed light.

Recessed light trims refer to the part of the fixture that is visible from the outside. There are a variety of different trims available. 


Baffle trim 

  • The ridges on baffle trim recessed lights are designed to reduce glare from the recessed light bulbs.  
  • These are great for creating a softer glow and a reducing eye strain. 
  • This trim is recommended for the living room, entryways and foyers. 


Reflector trim 

  • The polished finish on reflector trim recessed lights amplify the light beam. 
  • These lights are brighter and more vibrant. 
  • This trim is recommended for kitchens and rooms with higher ceilings. 


Gimbal trim 

  • Gimbal trim recessed lights are designed to pivot and turn to offer directional light. 
  • They direct downlight exactly where you need it. 
  • This trim is ideal for accent walls and on sloped ceilings.  


Wall wash trim 

  • Like gimbal trim, wall wash recessed lights tilt and rotate, but these offer a greater range of motion. 
  • They offer directional light and are great for adding emphasis or highlighting a task. 
  • This trim is great highlighting artwork on gallery and display walls.  


Shower trim 

  • Shower trim recessed lights, also known as a ceiling mount trim, are wet location rated and resistant to moisture and corrosion.  
  • They feature a clean and understated design to blend in with your bathroom. 
  • This trim is specifically designed for installation above the bathtub and in shower stalls. 
Recessed Lighting Sizes
A size comparison of 4-inch, 5-inch and 6-inch recessed lights.

There is a range of recessed light sizes. To determine the size, measure the diameter of the cut-out opening in inches, not including the trim. 


Choose one that will accommodate the height of your ceiling or the size of your wall.


  • 4-inch and 5-inch fixtures are great in kitchens for providing overhead countertop lighting. 
  • 6-inch fixtures are most common for general lighting purposes. 
  • 7- to 9-inch fixtures will create a wider wash of light. 


Recessing Lighting Color and Temperature
A soft recessed light on the left compared to a daylight recessed light on the right.

Most recessed lighting fixtures come in three different color temperatures:

  

  • Soft: comfortable light with a warm glow 
  • Bright: refreshing light with a cool glow 
  • Daylight: designed to mimic natural light  


With custom installations, you can have tunable lighting that changes color or temperature as desired. Adjust the lights right from your smart phone or other device.  


Selectable lighting gives you the option to preset multiple temperatures before installation. 

Recessed Lighting by Room
A row of recessed lighting in a kitchen.

Recessed lighting can be a great addition to any room. The most popular rooms to install recessed lighting are the kitchen, bathroom and living room. This type of lighting is also commonly used in outdoor living spaces.

 

  • Kitchen recessed lighting options will vary according to the size of your space, but a reflector trim is highly recommended. Choose lights that are 4-inches or 5-inches in diameter to provide enough concentrated light for meal prep and cleanup. 
  • The best bathroom recessed lighting options are waterproof and designed for wet or moist locations. They will resist corrosion and are less likely to short circuit over time. 
  • Living room recessed lighting fixtures serve a variety of purposes. If you’re looking to display artwork or accent pieces, consider wall wash trim options. If your ceilings are sloped, choose lights with a sloped trim to accommodate the space. 
  • Outdoor recessed lighting is designed to stand up against the outdoor elements, including rain, storms and extreme temperatures. These are also available in multiple sizes and trims and with a whole host of unique features. 
LED Recessed Lighting
An open concept living room with three rows of ceiling recessed lighting.

While standard recessed lights are extremely energy efficient, integrated LED recessed lighting can operate for years before a bulb change is required. 


Integrated LED  

  • The LED bulbs in integrated LED lighting are built into the fixture.  
  • This all-in-one unit connects directly with the main lines or tracks.  
  • Professional installation is recommended for this kind of recessed lighting. 


LED retrofit  

  • An LED retrofit is used to add LED bulbs to your existing recessed lighting fixture.  
  • These kits convert your light cans to ones that are compatible with modern LED lights.  
  • DIY installation is simple, and instructions are easy to follow.   


Tip: If you plan to add LED bulbs to fixtures on a dimmer, you will need to replace the dimmer switch, and make sure to select dimmable LEDs.   

Recessed lighting can offer subtle, functional lighting that blends seamlessly into your decor, or it can help create striking focal points in your home, depending on your needs. Ready to find the best recessed light fixtures for you? Find products fast with image search in The Home Depot app. Snap a picture of an item you like and we'll show you similar products.