Recessed lighting is a great way to quickly update the look of any room, especially a room with a drop ceiling. Since the space over a drop ceiling is easily accessible, installing recessed lighting above ceiling tiles is a task that’s perfect for DIYers of all skill levels.
TOOLS & MATERIALS
- Non-contact Circuit Tester
- Drywall Saw
- Cable Stripper/Utility Knife
- Wire Stripper
- Linesman Pliers
- Tape Measure
- Recessed Lighting Fixture
- Electrical Cable Staples
- Screwdriver (If Needed)
- Dropped Ceiling Grid Wire (If Needed)
- 4 Eye-Lag Screws for Wire (If Needed)
- Wire Nut Connectors (If Needed)
When taking on this DIY task, be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety gear. Throughout the video, we’ll alert you regarding when you should and should not use the safety gear.
Turn off breaker. Start by turning off the breaker to the circuit you’ll be working on. Then check to make sure the light doesn’t turn on. Remove the ceiling tile next to the existing fixture to gain access to its wiring. Touch a circuit tester to the fixture’s cable to confirm the power’s off.
Disconnect and remove old fixture. Remove the light fixture and open its electrical connection box. Disconnect the wires attaching the box to the wires in the fixture. Unscrew the mounting bracket and remove the box. Then unscrew the grounding screw, take off the wire nuts, and remove the wires from the box.
Disconnect wires from junction box. Remove adjacent ceiling tiles to locate the junction box for your wires. As you work, be sure to continue testing that wires are not live with a circuit tester. Disconnect the wires from the junction box, removing wire nuts and untwisting wires as needed. Replace wire nuts and tuck back into the junction box.
Run the original fixture’s cable to where you’ll be installing your first recessed light. Wait to wire anything to your new light until your tile and fixture are ready.
Cut hole in tile. Use the new fixture to make a template for your ceiling tile. Measure the diameter of the recessed lighting can, divide by two, and transfer the measurement to a piece of cardboard. Locate the center of your ceiling tile. Align one end of your template to the center point of the tile, hold in place with a screwdriver, then trace the circumference onto the tile. Cut a whole in the tile with a drywall saw, using a bucket to catch the dust. Place the ceiling tile in the T-bar grid.
Adjust hangers. Recessed lighting fixtures have two adjustable hanging bars. Position the recessed lighting fixture’s housing directly over the hole. Extend the hanger bars, and snap each end onto the grid.
Adjust fixture height. Loosen the hex screws, securing the round housing to the fixture frame. Pull the housing down until the bottom edge is flush with the outside of the tile. Then tighten the screws.
Install cable. If you haven’t already done so, run cable from the location of the second light to the first, leaving any excess on the floor. For demonstration purposes, we’re showing what this looks like with a fixture that’s not attached to the ceiling. Take the cover off the fixture’s electrical box. It may be attached with a clip or a screw. If the fixture is mid circuit, you’ll see two cables coming into the box. If it’s at the end of a circuit, you’ll see only one. Remove one or two rectangular knockouts, and thread the first cable. Use a cable stripper or utility knife to strip the plastic sheathing off the inside of the box.
Make connections. Remove about ¼ of an inch of insulation with wire strippers. If your fixture features snap-in connectors, place the end of the white wire into the connector that’s attached to your fixture’s white wires. Repeat this step with the rest of your wires, attaching black and bare wires to their corresponding connectors. If you don’t have snap-in connectors, attach with wire connectors. Repeat this process to connect and wire your other lights, replacing each fixture’s cover once complete.
Install trim. Once your new lights are wired, a baffle and ring will give each a finished look. The baffle goes inside the recessed lighting fixture, and a ring covers the edges of the hole. Both are held in place by two springs. Hook the springs into the holes as shown. Place the ring over the baffle, and hook the springs into the holes. If the springs can’t reach the holes, remove the baffle, loosen the wing nut inside the housing, and lower the socket plate. If the springs aren’t holding the ring firmly against the ceiling tile, raise the socket plate.
Install your bulbs and restore power. Your recessed lighting installation is complete!