Placement is key

You can use recessed lighting for general lighting, task lighting, or accent lighting—or some combination of the three—but unlike floor or table lamps, you only have one shot to position the lights in the perfect place. Consider the particular places you want to be well-lit, like above a reading chair or kitchen island. If you need task lighting, make sure the light is positioned above the workstation, not above where you’ll be sitting or standing, which would have you working under your own shadow. And be sure to situate recessed lights at least two feet away from the walls.

Wire the lights in zones for greater flexibility.

For large rooms with areas that may need to be lit differently at times or spaces where ambiance is important, consider wiring the lights to work with each other in strategic groups. Have each zone able to be operated independently of the others. If you’ve layered general lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting, this will give you more control over the mood and function of the space. For example, you can set your general lighting on a dimmer, switch off your task lighting, and let your accent lighting highlight your artwork or fireplace.

Use the right tools to cut holes in the drywall.

If installing recessed lighting yourself, use a hole saw—simply an attachment for your drill—to ensure a perfect, circular hole of the proper diameter. Hole saws come in standard and adjustable sizes; check the lighting’s user manual to determine the exact size hole you’ll need. In a pinch, you can use a small handheld drywall saw; just take the time to measure and mark the hole very carefully. A compass can help ensure you’re cutting a perfect circle. Also keep a stud finder nearby to make sure you’re not drilling or cutting into a joist.

Consider hiring an electrician.

Even if you’re experienced in wiring light fixtures, installing recessed lighting comes with some challenges that may be best left to a professional. Some lights require a transformer to deliver a stepped-down flow of electricity. Others may require special IC-rated housing, which protects against electrical fire if it’s being placed in the ceiling along with insulation. In fact, local code may mandate the use of an IC rated fixture, something an electrician will be up on. If you’re retrofitting a light into existing drywall and aren’t sure what kind of wiring you’ll find or where your joists are located, an electrician can do some digging and determine the best course of action for your home.

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