Installing Recessed Cans

Recessed Cans

The most inconspicuous lighting is recessed canister lights. Install a grid of lights spaced 6-8 feet apart, with eyeball lights for accent lighting. Install them as task lights over a countertop, and position a watertight fixture above a tub or shower.

Recessed canister lights are easy to install in finished areas. Running cable is not too difficult because lights usually space only two or three joists apart. Using a fishing drill bit, you may need to cut only a few holes into the ceiling.

Most inexpensive recessed cans are rated to use only 60-watt bulbs.


About a day to cut holes, run cable, and install six to eight lights with a switch

Drill, spade bit or fishing drill bit, stud finder, ladder, drywall saw, level, hammer, fish tape, screwdriver, strippers, long-nose pliers, lineman's pliers

Precision cutting of drywall or plaster; stripping, splicing, and connecting wires to terminals; installing boxes; running cable through walls and ceilings

Find power source and make sure the new lights don't overload the circuit. Clear the room of all obstructions and lay a drop cloth on the floor.

Recessed canister lights, cable, switch box and clamps, wire nuts, electrician's tape

Run cable from a power source to the switch and then to the fixtures. Recessed canisters have built-in electrical boxes.

Run the Wiring: Step 1

Plan the locations for the lights and draw lines marking the center of each. Use a stud finder or a bent wire to see whether a joist is in the way. You can move the light several inches to avoid a joist -- the inconsistency isn't noticeable.

Run the Wiring: Step 2

Center the hole in the cardboard template over your location mark. Holding the template in place, mark your cut line.

Run the Wiring: Step 3

Cut the hole with a drywall saw. Wear safety glasses because drywall dust stings terribly if it gets in the eyes. Cut precisely -- the canister trim leaves little room for error.

Run the Wiring: Step 4

Drill holes for the cable as far up the joist as possible so drywall nails cannot reach the cable.

Run the Wiring: Step 5

Run cable up from the power source to the switch box, then run cable to each fixture hole. Allow at least 16 inches of cable to hang down from each hole.

Install the Lights: Step 1

Strip about 6 inches of sheathing from the cable. Remove the cover from the fixture junction box and twist off a knockout for each cable. Slide the cable in and clamp the cable.

Install the Lights: Step 2

Connect the grounds. Splice white wires with white leads and black wires with black leads. Fold the wires into the junction box and replace the cover.

Install the Lights: Step 3

Pull the mounting clips inside the can so they aren't in the way when you push the canister into the hole. Without tangling the cables, guide the junction box through the hole and push in the canister.

Install the Lights: Step 4

Push the canister so its flange is tight to the ceiling. With a slot screwdriver, push up each mounting clip until it clicks into place, clamping the canister to the drywall or plaster.

Install the Lights: Step 5

Many canisters have sockets that attach to the trim with two spring clips. Slip one clip into the notch provided and rock the socket so the clip engages.

Install the Lights: Step 6

If the trim has two spring hooks, squeeze and guide their ends into the slots provided, then push up the trim until it snaps into place. Twist an eyeball trim to face in the desired direction.

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