Recessed lighting is a chic, modern alternative to traditional light fixtures. With a wide variety of housing and trim options to choose from, recessed lighting can meet almost any lighting need in your home. It can serve as the main light source in the living room, and as spot lighting over work areas in the kitchen. It works for accent lighting, ambient lighting, and wall-washing. Because recessed lighting is set into the ceiling, it does require some extra space up above to work with; the ideal set-up is an attic above the installation site. However, housing options do exist for tight spaces, such as apartments or multi-floor homes, although installing these can get a little trickier.
Part 1: What to Know Before You Shop
The fixture you choose depends a lot on where it’s being installed. There are two basic types: “new construction” and “remodel.” Use a new construction option if you have access to the space above the ceiling, such as an attic. Use a remodel if you don’t have access to the space above. For example, if you’re installing into a ceiling between stories. The housing on remodel fixtures is typically more compact for fitting into these areas. The next consideration is whether or not the fixture housing will be exposed to insulation. If there is insulation within 3 inches of the housing, choose an insulation contact (IC) rated fixture.
There are lots of different trim options, with some designed for looks and others for function. The trim is the part of the fixture visible from below, which surrounds the light bulb. A baffler trim is the most common. It has grooves which reduce glare, and is best for general lighting. A reflector trim is smooth, polished, and metallic, and (as its name implies) reflects light to make it more intense. These work well in kitchens. Adjustable, or “eyeball” trim, allows you to pivot the bulb in a chosen direction, making it ideal for spot or accent lighting.