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Project Guide

How to Install Recessed Lighting

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Cut a Hole in the Ceiling: Option A
A person cuts a hole in the ceiling using a drywall saw.

Whether you’re installing recessed lights in new construction or remodeling a room, first plan your light placement. Then mark the planned locations before drilling or cutting any holes.

  • Use the template provided with your light kit to draw the outline for each opening. 
  • Use a stud finder to make sure the holes do not overlap a joist. 
  • Drill a 1/4-inch hole in the ceiling at the center of the planned opening.  
  • If necessary, go into the attic and make sure there are no wires, pipes or ductwork behind the planned opening.  
  • If the area above the ceiling is a finished space, you can insert a coat hanger or fish tape through hole to check for any obstructions. 
  • Cut the larger hole with a drywall saw and mark all light locations.  
  • Be careful not to snag any wires that may be in the ceiling cavity. 
Cut a Hole in the Ceiling: Option B
A drill with a hole-cutting attachment making a hole in drywall.

After taking the same precautions as above, use a power tool to make your cuts and save time.

  • Cut the hole with a drill with a hole-cutting attachment and mark all light locations.  
  • Make sure you do not snag any wires that may be in the ceiling cavity.
Rough-In the Wiring
A person running cable through a hole in the ceiling cavity.

If you have an existing light fixture that you are replacing, disconnect it before you begin the process of how to wire recessed lights.


  • Run NM-B cable from the power source to a switch box and then to the first hole, allowing at least 18-inches of extra cable to make wiring easy.  
  • Run cable from the first hole to the second hole, then from the second to the third, continuing to the last recessed light location.
Wire the Light
A person switching a fuse at an electrical box.
  • Open the light’s junction box.  
  • Run cables into the box and clamp them.  
  • Use wire stripper to strip a few inches of the cable’s insulation to reveal the interior wires.  
  • Next use the wire stripper to remove about 1/2-inch of insulation from each wire.  
  • Connect like-colored wires using UL-approved wire connectors. Always match black to black, white to white and ground to ground (ground wires may be bare copper or have green insulation). 
  • Fold the wires carefully into the box and replace the cover.
Mount the Light
A person pressing the recessed light housing into the hole in the ceiling.
  • Most models of recessed light housing have four clips that clamp the can to the ceiling by pushing down on top of the drywall.  
  • Pull the clips in so they do not protrude outside the can.  
  • Slip the can’s box into the hole, and then push the can body up into the hole until its flange is tight to the ceiling.  
  • With your thumb, push each clip up and outward until it clicks and clamps the light fixture. 
Add the Trim
A person connecting recessed lighting trim to the recessed light housing.

Most recessed light trims are mounted with coil springs or squeezable rod springs.


  • If you have coil springs, hook each spring to its assigned hole inside the can.  
  • Pull out each spring and hook it to the trim, then carefully guide the trim into position.  
  • If you have rod springs, squeeze and insert both ends of each spring into their assigned holes.  
  • Push the trim up into position. 
Install Light Bulbs
A person installing a light bulb into a recessed light.

Once you have completed the trim, simply add the light bulbs you like. Then turn the power back on and check to be sure the lights are working.  

Safety: Do not exceed the total wattage of the circuit. For example, if your previous light fixture on this circuit used five 75-watt bulbs, then a safe wattage is 375-watts total (5 x 75 = 375). If you wanted to exceed this, consult a licensed electrician to determine how much of a load the circuit can accommodate. 

Knowing how to install recessed lighting gives you the freedom to brighten your home however you want. Recessed lights are versatile and subtle, making them a great addition to any room. Need help identifying a tool or material for installing recessed lighting? Find products fast with image search in The Home Depot Mobile App. Snap a picture of an item you like and we'll show you similar products.