Choosing the right recessed lightinglayout requires careful planning. The final result should be a well-lit room that is useful, comfortable and has the right ambiance. This guide will show you the basics of how to lay out recessed lighting. Get even more help with recessed lighting with our handy planning tool. Click here to download.
Tip: Using a recessed lighting kit can make the entire process easier. All the materials you need for multiple light installations are grouped together in one box.
Determine Your Lighting Application
When planning your recessed lighting layout, the first step is to determine your end goal. Think about the function the light will serve.
There are four main purposes for lighting:
- General lighting: Bright, even light pattern that illuminates overall room or area
- Accent and task lighting: Bright, focused light to highlight a single small area
- Wall wash: Emphasizes a wide vertical surface, such as a wall with a fireplace or large wall art
- Specialty lighting: Specific trims, typically for wet locations such as a shower or steam room.
The recessed lighting housing type you need is based on the type of installation you’ll be doing. New construction housing should be used if the ceiling is accessible. If the ceiling is not accessible, you must use remodel housing. For example, if you have a drop ceiling, you would use remodel housing. Additionally, if the housing will be in direct contact with insulation, you must use IC-rated housing. If you're using non-IC housing, insulation must be at least 3 inches away from all sides of the housing.
Beyond that, the size and recessed lighting trim style of your housing comes down to a matter of preference and the lighting effect you’d like to achieve.
Recessed lighting housing is available in three sizes:
- 6-inch: The most common size, 6-inch recessed lighting housing can be used for all applications.
- 5-inch: This size housing fits more tightly around the bulb. It can be used for all lighting applications.
- 3-inch/4-inch: The smallest sizes of housing are used mainly for small areas.
Recessed lighting trim styles vary.
- Reflector styles maximize light output.
- Baffle styles minimizes glare. The baffle style is most popular.
- Eyeball styles provide adjustable directional lighting.
- Open styles offer an economical option with an appealing finished look.
- Lens styles diffuse the light and shield the lamp. This style is used for closets, porches and shower lights.
Sketch a Room Plan
Take the measurements of your room. Then sketch the general dimensions of the space on grid paper. Be sure to mark the placement of items such as workspaces, counters, shelves and furniture. If you want to light a wall hanging or other artwork, add it to the sketch.
Make the room's focal point the start of your recessed lighting layout plan. Your focal point might be a kitchen workspace or a painting on the wall. Build your plan outward from there. If you don’t have a specific focal point, simply start your lighting plan from the center of the room.
Calculate Lighting Placement
Figuring out recessed lighting spacing requires a bit of measuring and some simple math. A good general rule for placement is to divide the height of the ceiling by two. The result is the amount of space to leave between each light.
For example, recessed lighting spacing for a room with an 8-foot-high ceiling would be 4 feet between each light. This will provide good spacing for general room lighting. Remember that ideal light placement can differ from room to room.
Proper placement of recessed lighting in a kitchen may require a more creative layout, since much of the light needed there is task oriented. Counter areas can be downlit to provide light and create minimal shadows for people working in the space. Try aiming the lights toward the edges of counters so the light pools ahead of where a person would normally stand. Leaving about 14 to 18 inches of space between the light cannisters and the cabinets will also help avoid lost light in a kitchen.
Knowing how to lay out recessed lighting is the first step in upgrading the lights in your home. Think about what purpose your new lights will serve. Then make a quick drawing of the room where the lights will go. Then make some measurements in the room to figure out the best lighting placement. Once you have a solid plan in place, you can choose the type of recessed lights that will work best.
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