How To Install A Recessed Light In Drywall Ceiling Without Attic Access

If you want to enhance the lighting in your home, consider recessed lighting. A recessed light serves many functions such as a task light to brighten a computer area, or accent lighting to focus on artwork. Though it is ideal to install this type of lighting before you complete the ceiling or form an attic, it can still be added to an existing ceiling. Here are some tips to install recessed lighting on an existing drywall ceiling with no attic access.

Shut off Power and Gather Tools

For this project, you need:

  • step-ladder
  • work gloves
  • safety glasses
  • tarp
  • stud finder
  • voltage tester
  • pencil
  • drywall saw with hole-cutting attachment or screw-tip power drill with 1/8 inch drill bit
  • wire cutters
  • three-wire electrical cable
  • recessed lighting fixture

Check electrical codes in your area. Never start working on electrical projects without shutting off power. Locate the breaker to the area you are working in, flip it off. and test with the voltage meter to ensure no current exists. Disconnect existing light fixtures, if necessary, and lay a tarp down to protect the floor.

Mark and Cut Location for the Light

Use the stud finder to locate adjacent rafters. The light should be installed midway between them without overlapping the joists. To ensure it doesn't overlap, drill a small hole, and insert a wire. Wearing work gloves and safety glasses, climb the ladder, hold the light fixture in position, and outline the shape with pencil.

Cut a hole along the lines with the saw or drill taking care not to clip existing wires. The hole should be cut exactly to the measurement, or the light won't secure tightly. A saw gives a more exact cut, though it costs more.

Install the Fixture

Fish the new cable from the switch box and power source through the ceiling to the hole letting an extra 16 ft. dangle from the hole for easy wiring. This may require cutting additional holes in the ceiling. If you have to cut the holes, save the pieces to patch the hole.

Place the cable in the fixture's junction box securing the cable with a clamp. Strip around 3/8 inch of wire insulation with the wire cutters, splice (twist) wires matching colors. Push wiring back into the junction box, reinsert the cover, and place the fixture in the hole pressing each clip in and out until they click.

Recessed lighting has many uses, and it doesn't take a professional to install. However, if you have aluminum wiring or don't trust your skill, hire an electrician, such as Dunedin Electric Co., Inc.