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How to Install Recessed Lighting in Kitchens

by Glyn Sheridan

Recessed kitchen lighting

Things You Need:

  • Can lights
  • Electric drill
  • Hole saw
  • Wire stripper

Recessed lighting enhances your kitchen design with additional light. When used along with other lighting and ceiling fans, recessed lighting adds another dimension of light to a room where you can use as much light as you can get while you chop vegetables or check to see if your roast is cooking perfectly. Although it's not difficult to install recessed lighting in the kitchen, you will need access to the attic over the kitchen in order to install and wire the lights with ease. Here are a few simple steps to install your own recessed kitchen lights.


  1. Design your lighting scheme. Determine how many recessed lights you'll need and the best lighting configuration for your kitchen. Keep in mind that kitchens need a lot of lighting in food preparation areas. Because recessed lighting offers a narrow cone of illumination, you may need more than one light to adequately illuminate different areas of the kitchen. Too little lighting in certain areas may create dark corners in your kitchen, so remember to provide enough lighting for an inviting atmosphere.

  2. Layout your lighting pattern on the ceiling. Draw circles on the ceiling with a pencil where you want each recessed light and drill a small hole through the drywall in the center of each hole. Drill all the way through to the attic space above. Be careful not to cut holes for lighting in the middle of ceiling studs.

  3. Place some wiring. Insert the end of a 2-foot section of wiring through the hole and into the attic space above. Repeat this process for each recessed light you wish to install.

  4. Remove any insulation. Locate the wires from the attic and clear away any insulation between the ceiling joists around those areas. Make sure you have enough room on either side of the wire to place the light can without running into a joist. If needed, move a light slightly to accommodate the joists.

  5. Drill a hole in the ceiling for each light. Remove the wires temporarily. Use a hole saw with a round bit that corresponds to the size of the light housing to cut a uniform circle through the drywall. You may cut the holes for your lighting from the attic or from underneath in the kitchen.

  6. Install the light housing. Insert the light housing through the hole and secure it to the nearest joist using the support arms that accompany the housing. Large recessed lights may attach to both adjacent joists for extra security.

  7. Install control boxes. Attach the control box to an adjacent ceiling joist as well, making sure to place the side with the wire outlets on top for easy access. Install each light can and control box the same way.

  8. Wire the lighting. Before you make any changes to an existing lighting system or wiring, turn off power to that section of your home at your breaker box. Wire the lights together, following the manufacturer's specifications and attach the wiring to the outlet on the wall. If you're unfamiliar with basic electrical wiring, you may want an electrician to complete this step.

  9. Attach the recessed lighting covers from the kitchen. These covers may snap or screw into place, and they provide a finished look in the kitchen. Now you're ready to install the light bulbs and admire your new recessed kitchen lighting.


  1. New control boxes for recessed lights may feature wire "push-in" technology, eliminating the need for using insulated wire nuts to cover bare wire connections.

  2. If you don't have access to the attic, you may still install lighting from the kitchen below. This will be more time consuming because you will have limited visibility and you may need to cut larger holes in the ceiling to have room to work.

  3. Always follow all safety instructions for the tools and lighting you will be using.

  4. When working with lighting or electricity, there is a risk of electric shock and even death. Follow all safety instructions for the lighting products you are using and cut off all power to any area you are working in. If you're not sure if a wire is "hot" or not, do not touch it.

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